I recently upgraded from IIS 4.0 to IIS 5.0. The upgrade went smoothly, but users are now experiencing authentication problems. The site is an intranet site, and I had used Windows NT Challenge/Response authentication on the IIS 4.0 server to authenticate users. One reason for moving to IIS 5.0 was to take advantage of Kerberos. I've set up the IIS 5.0 server to use Integrated Windows authentication, but my server isn't using Kerberos to authenticate, even though I have a pure Windows 2000 environment. How can I specify what authentication method I want the server to use?

As you mentioned, a new feature of IIS 5.0 is its ability to use Kerberos, which is the built-in authentication method for Win2K networks. Kerberos has several advantages over IIS 4.0-style NT Challenge/Response authentication: Kerberos is more secure, supports delegation, can be accomplished through a proxy server or firewall, and is faster.

Even so, don't go looking for the Kerberos button in IIS: No such option exists in the UI. The Security tab of the Master Web Properties dialog box for each Web server has an option called Integrated Windows authentication. (The same option exists on the Security Tab for a directory, virtual directory, or file.) However, Integrated Windows authentication isn't really an authentication protocol at all: It's actually two different authentication methods rolled into one. When enabled, Integrated Windows authentication enables both IIS 4.0-style NT Challenge/Response and Win2K-style Kerberos authentication. You can't, however, select which method you prefer from the UI.

When Web servers authenticate Web browsers, the server sends the browser information about the authentication methods that the server can use. The browser then selects the first method it recognizes and responds to the server accordingly. The Web browser and Web server then proceed to authenticate the user according to the mutually selected scheme.

When you set up IIS 5.0 to use Integrated Windows authentication, IIS sends a special header to the browser called the Negotiate header. Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 5.x recognizes this header as an offer to choose Kerberos, if possible. A very specific set of circumstances is necessary for IE 5.x to use Kerberos. Basically, IIS 5.0 must talk to a Win2K client for which the Web server is part of the Win2K domain. Only IE 5.x can, at this time, use Kerberos with IIS 5.0.

To address your original question, a particular difficulty occurs when upgrading from IIS 4.0 to IIS 5.0 when you've set the IIS 4.0 server to use NT Challenge/Response authentication. In such a case, the IIS 5.0 installation routine honors the setting and sets IIS 5.0 to use only NT Challenge/Response. IIS 5.0 doesn't offer the Negotiate header to the browser, so the browser doesn't use Kerberos even if the browser can.

Although you can't set the authentication method in the UI, you can set it in the metabase. Use the adsutil.vbs script found in the \inetpub\adminscripts directory to modify the NTAuthenticationProvider registry subkey as follows:

cscript adsutil.vbs set _ w3svc/NTAuthenticationProviders _ "Negotiate,NTLM"

Alternatively, you can use metaedit.exe to make the same edit. Be certain there's no space after the comma in "Negotiate,NTLM", and as always, back up your metabase before you make any changes.

I run an application on IIS 4.0 that uses the Session_onEnd event to trigger cleanup for the application. I've discovered that the event doesn't always fire when a session ends. Some articles and newsgroups state that this problem is a known bug. I can't find any such reference, but clearly Session_onEnd isn't working as expected in IIS 4.0. My tests with IIS 5.0 show that Microsoft has apparently fixed the problem. Can you shed some light on this bug in IIS 4.0?

The problem isn't a bug. Rather, it boils down to a COM threading problem. The answer to your question requires an understanding of how COM components work with various threading models. Details about this important issue are beyond the scope of this article, but IIS administrators should have a keen interest in this topic for several reasons. The chief concern is that COM objects that your system uses (including Microsoft-provided COM objects) can dramatically affect performance and scalability. You can find a good introduction to this topic at http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/server/components/daciisperf.asp.

When you create a COM object, it's assigned a threading model. Three threading models exist:

  • Apartment threading—Only one thread from an object can communicate with the server. You can, however, have multiple instances of the object, each with its own thread. This threading model is the only one that the Microsoft Access database engine supports, which is the primary reason Microsoft recommends Microsoft SQL Server as the database of choice with IIS.
  • Free threading—An object can use (spawn) multiple threads.
  • Both threading—An object can be accessed as an Apartment-threaded object or Free-threaded object.

You asked why Session_onEnd doesn't appear to fire in IIS 4.0 but seems to work in IIS 5.0. By default, ADO is marked as Apartment threaded in the registry, which means that one thread is at work for a database access request. In this mode, the thread that creates the ADO object is the same thread that must destroy the ADO object. Let's say that a user makes a query to a database and that database isn't available for 15 minutes. Tired of waiting, the user leaves the page and goes back to downloading MP3 files or whatever he or she was up to. The user session is over, but the thread that must destroy the session isn't available because it's still waiting on the database. Session_onEnd actually fires, but a thread can't destroy the ADO object because the only thread that can do the job is busy. This delay gives the appearance that Session_OnEnd never fired.

This same sequence of events can occur if you try to use Active Server Pages (ASP)-intrinsic objects in Session_onEnd. You can't, for example, use the Response object to send information to the browser because the session is closed. This fact might seem obvious to some, but it eludes more programmers than you might think.

So, how did Microsoft improve this functionality in IIS 5.0? IIS 4.0 trusts the registry setting that says ADO is Apartment threaded, but IIS 5.0 doesn't. Instead, IIS 5.0 queries the component to get its threading model. ADO is really Both threaded, so IIS 5.0 can create the ADO object on one thread, then use another thread to destroy the ADO object. This ability makes the Session_onEnd event appear fixed in IIS 5.0.

You can reconfigure ADO so that it's marked as Both threaded on NT 4.0 by modifying the registry. Microsoft provides a file to assist with this reconfiguration. To reconfigure ADO, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the file adofre15.reg. (If you accepted the defaults for program file location when you installed IIS, adofre15.reg will be in C:\program files\common files\system\ado.)
  2. Make the directory containing the file your current directory, and issue the regedit adofre15.reg command. Reboot the server.
  3. If you make the above change and decide to return to the Apartment-threaded model, repeat the above process with the adoapt15.reg command.

Everyone on my IIS 5.0 server seems to be able to access the system, even though I've set NTFS permissions to deny the Internet Guest Account (the IUSR_computername account used for Anonymous access) access. Why isn't the setting working?

When you create a new IIS 5.0 Web site, the site uses both Anonymous access and Integrated Windows authentication to authenticate users. In this setup, if you use NTFS to deny access to files and folders for the Internet Guest Account, IIS 5.0 automatically attempts to use Integrated Windows authentication to authenticate the user. So, everyone has access in this intranet-style scenario. To keep Anonymous authentication from working, don't rely on NTFS alone. Disable Anonymous authentication on the Web server, directory, or file properties.

I receive the error message

<i>Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC
Drivers (0x80004005)
\[Microsoft\]\[ODBC Microsoft Access
Driver\]General error Unable to open
registry key 'Temporary (volatile) Jet DSN for process 0x204 Thread 0x6a0
DBC 0x2460064 Jet'.</i>

from an ASP page that uses an Access database. Why am I receiving this message?

This error occurs when the system tries to read a value from the registry but fails. Remember that you can set NTFS permissions on the registry just as on printers, files, and folders. You might have set the permissions on ODBC registry settings so that the system disallows Anonymous access.

You see this problem when you run security software that "hardens" the server (i.e., tightens security so that the server is harder to attack) or through overzealous application of more restrictive permissions on the registry. An outstanding tool exists for monitoring registry access called Regmon, which is available from http://www.sysinternals.com. You can use this tool to determine exactly what keys users are accessing on your server at any given time.

Specifically, you want to locate the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ODBC registry subkey and verify that you've set appropriate permissions. The Microsoft article "Error Message: Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers Error '80004005'" (http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q238/9/71.asp) recommends giving Full Control to Web accounts that require database access to the ODBC subkeys (i.e., System, Administrators, IUSR_servername, and Users). Be sure to back up the registry before you edit it.

My site depends heavily on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). I am trying to determine resource requirements and am wondering how long an SSL session is maintained once created. If I navigate away from a secure page and then back right away, the session resumes. How long does this session stay valid when not in use?

Although SSL is very useful, it's an expensive operation from the viewpoint of server resources. I recommend using SSL only when necessary, which varies from not at all for casual Web sites to 100 percent for stockbroker Web sites. So, planning for how much load SSL places on your server is important in high-volume sites.

The amount of time an SSL session stays open is important. You want to release server resources as soon as you can, but if you release them too quickly, you'll need to rebuild the SSL session, which places a burden on the server. Microsoft changed the default timeout for the SSL session cache from 2 minutes in NT 4.0 to 5 minutes in Win2K. If you expect extended SSL sessions, I recommend increasing the SSL session timeout, which the ServerCacheTime registry entry controls. (Note that if you enable HTTP 1.1 KeepAlives, the server ignores the timeout parameter and doesn't terminate a session until the browser explicitly closes the connection or the TCP/IP session times out. KeepAlives are enabled by default.) However, this registry entry isn't present by default.

To add this registry entry, you need to create the ServerCacheTime REG_DWORD value in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL registry subkey. After you've created the value, set the data field to the number of milliseconds (ms) you want for the timeout. (The default value of 5 minutes in IIS 5.0 is 300,000ms.) You can find details about this and other useful IIS 5.0 tuning tips and tricks at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/iis/iis5tune.asp.