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I am experiencing an issue with an IIS 7 application on our network. The problem is as follows:

If a user browses to the site by IP address ( the application loads fine, with no errors, and worth perfectly.

If the same user browses to the site by hostname (http://dms-live/site) an "Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage" message is displayed. Digging deeper results in the actual error code 401.2 - Unauthorized.

Some further information:

  • This is an internal site with no external access whatsoever

  • Internet Explorer is set by group policy to place the site in the Intranet zone

  • The application allows "Anonymous Authentication" (using IUSR), "ASP.NET Impersonation" (set to Authenticated User), "Basic Authentication" (no default domain or realm specified) and "Windows Authentication" (with Kernel-mode authentication enabled)

  • The user can ping dms-live, which returns the correct IP address

  • The user is able to browse to both and http://dms-live without issues and sees the default IIS 7 splash screen

  • The hostname "dms-live" is an additional A record specified in DNS pointing to

  • The actual hostname of the server is "accserver16". Using this in place of "dms-live" gives exactly the same result (401.2 error)

  • Using FQDNs instead of the short hostnames gives the same result as well (401.2 error)

  • The website has bindings to dms-live, accserver16 and, plus the associated FQDNs

  • Our network has two domains in two forests, domain A in forest A and domain B in forest B. All users and workstations are in domain A, the IIS server is in domain B. There is two-way trust configured between domain A and domain B.

  • Both domains have their own DNS servers

This problem only arose recently, after a single very specific DNS change was made. Originally the DNS zone for domain B was hosted by the domain B DNS server, and a Conditional Forwarders entry was set up to forward requests from the domain A DNS servers. In the interests of resiliency this was changed so that the domain A DNS servers had secondary Forward and Reverse zones set up for the domain B zones.

The secondary zone is loading fine, replicates changes properly and returns the correct DNS records to ping and nslookup requests.

One other odd bit of information - some PCs on the network are able to load http://dms-live/site without any problems. There doesn't seem to be much of a pattern for which PCs work and which don't.

It's not down to the user (the same user on two different PCs won't necessarily get the same result), browser (this has been tested with IE8 and IE9 and results are not consistent) or Operating System (problem seems independent of whether Windows XP or Windows 7 is being used).

Troubleshooting tried so far:

  • Enabling a single form of authentication at a time
  • Disabling Kernel-mode authentication
  • Setting up SPN records for DMS-LIVE and the associated FQDN
  • Clearing the IE cache between attempts
  • Rebooting the PCs
  • Flushing the DNS cache with ipconfig /flushdns
  • Setting the "DisableStrictNameChecking" registry key to 1 and rebooting the server
  • Adding ACCSERVER16$ and IIS_IUSRS to the NTFS permissions of the application directory

On a PC that fails to load the page Fiddler shows that a single request is made which returns a 401 error. On a PC that loads the page successfully Fiddler shows the same 401 error followed by a 302, followed by a 200.

If the Secondary zones are removed and the Conditional Forwarders entry put back in, the problem disappears.

It seems as though for some reason, when using a Secondary Zone instead of a Conditional Forwarder to resolve a hostname in a different forest, authentication fails for some PCs but not all - but why this would be the case I have no idea. Can anyone help?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

After a lot of digging around I've finally found the cause of the problem.

We tracked it down after noticing a couple of other related issues. When trying to browse to a share on accserver16 a user would be presented with a credentials box and the following error message:

The system detected a possible attempt to compromise security. Please ensure that you can contact the server that authenticated you.

Filling in appropriate credentials worked but this should not have been necessary.

Also, when trying to validate the trust on the domain controller from forest B, the following error message was displayed:

The secure channel (SC) reset on Active Directory Domain Controller \accserver04.domainb.local of domain domainb.local to domain domaina.local failed with error: There are currently no logon servers available to service the logon request.

This pointed to an inability to locate domain controllers in the other forest as the cause of the issue.

Within DNS, under each domain's Forward Lookup Zone, is a delegation zone named "_msdcs". This should contain static NS records pointing to the name servers on that domain.

On both domain A and domain B this was improperly configured. On domain A the only name server listed had since been demoted, and on domain B it pointed to a server that no longer even existed on the network.

Apparently this didn't cause a problem for internal DNS queries, and didn't affect queries between forests so long as conditional forwarding was being used. As soon as the conditional forwarding was replaced with secondary zones, however, the trust between the forests fell to pieces.

Fixing the name server records in the _msdcs delegation zones on each domain to point to the correct name servers solved the issue.

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I worked with someone on the same issue over here: We didn't fully solve it yet though and we're passively still working on it. In their case using an A record rather than a CNAME solved it (temporary fix), but since you're already using an A record, that won't work for you.

For you, what if you create a hosts record for the domain name? That will pull AD mostly out of the equation. Also, try experimenting with the IE Intranet zone, and also try visiting with another browser.

The issue is likely SPN related, although you did mention that you setup records.

And since you mention that it works from some computers but not others, then also look into the computer SPN settings, and trust settings.

I assume that the failing page is password protected? If it's not, then you can set Authentication/Anonymous to always run as the app pool identity. Then the IIS_IUSRS user won't be used and you only have to test with whatever you are using for the app pool identity.

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Many thanks for your reply. I've tried creating a hosts record for the domain name and it works. Unfortunately using a modified hosts file on every PC in the domain isn't really a solution we can use, but it's good to know that locally resolving the hostname seems to avoid the problem in the same way that using the IP address does. I've checked the Intranet zone settings on two PCs and can't see any differences. I've also tried changing the Intranet zone security settings to "Low" instead of "Medium-Low" and that did not make any difference either. (1/3) – Ian Nov 8 '12 at 15:15
Firefox and Chrome seem to work without issues. They prompt for credentials (as expected on browsers other than Internet Explorer) but when credentials are provided it connects and loads the page. Unfortunately this isn't a solution either, as rolling out Firefox or Chrome to the entire business is not an option. It does suggest that Internet Explorer simply isn't passing along the credentials it has, though.(2/3) – Ian Nov 8 '12 at 15:16
I've tried setting Anonymous Authentication to "Application pool identity" and making this the only enabled method of authentication, but this doesn't seem to help. The application pool identity is "Network Service" - I've tried changing this to "Local System", "Local Service" and "ApplicationPoolIdentity" but this doesn't help either. I'm unsure what you mean about computer SPN settings and trust settings - how would I go about checking these?(3/3) – Ian Nov 8 '12 at 15:16
@Ian, I just checked in on this now and see that you've tracked it down. Nice troubleshooting. Thanks for providing a detailed answer on what it was. – Scott Forsyth - MVP Nov 12 '12 at 13:49

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