Fix for Cannot Logon to OWA Using ISA 2004

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
A client had a problem where users could not logon to Outlook Web Access (AKA, OWA or Webmail) from the Internet. Users would get the logon page, but would be returned to the same logon page after entering their correct username and password.

Accessing OWA from the internal network would present the same logon page, but the user can successfully logon and access their mailbox. It turns out that the fact that they get the same logon page internally is a clue to the solution. Internal (non-ISA) users will only see the OWA logon page if Exchange is configured to use Forms Based Authentication (FBA). In order for ISA to work properly with OWA, Exchange should NOT be configured for FBA. It should only be configured on the ISA server.

Here's how the two systems should be configured:
  • Install the Exchange server's SSL certificate in the ISA computer's Personal certificate store
  • On the ISA server, configure a Mail Server Publishing firewall rule to allow External users to access the OWA server using HTTPS. Configure an OWA web Listener for HTTPS using the Exchange server's SSL certificate that you imported. Configure the Listener's authentication to use OWA Forms-Based. Ensure that ISA is redirecting requests to the SSL port 443 on the Bridging tab.
  • Ensure that the Exchange server is NOT using Forms Based Authentication. In Exchange System Manager, go to [OrgName] > Administrative Groups > [AdminGroup] > Servers > [ServerName] > Protocols > HTTP. View the properties of the Exchange Virtual Server. Clear the Enable Forms Based Authentication checkbox on the Settings tab.

The customer was using ISA 2004 in front of Exchange 2003, but I assume this problem/solution will also occur with ISA 2006.