How to validate domain credentials?

I want to validate a set of credentials against the domain controller. e.g.:

Username: STACKOVERFLOW\joel
Password: splotchy
Method 1. Query Active Directory with Impersonation

A lot of people suggest querying the Active Directory for something. If an exception is thrown, then you know the credentials are not valid - as is suggested in this stackoverflow question.

There are some serious drawbacks to this approach however:

  1. You are not only authenticating a domain account, but you are also doing an implicit authorization check. That is, you are reading properties from the AD using an impersonation token. What if the otherwise valid account has no rights to read from the AD? By default all users have read access, but domain policies can be set to disable access permissions for restricted accounts (and or groups).

  2. Binding against the AD has a serious overhead, the AD schema cache has to be loaded at the client (ADSI cache in the ADSI provider used by DirectoryServices). This is both network, and AD server, resource consuming - and is too expensive for a simple operation like authenticating a user account.

  3. You're relying on an exception failure for a non-exceptional case, and assuming that means invalid username and password. Other problems (e.g. network failure, AD connectivity failure, memory allocation error, etc) are then mis-intrepreted as authentication failure.

Method 2. LogonUser Win32 API

Others have suggested using the LogonUser() API function. This sounds nice, but unfortunately the calling user sometimes needs a permission usually only given to the operating system itself:

The process calling LogonUser requires the SE_TCB_NAME privilege. If the calling process does not have this privilege, LogonUser fails and GetLastError returns ERROR_PRIVILEGE_NOT_HELD.

In some cases, the process that calls LogonUser must also have the SE_CHANGE_NOTIFY_NAME privilege enabled; otherwise, LogonUser fails and GetLastError returns ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED. This privilege is not required for the local system account or accounts that are members of the administrators group. By default, SE_CHANGE_NOTIFY_NAME is enabled for all users, but some administrators may disable it for everyone.

Handing out the "Act as a part of the operating system" privilege is not something you want to do willy-nilly - as Microsoft points out in a knowledge base article:

...the process that is calling LogonUser must have the SE_TCB_NAME privilege (in User Manager, this is the "Act as part of the Operating System" right). The SE_TCB_NAME privilege is very powerful and should not be granted to any arbitrary user just so that they can run an application that needs to validate credentials.

Additionally, a call to LogonUser() will fail if a blank password is specified.

What is the proper way to authenticate a set of domain credentials?

I happen to be calling from managed code, but this is a a general Windows question. It can be assumed that the customers have the .NET Framework 2.0 installed.


C# in .NET 3.5 using System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement.

 bool valid = false;
 using (PrincipalContext context = new PrincipalContext(ContextType.Domain))
     valid = context.ValidateCredentials( username, password );

This will validate against the current domain. Check out the parameterized PrincipalContext constructor for other options.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Security;
using System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement;

public struct Credentials
    public string Username;
    public string Password;

public class Domain_Authentication
    public Credentials Credentials;
    public string Domain;

    public Domain_Authentication(string Username, string Password, string SDomain)
        Credentials.Username = Username;
        Credentials.Password = Password;
        Domain = SDomain;

    public bool IsValid()
        using (PrincipalContext pc = new PrincipalContext(ContextType.Domain, Domain))
            // validate the credentials
            return pc.ValidateCredentials(Credentials.Username, Credentials.Password);

I`m using the following code to validate credentials. The method shown below will confirm if the credentials are correct and if not wether the password is expired or needs change.

I`ve been looking for something like this for ages... So i hope this helps someone!

using System;
using System.DirectoryServices;
using System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;

namespace User
    public static class UserValidation
        [DllImport("advapi32.dll", SetLastError = true)]
        static extern bool LogonUser(string principal, string authority, string password, LogonTypes logonType, LogonProviders logonProvider, out IntPtr token);
        [DllImport("kernel32.dll", SetLastError = true)]
        static extern bool CloseHandle(IntPtr handle);
        enum LogonProviders : uint
            Default = 0, // default for platform (use this!)
            WinNT35,     // sends smoke signals to authority
            WinNT40,     // uses NTLM
            WinNT50      // negotiates Kerb or NTLM
        enum LogonTypes : uint
            Interactive = 2,
            Network = 3,
            Batch = 4,
            Service = 5,
            Unlock = 7,
            NetworkCleartext = 8,
            NewCredentials = 9
        public  const int ERROR_PASSWORD_MUST_CHANGE = 1907;
        public  const int ERROR_LOGON_FAILURE = 1326;
        public  const int ERROR_ACCOUNT_RESTRICTION = 1327;
        public  const int ERROR_ACCOUNT_DISABLED = 1331;
        public  const int ERROR_INVALID_LOGON_HOURS = 1328;
        public  const int ERROR_NO_LOGON_SERVERS = 1311;
        public  const int ERROR_INVALID_WORKSTATION = 1329;
        public  const int ERROR_ACCOUNT_LOCKED_OUT = 1909;      //It gives this error if the account is locked, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER VALID CREDENTIALS WERE PROVIDED!!!
        public  const int ERROR_ACCOUNT_EXPIRED = 1793;
        public  const int ERROR_PASSWORD_EXPIRED = 1330;

        public static int CheckUserLogon(string username, string password, string domain_fqdn)
            int errorCode = 0;
            using (PrincipalContext pc = new PrincipalContext(ContextType.Domain, domain_fqdn, "ADMIN_USER", "PASSWORD"))
                if (!pc.ValidateCredentials(username, password))
                    IntPtr token = new IntPtr();
                        if (!LogonUser(username, domain_fqdn, password, LogonTypes.Network, LogonProviders.Default, out token))
                            errorCode = Marshal.GetLastWin32Error();
                    catch (Exception)
            return errorCode;

Here's how to determine a local user:

    public bool IsLocalUser()
        return windowsIdentity.AuthenticationType == "NTLM";

Edit by Ian Boyd

You should not use NTLM anymore at all. It is so old, and so bad, that Microsoft's Application Verifier (which is used to catch common programming mistakes) will throw a warning if it detects you using NTLM.

Here's a chapter from the Application Verifier documentation about why they have a test if someone is mistakenly using NTLM:

Why the NTLM Plug-in is Needed

NTLM is an outdated authentication protocol with flaws that potentially compromise the security of applications and the operating system. The most important shortcoming is the lack of server authentication, which could allow an attacker to trick users into connecting to a spoofed server. As a corollary of missing server authentication, applications using NTLM can also be vulnerable to a type of attack known as a “reflection” attack. This latter allows an attacker to hijack a user’s authentication conversation to a legitimate server and use it to authenticate the attacker to the user’s computer. NTLM’s vulnerabilities and ways of exploiting them are the target of increasing research activity in the security community.

Although Kerberos has been available for many years many applications are still written to use NTLM only. This needlessly reduces the security of applications. Kerberos cannot however replace NTLM in all scenarios – principally those where a client needs to authenticate to systems that are not joined to a domain (a home network perhaps being the most common of these). The Negotiate security package allows a backwards-compatible compromise that uses Kerberos whenever possible and only reverts to NTLM when there is no other option. Switching code to use Negotiate instead of NTLM will significantly increase the security for our customers while introducing few or no application compatibilities. Negotiate by itself is not a silver bullet – there are cases where an attacker can force downgrade to NTLM but these are significantly more difficult to exploit. However, one immediate improvement is that applications written to use Negotiate correctly are automatically immune to NTLM reflection attacks.

By way of a final word of caution against use of NTLM: in future versions of Windows it will be possible to disable the use of NTLM at the operating system. If applications have a hard dependency on NTLM they will simply fail to authenticate when NTLM is disabled.

How the Plug-in Works

The Verifier plug detects the following errors:

  • The NTLM package is directly specified in the call to AcquireCredentialsHandle (or higher level wrapper API).

  • The target name in the call to InitializeSecurityContext is NULL.

  • The target name in the call to InitializeSecurityContext is not a properly-formed SPN, UPN or NetBIOS-style domain name.

The latter two cases will force Negotiate to fall back to NTLM either directly (the first case) or indirectly (the domain controller will return a “principal not found” error in the second case causing Negotiate to fall back).

The plug-in also logs warnings when it detects downgrades to NTLM; for example, when an SPN is not found by the Domain Controller. These are only logged as warnings since they are often legitimate cases – for example, when authenticating to a system that is not domain-joined.

NTLM Stops

5000 – Application Has Explicitly Selected NTLM Package

Severity – Error

The application or subsystem explicitly selects NTLM instead of Negotiate in the call to AcquireCredentialsHandle. Even though it may be possible for the client and server to authenticate using Kerberos this is prevented by the explicit selection of NTLM.

How to Fix this Error

The fix for this error is to select the Negotiate package in place of NTLM. How this is done will depend on the particular Network subsystem being used by the client or server. Some examples are given below. You should consult the documentation on the particular library or API set that you are using.

APIs(parameter) Used by Application    Incorrect Value  Correct Value  
=====================================  ===============  ========================
AcquireCredentialsHandle (pszPackage)  “NTLM”           NEGOSSP_NAME “Negotiate”

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Text;
using System.DirectoryServices.AccountManagement;

class WindowsCred
    private const string SPLIT_1 = "\\";

    public static bool ValidateW(string UserName, string Password)
        bool valid = false;
        string Domain = "";

        if (UserName.IndexOf("\\") != -1)
            string[] arrT = UserName.Split(SPLIT_1[0]);
            Domain = arrT[0];
            UserName = arrT[1];

        if (Domain.Length == 0)
            Domain = System.Environment.MachineName;

        using (PrincipalContext context = new PrincipalContext(ContextType.Domain, Domain)) 
            valid = context.ValidateCredentials(UserName, Password);

        return valid;

Kashif Mushtaq Ottawa, Canada

Need Your Help

How to enable javascript in browser if it was disable?

javascript jquery

i want know javascript is disabled by browser if yes than how can i enabled.

Fragment not calling onPause or onStop when using replace

android android-fragments back-stack fragmentmanager

I have this odd problem that my fragments are not calling any of the end lifecycle methods like onPause and onStop when I replace it with another fragment.