Certificate-Based Authentication Changes and Always On VPN

Microsoft introduced important changes affecting certificate-based authentication on Windows domain controllers as part of the May 10, 2022 update KB5014754 that may affect Always On VPN deployments. The update addresses privilege escalation vulnerabilities when a domain controller is processing a certificate-based authentication request. The recommendation from Microsoft is that the update be applied to all Windows domain controllers and Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) servers as soon as possible.

Updated 5/20/2022: An out-of-band update to address authentication issues reported with this update is now available. Updates are available for Windows Server 2022, Windows Server 20H2, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, and Windows Server 2008 SP2.

Certificate Services

After applying the update to certification authority (CA) servers, a non-critical extension with Object Identifier (OID) 1.3.6.1.4.1.311.25.2 is added to all issued certificates with the user or device security identifier (SID) included. Domain controllers with the update installed will use this information to validate the certificate used for authentication and ensure that it matches the information in Active Directory.

Domain Controllers

The update operates in Compatibility Mode, by default, when applied to domain controllers. Windows monitors authentication requests and records audit events for certificates presented for authentication under the following conditions.

No strong mapping (event ID 39) – The certificate has not been mapped explicitly to a domain account, and the certificate did not include the new SID extension.

Certificate predates account (event ID 40) – A certificate was issued before the user existed in Active Directory, and no explicit mapping could be found.

User’s SID does not match certificate (event ID 41) – A certificate contains the new SID extension, but it does not match the SID of the corresponding user account.

Certificate Mapping

Administrators can map certificates explicitly to accounts in Active Directory, but this results in a significant administrative burden in most environments. A better option is to reissue user and device authentication certificates after applying the KB5014754 update to all issuing CA servers.

Reenroll Certificates

Administrators should reissue user and device authentication certificates after applying the KB5014754 update. Open the Certificate Templates management console (certtmpl.msc), identify the user or device authentication certificate template, then right-click on the template and choose Reenroll All Certificate Holders.

Enforcement Mode

After applying update KB5014754, administrators should monitor domain controller event logs for event IDs 39, 40, and 41. Once all certificates have been updated, and none of these events have been recorded for 30 days, administrators can switch to Full Enforcement Mode by enabling it in the registry on all domain controllers.

Key: HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\KDC
Value: StrongCertificateBindingEnforcement
Type: DWORD
Data: 2

Note: Microsoft will automatically switch to Full Enforcement Mode beginning May 9, 2023.

Known Issues

There have been some reports of authentication issues after installing the KB5014754 update. Early indications are that device authentication certificates missing a Subject Alternative Name (SAN) entry are to blame. Administrators are encouraged to update their device certificates to include the SAN entry. Optionally, but not recommended, administrators can place the update in disabled mode by editing the registry.

Note: An out-of-band update for these authentication issues is now available. See the reference links at the top of this article for more information.

Additional Information

KB5014754 – Certificate-based authentication changes on Windows domain controllers

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN Users Prompted for Certificate

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN Clients Prompted for Authentication when Accessing Internal Resources

Always On VPN Error 13801

Troubleshooting Always On VPN Error 691 and 812 – Part 2

Certificate configuration is crucial for Always On VPN deployments. I described some specific certificates requirements for IKEv2 in this previous post. Following this guidance, administrators should have no issues with IKEv2 Always On VPN connections. However, it is always possible to encounter an error if any of these certificates are missing or misconfigured.

Error 13801

One of the most common errors related to IKEv2 and certificates is 13801. When an Always On VPN connection using IKEv2 fails, the Windows Application event log will record an event ID 20227 from the RasClient source. The error message states the following:

“The user [username] dialed a connection named [connection name] which has failed. The error code returned on failure is 13801”.

IKE Authentication Credentials are Unacceptable

Error 13801 translates to ERROR_IPSEC_IKE_AUTH_FAIL, indicating an authentication failure related to IPsec. The problem can be on the device, the VPN server, or an issue with the VPN server configuration.

Certificate Chain

A 13801 error will occur if the client does not trust the certificate installed on the VPN server. Ensure the client has all the necessary root and intermediate certification authority (CA) certificates installed in their respective certificate stores.

VPN Server Certificate

A 13801 error can also occur if the VPN server does not have a properly configured server certificate. Ensure the VPN server has a valid certificate issued by the organization’s internal PKI that includes both the Server Authentication (OID 1.3.6.1.5.5.7.3.1) and IP security IKE intermediate (OID 1.3.6.1.5.5.8.2.2) EKUs. The subject name must match the public fully qualified domain name (FQDN) used by VPN clients to connect to the VPN server (not the server’s NetBIOS name). Again, ensure the certificate is valid (not expired), trusted, not revoked, and all necessary root and intermediate CA certificates are installed in their respective certificate stores.

Certificate Revocation

An expired Certificate Revocation List (CRL) can also result in a 13801 error. Open the Enterprise PKI console (pkiview.msc) on an issuing CA and review the status of all CRLs. If any are expired, resolve any issues preventing the CRL from publishing successfully, then issue a new CRL by running certutil.exe -crl on the issuing CA server.

RRAS Configuration

Another cause of the 13801 error for the device tunnel is a misconfigured Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) VPN server. An error 13801 can happen if the administrator incorrectly defines a trusted root CA using Set-VpnAuthProtocol. Ensure that the root certificate thumbprint matches exactly the root CA server’s thumbprint used to issue certificates to VPN devices and the VPN server.

Get-VpnAuthProtocol

Root CA Certificate Thumbprint

Resolution

Ensure that devices and VPN servers have correctly configured certificates installed. If the root CA certificate is assigned incorrectly on the VPN server, follow the guidelines detailed here to update the configuration.

Additional Information

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN Error 13806

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN IPsec Root Certificate Configuration Issue

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN IKEv2 Policy Mismatch Error

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN IKEv2 Fragmentation

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing and NAT

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN IKEv2 Features and Limitations

Always On VPN SSTP with Let’s Encrypt Certificates

Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

When configuring the Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) to support Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) for Always On VPN user tunnel connections, administrators must install a Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate on the VPN server. The best practice is to use a certificate issued by a public Certification Authority (CA). In addition, administrators should use a TLS certificate using Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) for optimal security and performance.

Let’s Encrypt

Obtaining a public TLS certificate is not inherently difficult, nor is it expensive. However, Let’s Encrypt is a nonprofit public CA issues TLS certificates entirely for free. Always On VPN supports Let’s Encrypt TLS certificates, and installing a Let’s Encrypt certificate on the Always On VPN RRAS server is quite simple.

Pros and Cons

Using Let’s Encrypt certificates for Always On VPN has several significant advantages over traditional public CAs.

  • Cost – Let’s Encrypt certificates are free! No cost whatsoever.
  • Speed – Enrolling for a Let’s Encrypt certificate takes just a few minutes.
  • Trusted – Let’s Encrypt certificates are trusted by default in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Let’s Encrypt is not without some drawbacks, however.

  • Lifetime – Let’s Encrypt certificates are only valid for 90 days.
  • Administration – Certificates must be redeployed frequently (every 90 days).
  • Security – PFX files (which include private keys) are left on disk by default.

It is possible to mitigate some of these drawbacks, though. For example, deleting PFX files after import can improve security. Alternatively, using a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) eliminates PFX files completely.

Also, it is possible to fully automate the Let’s Encrypt certificate enrollment and RRAS configuration process, which eases the administrative burden. And rotating certificates every 90 days could be considered an advantage from a security perspective! Enrolling new certificates (and specifically certificates with unique keys) is advantageous in that respect.

Certificate Enrollment

There are several different ways to enroll for Let’s Encrypt certificates. The preferred method is using PowerShell, as it works on both Windows Server with Desktop Experience (GUI) and Windows Server Core. Using PowerShell, administrators can also fully automate the enrollment and assignment of the certificate in RRAS.

PowerShell Module

To enroll for Let’s Encrypt TLS certificates on the VPN server, install the Posh-ACME PowerShell module. On the RRAS server, open an elevated PowerShell window and run the following command.

Install-Module Posh-ACME

Certificate Request

After installing the Posh-ACME PowerShell module, select a Let’s Encrypt environment by running the following command. Use LE_PROD for the production Let’s Encrypt server or LE_STAGE for the staging environment (used for testing).

Set-PAServer LE_PROD

Next, request a new certificate using the following command.

New-PACertificate -Domain vpn.example.net -Contact ‘[email protected]’ -CertKeyLength ec-256 -AcceptTOS -Install

The administrator is prompted to create a TXT record in public DNS to prove ownership of the domain. Using the example above, create a DNS record called _acme-challenge.vpn in the example.net DNS zone.

Once complete, the TLS certificate is automatically installed in the local computer certificate store on the VPN server and can be assigned in the RRAS management console, as shown here.

Note: R3 is a Let’s Encrypt issuing certification authority.

DNS Plugin

The Posh-ACME PowerShell module supports DNS plugins that allow administrators to automate the creation of the DNS TXT record used to authorize certificate enrollment. DNS plugins for many public DNS providers are available. Some of the more popular DNS providers are listed here.

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Amazon Route53
  • Cloudflare
  • Akamai
  • GoDaddy
  • Infoblox
  • Windows Server

A list of all supported DNS plugins for Posh-ACME can be found here.

Certificate Binding

Administrators can use the following PowerShell example code to automate the process of binding the new TLS certificate to the SSTP listener in RRAS.

$Thumbprint = <TLS certificate thumbprint>
$Cert = Get-ChildItem -Path Cert:\LocalMachine\My\$thumbprint
Set-RemoteAccess -SslCertificate $Cert
Restart-Service RemoteAccess -Passthru

Additional Information

Posh-ACME Tutorial

Windows 10 Always On VPN TLS Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Windows 10 Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

%d bloggers like this: