802.1X, EAP, and Centralized Authentication | Security for 802.11

Wi-Fi's self contained security mechanisms. With WPA2, the encryption and integrity protection of the data messages can be considered strong. But we've only seen preshared keys, or global passwords, as the method the network authenticates the user, and preshared keys are not strong enough for many needs.
The solution is to rely on the infrastructure provided by centralized authentication using a dedicated Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA) server. These servers maintain a list of users, and for each user, the server holds the authentication credentials required by the user to access the network. When the user does attempt to access the network, the user is required to exercise a series of steps from the authentication protocol demanded by the AAA server. The server drives its end of the protocol, challenging the user, by way of a piece of software called a supplicant that exists on the user's device, to prove that the user has the necessary credentials. The network exists as a pipe, relaying the protocol from the AAA server to the client. Once the user has either proven that she has the right credentials—she apparently is who she says she is—the AAA server will then tell the network that the user can come in.
The entire design of RADIUS was originally centered around providing password prompts for dial-up users on old modem banks. However, with the addition of the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) framework on top of RADIUS, and built into every modern RADIUS server, more advanced and secure authentication protocols have been constructed. See Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Components of RADIUS Authentication over Wi-Fi
The concept behind EAP is to provide a generic framework where the RADIUS server and the client device can communicate to negotiate the security credentials that the network administrator requires, without having to concern or modify the underlying network access technology. To accomplish this last feat, the local access network must support 802.1X.

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