DirectAccess IP-HTTPS Preauthentication using F5 BIG-IP

Note: For information about configuring the Citrix NetScaler to perform IP-HTTPS preauthentication, click here. For information about configuring Windows Server 2012 R2 to perform IP-HTTPS preauthentication natively, click here.


DirectAccess IP-HTTPS Preauthentication using F5 BIG-IPRecently I wrote about security challenges with DirectAccess and the IP-HTTPS IPv6 transition technology. Specifically, IP-HTTPS transition tunnel connections are not authenticated by the DirectAccess server, only the client. This allows an unauthorized device to obtain an IPv6 address on the DirectAccess client network. With it, an attacker can perform network reconnaissance using ICMPv6 and potentially launch a variety of Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks. For more details, click here.

Note: DirectAccess IPsec data connections not at risk. Data is never exposed at any time with the default configuration.


To mitigate these issues, it is recommended that an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) be used to terminate SSL connections and enforce client certificate authentication. Doing this will ensure that only authorized connections will be accepted by the DirectAccess server. In addition, there are some scalability and performance benefits to implementing this configuration when supporting Windows 7 clients.

Important Considerations

Performing IP-HTTPS preauthentication on the F5 BIG-IP is formally unsupported by Microsoft. In addition, terminating IP-HTTPS on the F5 appliance breaks OTP authentication.

F5 BIG-IP Configuration

To configure the F5 BIG-IP to perform SSL offload for DirectAccess IP-HTTPS, follow the guidance documented here. In addition, to configure the F5 BIG-IP to perform preauthentication for DirectAccess clients, when creating the client SSL profile, click Custom above the Client Authentication section and choose Require from the Client Certificate drop-down list and Always from the Frequency drop-down list. In addition, choose your internal PKI’s root Certification Authority (CA) certificate from the Trusted Certificate Authorities drop-down list and from the Advertised Certificate Authorities drop-down list.

DirectAccess IP-HTTPS Preauthentication using F5 BIG-IP


Enabling client certificate authentication for IP-HTTPS connections ensures that only authorized DirectAccess clients can establish a connection to the DirectAccess server and obtain an IPv6 address. It also prevents an unauthorized user from performing network reconnaissance or launching IPv6 Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks.

DirectAccess and Multi-SAN SSL Certificates for IP-HTTPS


When preparing a DirectAccess server, an SSL certificate is required for the IP-HTTPS IPv6 transition technology. This certificate is often issued by a public Certification Authority (CA), but it can also be issued an organization’s internal Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

SSL Certificate

Commonly an SSL certificate is issued for a single hostname, or subject. As long as the hostname matches the subject, everything works fine.

DirectAccess and Multi-SAN SSL Certificates for IP-HTTPS

Multi-SAN SSL Certificate

To ease the management burden of using multiple certificates, or reduce the expense associated with using a wildcard certificate, organizations can request a multi-SAN (Subject Alternative Name) certificate, which matches more than one subject. The additional subjects are included in the Subject Alternative Name field on the SSL certificate.

DirectAccess and Multi-SAN SSL Certificates for IP-HTTPS
A single multi-SAN certificate can be installed on multiple hosts and will work without issue as long as the hostname matches one of the SAN entries.

DirectAccess and Multi-SAN Certificates

When implementing DirectAccess in a multisite configuration, each entry point in the organization will have a unique public hostname. Instinctively, using a multi-SAN SSL certificate in this scenario would seem ideal.

Unfortunately, support for multi-SAN SSL certificates with DirectAccess is limited. To use a multi-SAN certificate for DirectAccess IP-HTTPS, the public hostname must match the name listed in the Subject field. In the example above, the subject is, with SAN entries for and

In this scenario, only the public name is supported for use with DirectAccess. It will not work for any of the SAN entries. For example, attempting to configure DirectAccess to use this certificate with the public hostname will fail with the following error message.

The subject name of certificate CN=[certificate subject name] is invalid.
Select a certificate with a valid subject name.

DirectAccess and Multi-SAN SSL Certificates for IP-HTTPS

Attempting to work around this issue by using the Set-DAServer PowerShell cmdlet also fails to recognize the SSL certificate correctly.

DirectAccess and Multi-SAN SSL Certificates for IP-HTTPS


Using a multi-SAN SSL certificate for the DirectAccess IP-HTTPS IPv6 transition technology is only supported when the public hostname matches the subject name of the certificate. Configuring DirectAccess with a public hostname listed in the SAN list is not supported. For multisite DirectAccess deployments, individual certificates must be issued for each entry point. Alternatively, a wildcard certificate can be used.

DirectAccess IP-HTTPS Discovery Script for Nmap

DirectAccess IP-HTTPS Discovery Script for NmapWhen troubleshooting DirectAccess connectivity issues, the popular Nmap network mapping and discovery tool is an invaluable resource for verifying the communication path to the DirectAccess server from outside the network. However, just verifying that ports are open and listening often isn’t sufficient. In the case of IP-HTTPS, for example, the tried and true method of using telnet to verify that the port is open might be misleading. For instance, telnet might indicate that TCP port 443 is open and responding, but DirectAccess connectivity can still fail. This often happens as a result of a network configuration error that allows another network device other than the DirectAccess server to respond to HTTPS requests, which results in a false positive.

In an effort to conclusively determine that the DirectAccess server is responding, I’ve often relied on the SSL Labs Server Test site. Here I will enter the DirectAccess server’s public hostname and run the test, and from the results I can easily determine if indeed the DirectAccess server is responding by verifying that the HTTP server signature is Microsoft-HTTPAPI/2.0.

DirectAccess IP-HTTPS Discovery Script for NMAP

This usually works well, but it takes a few minutes to run the test, and there are a few scenarios in which it doesn’t work. For example, I might be working with a customer to perform some initial testing by using a local HOSTS file entry for the public name before the DNS record has been created. Also, if the SSL certificate on the DirectAccess server uses an IP address instead of a hostname (not recommended, but it is supported!) the SSL Labs server test won’t work.

Fortunately, the latest release Nmap (v7.00) now includes a script that enables the detection of Microsoft DirectAccess responding on TCP port 443. With the IP-HTTPS discovery script, it is now possible to determine not only if the port is open, but if the DirectAccess server is actually the service responding. The syntax for conducting a port scan using the IP-HTTPS discovery script for NMAP is as follows:

nmap.exe –n –Pn –p443 [directaccess_public_fqdn] –script [path_to_nmap_iphttps_discovery_script]

Here’s an example:

nmap.exe –n –Pn –p443 –script c:\tools\nmap\scripts\ip-https-discover.nse

DirectAccess IP-HTTPS Discovery Script for NMAP

Now it is possible, using just Nmap, to not only determine if the IP-HTTPS communication path is functioning, but to definitively determine that the DirectAccess server is the device responding.

Happy troubleshooting!

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