Authenticating apps via Certificates in .NET

Certificate authentication is a robust method of securing APIs and services by using digital certificates. This approach ensures that only clients with valid and trusted certificates can access resources. In this article, we will explore how to implement certificate authentication in a .NET C# application.


Before we proceed, make sure you have the following prerequisites:

  1. Visual Studio: You'll need a development environment to create and run your .NET C# project. Visual Studio is recommended.

  2. SSL Certificate: You'll need an SSL certificate for testing purposes. You can generate a self-signed certificate or obtain a certificate from a trusted certificate authority.

Steps to Implement Certificate Authentication

Follow these steps to implement certificate authentication in your .NET C# application:

Step 1: Create a New .NET Project

Open Visual Studio and create a new ASP.NET Web Application project.

Step 2: Configure HTTPS and SSL Certificate

Configure your project to use HTTPS by enabling SSL for local development. You can do this by right-clicking the project in Solution Explorer, selecting "Properties," and then going to the "Debug" tab. Check the "Enable SSL" checkbox.

Step 3: Configure Certificate Authentication

In your project's Startup.cs file, configure certificate authentication.

Add the necessary using statement at the top of the file:

using Microsoft.AspNetCore.Authentication.Certificate;

Inside the ConfigureServices method, add the following code to configure certificate authentication:

csharpCopy codepublic void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
    // ... other configurations

        .AddCertificate(options =>
            options.Events = new CertificateAuthenticationEvents
                OnCertificateValidated = context =>
                    // Implement custom validation logic here
                    // For example, check if the certificate thumbprint is valid
                    bool isValid = ValidateCertificate(context.ClientCertificate);
                    if (isValid)
                        context.Fail("Invalid certificate.");
                    return Task.CompletedTask;

    // ... other configurations

In this example, the OnCertificateValidated event is used to perform custom validation logic on the presented certificate. You need to implement the ValidateCertificate method according to your requirements.

Below is an example of how you can do that

private bool ValidateCertificate(X509Certificate2 clientCertificate)
    // Check if the certificate is not null and is valid
    if (clientCertificate == null || !clientCertificate.Verify())
        return false;

    // Implement additional validation checks based on your requirements
    // For example, you can validate the certificate's thumbprint against a known value
    string expectedThumbprint = "your-expected-thumbprint"; // Replace with your expected thumbprint
    if (string.Equals(clientCertificate.Thumbprint, expectedThumbprint, StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase))
        return true;

    return false;

Step 4: Secure Your API Endpoints

To secure your API endpoints using certificate authentication, you can use the [Authorize] attribute on your controllers or actions that require authentication. This ensures that only clients with valid certificates can access those endpoints.

public class MyController : ControllerBase
    // Your API actions

Step 5: Configure Client Certificate in Requests

When making requests to your secured API, clients need to present their client certificates. Depending on the client platform (e.g., Postman, HttpClient), you'll need to configure how to include the client certificate in the requests.

Option 1: Using HttpClient (Console Application):

If you're making requests using HttpClient, you can configure the client certificate in the request like this:

using System;
using System.Net.Http;
using System.Net.Security;
using System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates;
using System.Threading.Tasks;

class Program
    static async Task Main(string[] args)
        var handler = new HttpClientHandler
            ClientCertificateOptions = ClientCertificateOption.Manual,
            SslProtocols = SslProtocols.Tls12,
            ServerCertificateCustomValidationCallback = ValidateServerCertificate

        // Load the client certificate
        var clientCertificate = new X509Certificate2("path-to-client-certificate.pfx", "certificate-password");

        var client = new HttpClient(handler);

        var response = await client.GetAsync("https://your-api-endpoint");
        var content = await response.Content.ReadAsStringAsync();

    static bool ValidateServerCertificate(HttpRequestMessage requestMessage, X509Certificate2 certificate, X509Chain chain, SslPolicyErrors sslPolicyErrors)
        // Implement custom validation logic here if needed
        return true; // Always return true for demo purposes

Replace "path-to-client-certificate.pfx" with the actual path to your client certificate and "certificate-password" with the password for the certificate.

Option 2: Using Postman (For Testing):

  1. Open Postman and create a new request.

  2. Click on the "Body" tab.

  3. In the "Certificate" section, select the "Client Certificate" option.

  4. Click on "Browse" and select your client certificate file (.pfx).

  5. Enter the certificate password.

  6. Send the request to your secured API endpoint.

Remember that the code provided is for demonstration purposes, and you should adapt it to your specific use case, including proper error handling, validation logic, and security practices.


Implementing certificate authentication in a .NET C# application provides a secure way to control access to your APIs and services. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can establish a strong authentication mechanism that ensures only authorized clients with valid certificates can access your resources. Remember to tailor the implementation to your specific use case and security requirements.