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.

Caveat

It’s important to understand that this new OID is added only to online templates. Online templates are those that build the subject information from Active Directory. Unfortunately, this new OID is NOT applied to offline templates (templates where the subject name is supplied in the request), such as those used for delivering certificates with Microsoft Endpoint Manager/Intune using PKCS or SCEP. It is impossible to move to enforcement mode when issuing user or device authentication certificates with Microsoft Endpoint Manager or Intune today. Microsoft is aware of this limitation and is working to address this issue as we speak. I expect a fix to be available sometime before the May 2023 deadline when Microsoft permanently switches on enforcement mode.

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 853 on Windows 11

Recently I did some validation testing with Always On VPN on Windows 11, and I’m happy to report that everything seems to work without issue. However, a few readers have reported 853 errors when establishing an Always On VPN connection after upgrading to Windows 11.

Can’t Connect

After upgrading to Windows 11, an Always On VPN connection may fail with the following error message.

“The remote access connection completed, but authentication failed because the certificate that authenticates the client to the server is not valid. Ensure the certificate used for authentication is valid.”

Error 853

In addition, the Application event log records an event ID 20227 from the RasClient source that includes the following message.

“The user <username> dialed a connection name <connection name> which has failed. The error code returned on failure is 853.”

Server Identity

This error will occur when using Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) authentication. Specifically, it can happen when the option to verify NPS server validity by its certificate is selected, and an explicit list of NPS servers is defined, as shown here.

Case Sensitive

In this specific scenario, Windows 11 now appears to be case-sensitive when it compares the NPS server name entered in the NPS configuration to the Subject Name on the certificate returned by the server. For example, if the Subject Name (or Subject Alternative Name, if present) entry on the NPS server certificate is nps.lab.richardhicks.net, using NPS.lab.richardhicks.net will not match and return an 853 error.

Windows 11

Case matching when validating the NPS server certificate is a change in behavior from Windows 10. Before Windows 11, this comparison was case-insensitive, and any combination of case would match if the entire hostname matched. Going forward, it appears Microsoft has also decided to require case matching to validate the server certificate.

Recommendations

Administrators should look carefully at the server certificate issued to the NPS server and ensure their client configuration accurately reflects the hostname in a case-sensitive manner to ensure a smooth migration from Windows 10 to Windows 11.

Additional Information

Troubleshooting Windows 10 Always On VPN Error 853

Windows 10 Always On VPN Network Policy Server (NPS) Load Balancing

Always On VPN Short Name Access Failure

Using Microsoft Endpoint Manager (Intune), administrators can provision Always On VPN to devices that are Azure AD joined only. Users accessing on-premises resources from these devices can still use seamless single sign-on, making this deployment option popular for organizations moving to the cloud.

Short Names

After deploying Always On VPN to Windows 10 devices that are Azure AD joined only and configured to use client certificate authentication, administrators may find that users cannot access on-premises resources by their short name, such as \\app1. The connection fails and returns the following error message.

“Windows can’t find <servername/sharename>. Check the spelling and try again.”

FQDN

Interestingly, on-premises resources are accessible using their fully qualified domain name (FQDN), such as \\app1.corp.example.net.

Troubleshooting

Testing name resolution using the short name works as expected, and the resource is reachable at the network layer, as shown here.

Workaround

This issue is related to how Windows performs authentication when connected via VPN. To resolve this issue, edit the rasphone.pbk file and change the value of UseRasCredentials to 0. Rasphone.pbk can be found in the $env:AppData\Microsoft\Network\Connections\Pbk folder.

After updating this setting, restart the VPN connection for the change to take effect.

Proactive Remediations

While helpful for testing, editing rasphone.pbk manually obviously does not scale well. To address this, consider using Intune Proactive Remediations. Intune Proactive Remediations allows administrators to deploy detection and remediation PowerShell scripts to monitor specific settings and update them if or when they change. Proactive Remediations will ensure the setting is applied consistently across all managed endpoints.

GitHub Repository

I have created a new GitHub repository dedicated to PowerShell scripts for Endpoint Manager Proactive Remediations for Always On VPN. There you will find detection and remediation scripts for the UseRasCredentials settings change described in this article.

Additional Information

Always On VPN Endpoint Manager Proactive Remediation Scripts on GitHub

Endpoint Manager Proactive Remediations Tutorial

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