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Archive for July 22nd, 2009

Dude, For Real — Encrypt Your Web.Config

with 5 comments

After I released my web.config encryption utility I expected the world to transform into a Utopia of protected web.config files and happy developers. However, shortly after the tool was released I actually received some disagreement about the usefulness of web.config encryption.

Based on some other comments I received I got to thinking — I not sure that some people realize how possible it is to lose a web.config from a simple programming mistake.

But The Web.Config Is Safe — Right?

Sure, your web.config is safe by normal means. Just try it – find an ASP.NET website and just try to browse to their web.config file — See! it’s safe!!

True, your web.config is safe – but what about a programming mistake? Those never happen, do they? Are you sure?

One of my favorite examples is the file download. Sometimes we want to serve up content as if it is a download instead of showing it in the browser. That said, here is an ASP.NET MVC example of why you ought to go on ahead and encrypt that web.config file just to be on the safe side.

//MVC Action to download the correct file From our Content directory
public ActionResult GetFile(string name) {
    string path = this.Server.MapPath("~/Content/" + name);
    byte[] file = System.IO.File.ReadAllBytes(path);
    return this.File(file, "html/text");            

Seems reasonable enough – Other than error handling, do you see anything that looks out of place with this code? We map to the correct directory, we get the bytes for our file and return them to the visitor — You can even try it out.


Cool, see how our file downloaded – Works great! But let’s be a little sneaky and play with the URL at the top. How about we do something like…



Did you just get a sudden feeling of dread? Did you just shout ‘Oh Snap!’ loud enough that all your peers are staring at you? What do you suppose is in this file we just downloaded? I’ll give you three guesses, but I’m taking two of them away…


It’s not hard to miss something — after all that’s why it’s a bug, because if we thought of it then it wouldn’t be there to begin with. Web.config encryption == cheap insurance.

Prying Eyes

I got this comment the other day and it was absolutely brilliant — Rob Thijssen wrote…

Encrypting configs in enterprise applications is definitely worth the time. Many companies allow contractors access to source code repositories that contain unencrypted configs that contain credentials which can be used to gain access to sensitive information. I have seen implementations where credentials were available to hundreds of developers that could give any one of them access to thousands of credit card details…

And he’s absolutely right. Do you want just anyone passing through the directory to have access to read the sensitive data inside your web.config? Just because they didn’t have hack into your server doesn’t mean they need to be reading the passwords to your SQL servers.

Dude, For Real — Just Do It

Web.config encryption only takes a couple moments and provides much more security than a clear-text file. It may not be enough to thwart a hacker that has full access to your entire server, but if you ever have that ‘uh oh — someone just downloaded my web.config’ moment, then at least you know you’re covered.


Written by hugoware

July 22, 2009 at 10:16 pm

More jQuery Magic – iPhone Style Password Box

with 2 comments

I like to think of myself as a technology-neutral developer that can look past any Microsoft-Apple rivalries and instead focus on the best tool for the job…

I like to think that — but I know that I’m a total Microsoft fanboy… 🙂

So wouldn’t you know it that my entire FAMILY has been purchasing Apple stuff lately? Each (adult) family member has an iFail iPhone (except me, of course), my brother has an iTouch, sister-in-law with MacBook – Blasphemy! From my own flesh and blood!! ACK!!

However, despite this treachery I did discover that I did like the way that Apple handled inputting passwords.

iPhone Style Password Box

It’s worth mentioning up front that this code is just an experiment — it’s not a finished product and probably shouldn’t be pasted into a live site.

If you’ve used an iPhone before then you’ve probably noticed that you can see the last character you entered when inputting your password. This character disappears after a moment or two or the next time you enter a character. Using some jQuery and a hidden password field I attempted to create something similar.

[Sample version here.]


Now unfortunately, by using a div instead of an input I’ve taken away the ability to select the characters in the field. When I was working on this I had an idea that I might try using the ‘contenteditable’ property instead and then display the normal password box for browsers that don’t support it.

Why Not A Input[Type=Text]

I tried doing a similar idea with by using a regular text box and just masking the characters on the fly, but ran into a problem where pasting a password would cause the whole thing visible for a moment — which seems like too much of a risk.

Another Approach

The basic idea of the Apple style password box was to show the most recently entered character but the first example lost some of the usability of a normal password box. I figured I’d give the idea a second pass, but adjusted it to be a little more HTML friendly.

[Sample version here.]


You’ll notice in this version that the characters actually float up as you enter them. Similar to before, after a few moments, or when you press a new key, they will disappear.

This version is better from a usability standpoint, but it does have a couple problems of its own. For example, if you enter a really long password then the floating box stops moving at the end — no big deal right? Well for the end of the box, no, it looks fine — but if you click back out in the middle then your floating hints may be off-centered.

Simple But Effective Interface Designs

The code above isn’t ready for publishing, but they are some interesting examples of how you can take a typical form element and use a little jQuery to make some great usability enchancements to them.

You may have read some of my earlier jQuery posts about mimicking Vista style password boxes or creating search highlighting for web pages and noticed that it doesn’t take that much code to transform the functionality of your pages.

How do you enhance your pages for your visitors? It doesn’t take much!

Written by hugoware

July 22, 2009 at 6:24 am