PPP Authentication Protocols


PAP Authentication Protocol
PPP defines an extensible LCP that allows negotiation of an authentication protocol for authenticating its peer before allowing network layer protocols to transmit over the link. RFC 1334 defines two protocols for authentication, as shown in the figure.
PAP is a very basic two-way process. There is no encryption-the username and password are sent in plain text. If it is accepted, the connection is allowed. CHAP is more secure than PAP. It involves a three-way exchange of a shared secret. The process is described later in this section.
The authentication phase of a PPP session is optional. If used, you can authenticate the peer after the LCP establishes the link and choose the authentication protocol. If it is used, authentication takes place before the network layer protocol configuration phase begins.
The authentication options require that the calling side of the link enter authentication information. This helps to ensure that the user has the permission of the network administrator to make the call. Peer routers exchange authentication messages.
One of the many features of PPP is that it performs Layer 2 authentication in addition to other layers of authentication, encryption, access control, and general security procedures.
Initiating PAP
PAP provides a simple method for a remote node to establish its identity using a two-way handshake. PAP is not interactive. When the ppp authentication pap command is used, the username and password are sent as one LCP data package, rather than the server sending a login prompt and waiting for a response. The figure shows that after PPP completes the link establishment phase, the remote node repeatedly sends a username-password pair across the link until the sending node acknowledges it or terminates the connection.
At the receiving node, the username-password is checked by an authentication server that either allows or denies the connection. An accept or reject message is returned to the requester.
PAP is not a strong authentication protocol. Using PAP, you send passwords across the link in clear text and there is no protection from playback or repeated trial-and-error attacks. The remote node is in control of the frequency and timing of the login attempts.
Nonetheless, there are times when using PAP can be justified. For example, despite its shortcomings, PAP may be used in the following environments:
A large installed base of client applications that do not support CHAP
Incompatibilities between different vendor implementations of CHAP
Situations where a plaintext password must be available to simulate a login at the remote host
Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP)
Once authentication is established with PAP, it essentially stops working. This leaves the network vulnerable to attack. Unlike PAP, which only authenticates once, CHAP conducts periodic challenges to make sure that the remote node still has a valid password value. The password value is variable and changes unpredictably while the link exists.
After the PPP link establishment phase is complete, the local router sends a challenge message to the remote node.
The remote node responds with a value calculated using a one-way hash function, which is typically Message Digest 5 (MD5) based on the password and challenge message.

The local router checks the response against its own calculation of the expected hash value. If the values match, the initiating node acknowledges the authentication. Otherwise, it immediately terminates the connection.
CHAP provides protection against playback attack by using a variable challenge value that is unique and unpredictable. Because the challenge is unique and random, the resulting hash value is also unique and random. The use of repeated challenges limits the time of exposure to any single attack. The local router or a third-party authentication server is in control of the frequency and timing of the challenges.

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