Jun 17, 2010

802.1 X Security Protocol

802.1x is a type of network authentication that checks only the right people are accessing a network. Network protection is important as it stops unwanted traffic or people from accessing data on your network. Network authentication works, in general, by limiting access to the network when people are trying to access it. There are various different security protocols that have developed and advanced since network technology has expanded. 802.1x is a security protocol developed for the 802.11 wireless and wired networking technologies.

802.1x802.1x authentication works in three parts: the end user who wants access, the authenticator in the middle, and the authentication server. 802.1x uses Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) to communicate between the end user, the authenticator, and the server. If you are network administrator you can choose the authentication method that EAP introduces.

Wireless Networks
When accessing an 802.1x protected network wirelessly, you will have to enter the network password because 802.1x will use WiFi Protected Access (WPA) to restrict use.

Wired Networks
When accessing an 802.1x protected network via a wired connection, you will be subject to port-based authentication. When you try to connect via a wired authenticated connection, there are many ways authentication is implemented. You can be subject to an account and password check, hardware tokens and digital certificates amongst other methods.

The Authentication Process
When you try to connect to the authenticator, it switches to unauthorized. Your computer (as the supplicant) then communicates with the authenticator. The server replies to the autheticator which passes on the authentication method to you (the supplicant). The supplicant then responds with the authentication method if it recognizes the request. The authentication server must accept the EAP method, provided by the supplicant (via the authenticator). Either a success or failure message will be returned, if it is successful then data transfer and traffic for you (the supplicant) is granted. When you log off the authenticator switches your port back to unauthorized and blocks traffic.

Native Operating System Support
All Microsoft Windows operating systems since Windows XP fully support 802.1x, and Windows 2000 SP4 supports 802.1x in LAN connections. All Apple Macintosh operating systems since Mac OS X 10.3 provide native support, and the iPod Touch and iPhone have supported 802.1x since iPhone OS 2.0.


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