Tweaking Web API URL Request Validation

dotnet, aspnet comments edit

In working with a REST API project I’m on, I was tasked to create a DELETE operation that would take the resource ID in the URL path, like:

DELETE /api/someresource/reallylongresourceidhere HTTP/1.1

The resource ID we had was really, really long base-64 encoded value. About 750 characters long. No, don’t bug me about why that was the case, just… stick with me. I had to get it to work in IIS and OWIN hosting.

STOP. STOP RIGHT HERE. I’m going to tell you some ways to tweak URL request validation. This is a security thing. Security is Good. IN THE END, I DIDN’T DO THESE. I AM NOT RECOMMENDING YOU DO THEM. But, you know, if you run into one of the issues I ran into… here are some ways you can work around it at your own risk.

Problem 1: The Overall URL Length

By default, ASP.NET has a max URL length set at 260 characters. Luckily, you can change that in web.config:

    <httpRuntime maxUrlLength="2048" />

Setting that maxUrlLength value got me past the first hurdle.

Problem 2: URL Decoding

Base 64 includes the “/” character – the path slash. Even if you encode it on the URL like this…


…when .NET reads it, it gets entirely decoded:


…which then, of course, got me a 404 Not Found because my route wasn’t set up like that.

This is also something you can control through web.config:

      <add name="http" genericUriParserOptions="DontUnescapePathDotsAndSlashes" />
      <add name="https" genericUriParserOptions="DontUnescapePathDotsAndSlashes" />

Now that the URL is allowed through and it’s not being proactively decoded (so I can get routing working), the last hurdle is…

Problem 3: Max Path Segment Length

The key, if you recall, is about 750 characters long. I can have a URL come through that’s 2048 characters long, but there’s still validation on each path segment length.

The tweak for this is in the registry. Find the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\HTTP\Parameters and add a DWORD value UrlSegmentMaxLength with the value of the max segment length. The default is 260; I had to update mine to 1024.

After you change that value, you have to reboot to get it to take effect.

This is the part that truly frustrated me. Even running in the standalone OWIN host, this value is still used. I thought OWIN and OWIN hosting was getting us away from IIS, but the low-level http.sys is still being used in there somewhere. I guess I just didn’t realize that and maybe I should have. I mean, .NET is all just wrappers on unmanaged crap anyway, right? :)

What I Ended Up Doing

Having to do all that to get this working set me on edge. I don’t mind increasing, say, the max URL length, but I had to tweak a lot, and that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Deployment pain, potential security pain… not worth it.

Since we had control over how the resource IDs were generated in the first place, I changed the algorithm so we could fit them all under 260 characters – the max path segment length. I left the overall URL length configuration in web.config at a higher number, but shrunk it down to 1024 instead of sticking at 2048. I ditched the registry change – no longer needed.