Wednesday, August 3, 2011


NTLM, or more properly NTLMSSP is a protocol used on Microsoft Windows system as part of the so-called Integrated Windows Authentication.

Integrated Windows Authentication is also known as HTTP Negotiate authentication, NT Authentication, NTLM Authentication, Domain authentication, Windows Integrated Authentication, Windows NT Challenge/Response authentication, or simply Windows Authentication.

In Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), the system administrator can protect a website or folder with "Integrated Windows Authentication". When you browse to this website or folder, you must enter your Windows (domain) username and password to get access (although Internet Explorer will, depending on your security settings, send your credentials automatically without showing a login dialog box). Note that unlike Basic Authentication, which sends the password as plaintext to the web server, the NTLM protocol does not send the password but rather performs a cryptographic "handshake" with the server to establish your identity.

Use of Integrated Windows Authentication via NTLM on IIS is very common inside many companies (ie on intranets and internal web servers), where both the client and web server computers are part of the same, or trusting, domains.

Using NTLM from PL/SQL with UTL_HTTP

Unfortunately, from the PL/SQL developer's perspective, Oracle's UTL_HTTP package does not support NTLM authentication (it only supports Basic authentication via the SET_AUTHENTICATION procedure).

So, if you wanted to retrieve information from your intranet or call a web service (protected by Integrated Windows Authentication) from the database via PL/SQL and UTL_HTTP, you were out of luck.

Until now, that is... :-)

A pure PL/SQL implementation of the NTLM protocol

I came across a Python implementation of the NTLM protocol, and I decided that it should be possible to port this code to PL/SQL. Assisted by a couple of good friends and colleagues, and after a lot of bit-fiddling, reverse-engineering, study of protocol specifications, and liberal use of network packet sniffers, we got it working!

A pure PL/SQL implementation of the NTLM protocol is now available and included in the Alexandria Utility Library for PL/SQL.

The code is organized into two packages: NTLM_UTIL_PKG, which contains protocol-specific functions, and NTLM_HTTP_PKG, which is the package you actually use to make HTTP callouts, and which handles the initial NTLM "handshaking" with the web server.

Example 1: Simple request

This code simply grabs the page you direct it towards, and returns the contents as a CLOB. (What is really going on behind the scenes is a series of requests and responses to establish the authenticated connection, before the actual URL contents is served.)

  l_clob clob;
  l_clob := ntlm_http_pkg.get_response_clob('http://servername/page', 'domain\username', 'password');
  debug_pkg.print(substr(l_clob, 1, 32000));

Example 2: Web service call

Here, a (persistent) connection is explicitly established before making one or more requests to the server. Note the returnvalue from the BEGIN_REQUEST function, which is the authorization string which must be passed along in the "Authorization" HTTP header on any subsequent requests. The connection is then is closed. Note that NTLM is a connection-based protocol, and will not work without the use of persistent connections.

  l_url           varchar2(2000) := 'http://servername/page';
  l_ntlm_auth_str varchar2(2000);
  l_xml           xmltype;
  l_soap_env      clob := 'your_soap_envelope_here';

  -- perform the initial request to set up a persistent, authenticated connection
  l_ntlm_auth_str := ntlm_http_pkg.begin_request (l_url, 'domain\username', 'password');

  -- pass authorization header to next call(s)
  apex_web_service.g_request_headers(1).name := 'Authorization';
  apex_web_service.g_request_headers(1).value := l_ntlm_auth_str;

  -- perform the actual call
  -- NOTE: for this to work, you must be using a version of apex_web_service that allows persistent connections (fixed in Apex 4.1 ???)
  --       see
  l_xml := apex_web_service.make_request(l_url, 'soap_action_name_here', '1.1', l_soap_env);

  -- or use the latest version of flex_ws_api
  -- flex_ws_api.g_request_headers(1).name := 'Authorization';
  -- flex_ws_api.g_request_headers(1).value := l_ntlm_auth_str;
  -- l_xml := flex_ws_api.make_request(l_url, 'soap_action_name_here', '1.1', l_soap_env);

  -- this will close the persistent connection

  debug_pkg.print('XML response from webservice', l_xml);


  • Tested successfully on Oracle 10g XE (with AL32UTF8 character set) and Oracle 10g EE (with WE8MSWIN1252 character set).
  • Tested successfully against IIS 6.0 with non-SSL "plain" website and SSL-enabled Sharepoint website (both set up with Integrated Windows Authentication, obviously).
  • The current version ignores cookies when setting up the connection. If you depend on cookies being present, you may have to deal with this specifically.

Given the diverse nature of network configuration, there may be bugs or unhandled cases in the code. So please test the code in your environment and leave a comment below, letting me me know if it works for you or not.

New version of Alexandria Utility Library for PL/SQL

I've just uploaded a new version of the Alexandria Utility Library for PL/SQL.

Updates include both small bug fixes and some major new features (which I'll return to in another post).

Among the improvements are:

  • Additional functions in OOXML_UTIL_PKG for working with Excel 2007 and Powerpoint 2007 files.
  • Kris Scorup has contributed improved CSV parsing to the CSV_UTIL_PKG. It now handles double quotes and separator characters inside strings.
  • Anton Scheffer's packages for building PDF and XLSX files have been included in the library.
  • The PL_FPDF library by Pierre-Gilles Levallois is a port of the FPDF library for PHP. Pierre-Gilles Levallois has his own website, but his package (which is open source under the GNU license) does not appear to have been updated for several years, and several indivuals have been making their own fixes and enhancements to this package. Rob Duke and Brian McGinity have both contributed bug fixes and enhancements (such as internal document links, Javascript support, using clobs to work around the 32k limit, etc.). These changes as well as some of my own have been merged and included in the Alexandria library as PDFGEN_PKG. You'll find this package in the "extras" folder (it is not installed by default if you run the install script).