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Help with unusual error message (System.Web.HttpException: Invalid_Viewstate)

Posted on 2004-10-20
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Last Modified: 2008-01-09
I was looking through the logs on one of my applications today when I noticed a strange error message that I'm having trouble explaining.  The text of the exception is pasted below.  Does anyone have any idea what this is, or if I should be worried?  The app has been running for a couple of weeks now, but this is the first time I have got this, or any other message.

Thanks in advance.

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System.Web.HttpUnhandledException: Exception of type System.Web.HttpUnhandledException was thrown. ---> System.Web.HttpException: Invalid_Viewstate
      Client IP: *.*.*.*
      Port: 12779
      User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
      ViewState: dDwtMjA0OTU3MjU4Mjt0PDtsPGk8MT47PjtsPHQ8O2w8aTw2PjtpPDg+O2
k8OT47PjtsPHQ8O2w8aTwxPjtpPDM+O2k8NT47aTwyMz47PjtsPHQ8dDw7O2w8aTwwPjs+P
js7Pjt0PHQ8OztsPGk8MD47Pj47Oz47dDx0PDs7bDxpPDA+Oz4+Ozs+O3Q8O2w8aTwxPjs+O2
w8dDx0PDs7bDxpPDA+Oz4+Ozs+Oz4+Oz4+O3Q8O2w8aTw1PjtpPDc+Oz47bDx0PDtsPGk8M
T47PjtsPHQ8dDw7O2w8aTwwPjs+PjsC_://w

8%@.e50
A0
cAccept: */*
Accept-Language: en-gb
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
Referer: http://www.domain.com/page.aspx
n7Pjs+Pjt0PHQ8OztsPGk8MD47Pj47Oz47Pj47dDw7bDxpPDE+O2k8Mz47PjtsPH
Q8dDw7O2w8aTwwPjs+Pjs7Pjt0PDtsPGk8MT47PjtsPHQ8dDw7O2w8aTwwPjs+Pjs7Pjs+Pjs+
Pjs+Pjs+PjtsPEltYWdlQnV0dG9uSW50cm9OZXh0Oz4+o6MLqRFWGkZ7+b+E8c7OLh5wsCk=
      Http-Referer: http://www.domain.com/(t2emvz55i0cih4u4nohmpg55)/page.aspx
      Path: /page.aspx. ---> System.FormatException: Invalid character in a Base-64 string.
   at System.Convert.FromBase64String(String s)
   at System.Web.UI.LosFormatter.Deserialize(String input)
   at System.Web.UI.Page.LoadPageStateFromPersistenceMedium()
   --- End of inner exception stack trace ---
   at System.Web.UI.Page.LoadPageStateFromPersistenceMedium()
   at System.Web.UI.Page.LoadPageViewState()
   at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain()
   --- End of inner exception stack trace ---
   at System.Web.UI.Page.HandleError(Exception e)
   at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain()
   at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest()
   at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest(HttpContext context)
   at System.Web.CallHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication+IExecutionStep.Execute()
   at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously)

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Question by:Psychotext
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by:mmarinov
mmarinov earned 400 total points
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by:Psychotext
ID: 12357823
Not using the application updater block, but I was interested to read "This error usually means someone is trying to mess with url id's" in the second link.  My initial thoughts on the error were that someone was either trying to modify the viewstate, and failing or that the viewstate had been corrupted on transmission which caused the failure.

I think above all though I'm trying to rule out poor programming on my part! :)
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mmarinov earned 400 total points
ID: 12357854
Psychotext,

also check this kbarticle : http://www.kbalertz.com/kb_829743.aspx
B..M
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by:Psychotext
ID: 12358256
Looks like a good article, thanks.  I will work through it and post back later.
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by:Snarf0001
Snarf0001 earned 100 total points
ID: 12362944
I've encountered that error a few times if the session times out and then the user tries to post back.
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by:Psychotext
ID: 12364214
I'll check into that, thanks.
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by:Psychotext
ID: 12368691
Ok, have looked into the problem.  

First thing I did was check everything noted in the kb article (http://www.kbalertz.com/kb_829743.aspx).  ViewstateMac is enabled, so this may very well have caused the problem.  The same IP address logged a couple more errors a few mins later so it's possible the user was up to something or they had their browser configured in a strange way to cause it.  I think I may check into the truncation issue that they mention by altering the way the viewstate is handled.  I found a pretty good article on handling state generally: http://www.eggheadcafe.com/articles/20040613.asp . It's pretty involved, so I haven't got around to doing any testing with it yet.  It may prove useful for others interested in the viewstate in general though.

On the postback issue - In this particular app, when the session expires the user is redirected using one of two methods.  The first is a meta tag refresh inserted into the page and calculated on run time.  If this fails, the system checks the session on each postback to ensure that the timeout has not been reached.  In either case, the app clears both the session state and the viewstate to ensure that nothing remains.  There is a possiblity that the user clicked back to the first screen (Check is not performed here) and then moved through the app, but that's probably unlikely.

I'm not sure I'm going to really be able to work out what happened here, but thanks to you both I now have a much better idea of what it could have been and what to look out for in the future (Though I'm hoping it doesn't happen again).  Thanks.
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by:mmarinov
ID: 12368715
Though I'm hoping it doesn't happen again -> I wish you not to happen again
glad that you move to the next step
Regards!
B..M
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by:Psychotext
ID: 12368744
p.s.  You can ignore the first three paragraphs in the article I linked to.  The guy seems to have lost the plot a little.  This article is less self satisfied and discusses the same thing, but minus the performance tests: http://aspalliance.com/72
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