Role Based vs Claims Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core

Role-Based vs Claims-Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core

In this article, I will discuss Role-Based vs Claims-Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core Identity. Please read our previous article discussing How to Implement Claims-Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core Identity.

What is Authorization?

Authorization is the process of determining what the logged-in user can and cannot do. In ASP.NET Core Identity, authorization can be implemented using either role-based or claims-based or a combination of both as per your business requirements. Both methods are designed to determine whether a user has permission to perform a given action within an application, but they operate differently.

Role Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-based authorization is a straightforward approach where users are assigned roles, which are used to control access to resources. It’s implemented using role checks in the code, like [Authorize(Roles = “Admin”)] on controllers or actions in ASP.NET Core applications. Ideal for scenarios with a clear and stable set of roles, where each role has a defined set of permissions. Common in many traditional business applications.

Suppose you are developing one E-Commerce application and managing the admin panel; you have the following Roles.

  • Admin
  • Moderator
  • Checker

Depending on the role or roles the logged-in user belongs to, you may or may not authorize access to certain resources in the application. Since you are using Roles to make authorization checks, this is commonly called Role Based Access Control (RBAC) or Role Based Authorization.

In the ASP.NET Core Application, we must use the Authorize attribute with the Roles parameter as follows to implement role-based authorization.

[Authorize(Roles = "Admin")]
public class AdministrationController : Controller
  • Simplicity: It’s easy to understand and implement. Roles are usually well-defined, like Admin, User, Manager, etc.
  • Straightforward Management: Roles can be easily managed and assigned to users.
  • Inflexibility: Not suitable for complex scenarios where permissions need to be highly customized.
  • Scalability Issues: Managing roles and permissions can become challenging if the number of roles and permissions grows.

Note: We have discussed Role-Based Authorization in Detail in our ASP.NET Core Identity Role-Based Authorization article.

Claims Based Access Control (CBAC)

Claims-Based Authorization is also called Claims-Based Access Control (CBAC). Claims-Based Authorization uses claims to make authorization decisions. A claim is a statement about a user (e.g., name, role, age), and it’s part of the user’s identity. It involves checking the user’s claims to make decisions, which can be more granular than role checks.

This can be implemented using the [Authorize(Policy = “PolicyName”)] attribute, where policies are defined based on claims. It is suitable for complex applications with dynamic or highly granular access control requirements. Suitable for scenarios where user permissions are not strictly tied to their role.

For example, if you are building an employee portal, you may allow the logged-in user to apply for a maternity leave if the gender claim value is female. Similarly, if you are building an e-commerce application, you may allow the logged-in user to submit an order if the age claim value is greater than or equal to 18.

Another real-time example might be the users of an Admin Panel. You can create many users with Admin roles, but as per the experience of the user who will manage the panel, you need to restrict some operations. For example, one Admin user can perform Edit and Delete operations while another Admin user is restricted from such operations. For scenarios like this, we can use Claims-Based Authorization.

[Authorize(Policy = "DeleteRolePolicy")]
public async Task<IActionResult> DeleteRole(string RoleId)
  1. Flexibility: More granular control over user access, as you can have multiple claims per user.
  2. Scalable: Easier to manage in large systems with complex and varying permissions.
  3. Suitable for Federated Identity Scenarios: Works well when integrating with external identity providers.
  • Complexity: More complex to implement and understand compared to role-based authorization.
  • Performance Considerations: Depending on implementation, it can be more resource-intensive, as it might involve more checks and balances.

Note: We have discussed Claims-Based Authorization in Detail in our Claims-Based Authorization in the ASP.NET Core article.

Differences Between Role-Based and Claim-Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core Identity:
  • Scalability: Claims-based authorization scales better in more complex and dynamic environments.
  • Management: RBAC is easier to manage in simpler systems, while claims-based is more suited for environments where user attributes and context are critical.
  • Flexibility: Claims-based authorization is more flexible and can accommodate changing permissions more easily than RBAC.
  • Implementation Complexity: RBAC is generally easier to implement than claims-based authorization.
Choosing Between Them
  • Role-based authorization is suitable for applications with a simple user management system that clearly defines roles and doesn’t change frequently.
  • Claims-based authorization is preferred for applications requiring high flexibility and customization in access control, especially in distributed or federated identity scenarios.

Note: In ASP.NET Core, you can also mix both methods if needed, leveraging the strengths of each to suit your application’s requirements. For example, you might use roles for broad access control and add claims for more granular permissions.

Why do we have both in ASP.NET Core?

In previous versions of ASP.NET, we did not have claims-based authorization, only role-based authorization.

Claims-based authorization is relatively new and is the recommended approach. With it, we can also use claims from external identity providers like Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. We will discuss using external identity providers and the claims they provide in our upcoming article.

Role-based authorization is still supported in ASP.NET Core for backward compatibility. While Claims-Based authorization is recommended, depending on your application authorization requirements, you may use Role-Based authorization, Claims-Based authorization, or a combination of both.

In the next article, I will discuss How to Implement Role-Based and Claim-Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core MVC Views. In this article, I explain Role-Based Authorization vs Claims-Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core Identity. I hope you enjoy this article, Role Based Authorization vs Claims Based Authorization in ASP.NET Core Identity.

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