Mar 30

Securing a router or a switch involves not only filtering traffic with ACLs, but also means securing the device itself. Creating users with certain privilege levels is an important first step.  This can be done on a device by device basis or using a centralized authentication server. In any case, it involves using AAA (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting).

If using a centralized system for user authentication, the router or switch would be an authentication client. It will need to communicate with a server using a specialized protocol. Two such protocols are wide known: TACACS, a Cisco proprietary protocol and RADIUS, an open standard protocol. In a Cisco-centered  network, IOS authentication would work with Cisco’s ACS (Access Control Server), but in some cases , specially for lab purposes, ACS could be harder to get an setup.

A very quick way to setup an authentication server is to use FreeRADIUS, an open source server that uses the RADIUS protocol. It can be easily installed on a Linux box and used with minimum configurations. Here are the steps to setup:

Install the packet:

root@radiusserver# apt-get install freeradius

Add each client (router or switch) in the /etc/freeradius/clients.conf file. Each client is identified by its hostname and requires a password (secret).

root@radiusserver# vim /etc/freeradius/clients.conf

secret = authentications3cr3t
shortname = ClientRouter


Add each user that is allowed on the device.

root@radiusserver# vim /etc/freeradius/users.conf

iosuser Cleartext-Password := “icanhazroot”
DEFAULT Auth-Type := Reject

Start or restart the FreeRADIUS server:

root@radiusserver# /etc/init.d/freeradius restart

On the client side (the network device), AAA needs to be enabled, the RADIUS server configured and then the authentication need to be set to use an external server.

ClientRouter(config)# aaa new-model
ClientRouter(config)# radius-server host $RADIUS_SERVER_IP auth 1812 acct 1813 key authentications3cr3t
ClientRouter(config)# aaa authentication login default group radius

This is a basic configuration of a FreeRADIUS server, but it can also provide features like LDAP intergration.

One Response to “Simple IOS authentication with Freeradius server”

  1. Zachary Says:

    wharves@troubie.sighs” rel=”nofollow”>.…


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