802 1x and 802 11 key interactions
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802.1X and 802.11 key interactions. Tim Moore. Topics. 802.1X key generation 802.1X in small networks 802.1X and VLANs. 802.1X. 802.1X consists of Authentication Includes option for always allowed or always denied Station assumes authenticated if authenticator does not respond

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802 1x and 802 11 key interactions

802.1X and 802.11 key interactions

Tim Moore

Tim Moore, Microsoft


  • 802.1X key generation

  • 802.1X in small networks

  • 802.1X and VLANs

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x

  • 802.1X consists of

    • Authentication

      • Includes option for always allowed or always denied

      • Station assumes authenticated if authenticator does not respond

      • Multiple authentication methods supported via EAP

    • Key distribution

      • Requires a master key known by supplicant and authenticator

        • Normally obtained from authentication but not required by 1X

      • Supports updating keys but doesn’t give the policy i.e. have often to change keys, how to derive new keys, etc.

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x key generation
802.1X Key generation

  • EAPOL-Key is used to send keys between authenticator and supplicant

    • Sent as 802.11 unicast data packets so message is acknowledged

  • Requires a master key known by authenticator and supplicant to sign and encrypt the keys being sent in the EAPOL-Key message

    • Normally master key generated by the authentication

  • Allows for the master key to be used as a key by sending no key in the EAPOL-Key message

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x re keying
802.1X re-keying

  • EAPOL-Key message can be sent anytime after authentication (but may be before EAP-Success) and may be sent multiple times

    • I.E. authenticator can update keys whenever it wants.

  • 802.1X re-authenticates to generate a new master key

    • Recommend re-authentication at intervals e.g. once at hour

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Eapol key interval
EAPOL-Key interval

  • 802.1X can update the keys without re-authenticating

  • Update rate is dependent on

    • CPU load deriving new keys

    • CPU load to encrypt, sign and decrypt the keys

    • Waiting for last key update to be updated in hardware

      • Decrypting and validating key

      • Current testing shows this to be < 135ms on a current systems

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Key synchronization during updates
Key synchronization during updates

  • Doesn’t use time synchronization

    • Very difficult to synchronize and not lose packets

    • Note: There is a time stamp in EAPOL-Key messages that can be used to attempt to synchronize the setting of the keys if required

      • Currently used as replay protection

  • Use two key indexes

    • Use one index while updating another index

    • EAPOL-Key sender always updates its own table before sending message

    • Receiver should start using new key as soon as it receives the key

    • Sender can wait until see new index being used by all required receivers before sending with the new key

  • Allow multiple keys for key mapping table

    • Currently with key mapping there is a time hole because there is only one key

    • Note: Already need to support two keys per station for transmit and receive keys

    • Recommendation: Allow multiple keys for key mapping table

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x setkey interaction
802.1X/SetKey interaction

  • 802.1X should use SetKeys to update the encryption key

    • Call SetKey before sending an EAPOL-Key message

    • Call SetKey after receiving an EAPOL-Key message

    • EAPOL-Keys should not use the master key as an encryption key

    • Stations must be able to derive encryption keys and use EAPOL-Key message to send updates at intervals

    • EAPOL-Key message should alternate between two key indexes

    • Two key indexes should be available for each send and receive key

      • Including Key mapping table

    • The EAPOL-Key message sender should update keys in the following sequence

      • Update local receive key

      • Send the Senders Transmit key

      • Send the Senders Receive key

    • Sender should check receive messages for new index being used and start using new key for transmit when all receives indicate they are using new transmit key index.

      • Update local transmit key

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Roaming between aps
Roaming between APs

  • No IAPP

    • 802.1X does re-authentication

      • Maybe NULL authentication or a fast re-auth (e.g. TLS resume)

      • Get new master key

      • EAPOL-Key messages to send new encryption keys to station

  • IAPP

    • Client authenticates to new AP via signature in re-associate message

    • Via IAPP, New AP sends signature to old AP for validation

    • Old AP validates signature, sends master key to new AP

    • If session-timeout attribute in IAPP RADIUS context is 0 and termination-action = RADIUS, then

      • Set 802.1X state to FORCE_AUTH

    • Else

      • Set 802.1X portStatus to Authorized

      • Set 802.1X state to AUTHENTICATED

    • EAPOL-Key messages used to send new encryption keys to station

Tim Moore, Microsoft

801 x and wep
801.X and WEP

  • 802.1X must be unencrypted

  • Otherwise on roaming 802.1X is encrypted and the new AP cannot decrypt unless IAPP is supported

  • Recommendation: Data frames of Ethertype 802.1X (888E) bypass encryption

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x and ibss
802.1X and IBSS

  • 802.1X works with IBSS

    • Each station should authenticate who is allowed to communicate to it

    • Requires 802.1X supplicant and authenticator on each station, see later for simple way to do this

    • Stations need to learn whether another station needs 802.1X from probe

      • Need this to decide which encryption key to configure: the master key or a derived key

      • Need a way to decide who generates the keys

        • 802.1X doesn’t specify this

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Ibss and encryption keys
IBSS and encryption keys

  • If different receive/transmit keys are required

    • Authenticator sends transmit key

  • If single transmit/receive key is supported

    • If sending EAPOL-Key dest MAC address < own MAC address

      • Do not use key as encryption key and use key received in EAPOL-Key messages

    • Else

      • Do use in sending EAPOL-Key message and ignore EAPOL-Key messages received

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x in small networks

802.1X in small networks

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x in small networks1
802.1X in small networks

  • May want to use shared network password

    • How to do this with 802.1X?

  • May want to have individual user authentication but with simple UI

    • How to do this with 802.1X?

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Shared password
Shared Password

  • Use shared password as master key for EAPOL-Key message

  • Works with Infrastructure and IBSS

  • Access Point ignores all 802.1X messages from station

    • No authentication using EAP

    • Using key distribution and update support in 802.1X

    • Send EAPOL-Key messages with default and key-mapping encryption keys, the message is signed and encrypted using the shared password

    • Only supplicants with the shared password can get the encryption keys

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Shared password implementation
Shared Password implementation

  • Authenticator state machine, authentication server and Radius client not required

    • Access Point should ignore received 802.1X messages

  • Supplicant state machine

    • Need DISCONNECTED, CONNECTING and AUTHENTICATED states (3 out of 7 states)

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Supplicant state machine
Supplicant state machine

Intialize || !portEnabled


eapSuccess = FALSE

eapFail = FALSE

startCount = 0

logoffSend = FALSE

Prevousid = 256

suppStatus = Unauthorized

eapSuccess &&

!(initialize || !portEnabled)

&& !userLogoff && !logSent



startWhen = startPeriod

startCount = startCount + 1

reqId = FALSE



eapSuccess = FALSE

eapFail = FALSE

suppStatus = Authorized

(startWhen == 0) &&

(startCount >= maxStart)

(startWhen == 0) &&

(startCount < maxStart)

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Individual user authentication an example
Individual user authenticationAn example

  • Requires full implementation of 802.1X for supplicant, authenticator and authentication server

    • Doesn’t require RADIUS

  • Each station has a self-signed certificate .

  • Access Point has authenticator and authentication server built in

    • No radius implementation since both on the same machine

  • Authentication server and supplicant implements EAP-TLS

Tim Moore, Microsoft


  • Standard EAP-TLS

    • No difference from talking to an AP that uses RADIUS to the authentication server

Tim Moore, Microsoft

Authentication server authenticating user
Authentication server authenticating user

  • Check internal table for username

    • If not allowed, send EAP-failure

    • Else validate certificate

      • If valid

        • If user allowed then

          • If certificate matches certificate in table then send EAP-success

          • Else send EAP-Failure

        • Else display message to admin with username

        • If admin allows user

          • Add user and certificate to table with allowed

        • Else

          • Add user to table with disallowed

        • Endif

      • Else

        • Send EAP-failure

      • Endif

  • Display could be a web page with a list of users requesting for access

    • Admin can select users to allow/disallow access

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x and vlans

802.1X and VLANs

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x and vlans1
802.1X and VLANs

  • 802.1X suggests the use of VLANs or VPNs to isolate different user groups

    • Access Point is a level 2 device so VLANs are the obvious way to do this

  • Need to be able to separate broadcast traffic in 802.11

    • Broadcast messages from different ‘networks’ so not duplicating traffic

    • Use different broadcast keys for each VLAN

    • Need 2 keys per VLAN to allow the keys to be changed

Tim Moore, Microsoft

802 1x and default key table
802.1X and default key table

  • Allow the default key table to be increased from 4 keys to 256 keys

    • Half the keys for transmit and half for receive

    • Enable the spare bits to be used as part of the keyid

    • Add attribute to association request containing size of default key table

Tim Moore, Microsoft


  • To instruct editor to modify the key mapping table to allow 2 keys per station for ESNs and to use the KeyID to select which key is used

Tim Moore, Microsoft


  • To instruct editor to add text to 8.2.4 so 802.1X data packets are not encrypted

Tim Moore, Microsoft


  • Request 1aa to add to EAPOL-Key message section

    • If key management is used and supplicant and authenticator is available at both ends then the lower MAC address owns the key management

    • Enable the EAPOL-Key carry a Nonce rather than the key material

Tim Moore, Microsoft