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.

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.

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 -2146762495

DirectAccess Troubleshooting and the Windows 10 Network Connectivity Assistant

Always On VPN Administrators may encounter a scenario where Always On VPN connections suddenly stop working for all clients using the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) VPN protocol. IKEv2 VPN connections continue to work, however.

Event Log

Reviewing the event log on a client machine reveals an error 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 -2146762495.”

Error -2146762495?

Always On VPN administrators will be familiar with error codes such as 809, 691 and 812, 853, 858, and even 13801, 13806, and 13868. However, this error code seems to be formatted much differently. As it turns out, this message is in decimal format. Thankfully it’s pretty easy to convert it to something more meaningful, like hexadecimal. To do this, open the Windows calculator (calc.exe) and switch to programmer mode. Highlight DEC and enter -2146762495. The hexadecimal value will be displayed in the HEX field, as shown here.

Error 0x800B0101

After converting the error message from decimal to hex, use the Microsoft Error Lookup tool (err.exe) to translate the hex value of this error. As shown here, 0x800B0101 translates to CERT_E_EXPIRED.

Expired TLS Certificate

Once again, an expired certificate is to blame! In this case, the TLS certificate installed on the VPN server has expired and is no longer valid.

Resolution

The problem is simple enough to resolve, of course. Obtain a new TLS certificate from your certification authority (CA) of choice and update your VPN server configuration. You can find detailed guidance for updating the RRAS VPN server’s TLS certificate here. You will also find a video demonstration of the RRAS SSL/TLS certificate renewal process here.

Additional Information

Installing or Renewing an SSL/TLS Certificate on Windows Server RRAS for Always On VPN and SSTP

VIDEO: Installing or Renewing an SSL/TLS certificate on Windows Server RRAS for Always On VPN and SSTP

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN SSL/TLS Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN SSTP with Let’s Encrypt Certificates

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Renewal

Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) is popular for Always On VPN deployments because it supports the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP). The SSTP VPN protocol is recommended for use with the Always On VPN user tunnel because it is firewall friendly. Installing a TLS certificate on the VPN server is necessary to support SSTP VPN connections. Administrators should use a TLS certificate signed by a public certification authority (CA) for optimal reliability and performance.

Click here to view a video demonstration of the procedures outlined in this article.

Certificate Expiration

Of course, all certificates expire, and the TLS certificate used for SSTP is no exception. When using a public TLS certificate, the certificate lifetime is typically no more than one year, which means Always On VPN administrators will be renewing this certificate regularly.

Certificate Renewal

The process of “renewing” an SSTP TLS certificate is essentially the same as installing a new one, as it is best to create a new public/private key pair when renewing a certificate. The following outlines the steps required to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR), import the certificate, then assign the certificate to the SSTP listener on the VPN server.

Note: The guidance provided here assumes using an ECC certificate, which is best for optimal security and performance. More details here.

Certificate Request

Open the local computer certificate store (certlm.msc) on the VPN server and perform the following steps to generate a new CSR.

  1. Expand Certificates – Local Computer > Personal.
  2. Right-click the Certificates folder and choose All Tasks > Advanced Operations > Create Custom Request.
  3. Click Next.
  4. Highlight Proceed without enrollment policy.
  5. Click Next.
    1. Select (No template) CNG key from the Template drop-down list.
    2. Select PKCS #10 in the Request format section.
    3. Click Next.
  6. Click on the down arrow next to Details.
    Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP
  7. Click on the Properties button.
  8. Select the General tab.
    1. Enter the public hostname for the certificate in the Friendly name field.
  9. Select the Subject tab.
    1. Select Common name from the Type drop-down list in the Subject name section.
    2. Enter the public hostname for the certificate in the Value field.
    3. Click Add.
    4. In the Alternative name section, select DNS from the Type drop-down list.
    5. Enter the public hostname for the certificate in the Value field.
    6. Click Add.
      Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP
  10. Select the Extensions tab.
    1. Expand the Extended Key Usage section.
    2. Select Server Authentication from the Available options section.
    3. Click Add.
      Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP
  11. Select the Private Key tab.
    1. Expand the Cryptographic Service Provider section.
      1. Uncheck the box next to RSA,Microsoft Software Key Storage Provider.
      2. Check the box next to ECDSA_P256,Microsoft Software Key Storage Provider.
    2. Expand the Key options section.
      1. Check the box next to Make private key exportable.
        Always On VPN ECDSA SSL Certificate Request for SSTP
  12. Click Ok.
  13. Click Next.
  14. Enter a name for the file in the File Name field.
  15. Select Base 64 in the File format section.
  16. Click Finish.

Import Certificate

Once complete, submit the file created to a public CA for signing. When the CA returns the signed certificate, perform the following steps to import it to the local compute certificate store.

  1. Right-click the Certificates folder and choose All Tasks > Import.
  2. Click Next.
  3. Enter the name of the certificate file returned by the public CA in the File name field.
  4. Click Next.
  5. Select Place all certificates in the following store and ensure that Personal is listed in the Certificate store field.
  6. Click Next.
  7. Click Finish.
  8. Click Ok.

Assign Certificate

After importing the new TLS certificate in the local computer’s certificate store, open the Routing and Remote Access management console (rrasmgmt.msc) and perform the following steps to assign the TLS certificate to the SSTP listener.

  1. Right-click the VPN server and choose Properties.
  2. Select the Security tab.
    1. Select the new TLS certificate from the Certificate drop-down list in the SSL Certificate Binding section. When replacing an existing certificate, you may see a certificate with the same name more than once. Click the View button and ensure the new certificate is selected.
    2. Click Ok.
    3. Click Yes to restart the RemoteAccess service.

Demonstration Video

A recorded video demonstration of this process can be found here. The video recording also includes guidance for making these changes on Windows Server Core servers.

Additional Information

Installing or Renewing an SSL/TLS Certificate on Windows Server for Always On VPN and SSTP.

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN SSL Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN ECDSA TLS Certificate Request for SSTP

Microsoft Windows Always On VPN SSTP with Let’s Encrypt Certificates

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