RADIUS Wi-Fi Security Benefits
In this era where the world is moving rapidly towards digitization, cybersecurity has become a rising concern. With all of our lives being touched by technology in almost every aspect of our lives, cybersecurity threats are no longer a concern for just the industry giants. From large corporations to small-scale vendors selling homemade products, almost everyone relies on some digital platform to connect with their customers or use technology to conduct their business in some form or another.
Even our home appliances are rapidly becoming network reliant. We tend to forget that an average home has more and more smart household appliances that require an internet connection, connected through our local Wi-Fi network. The network is a common denominator for all of our devices whether used for business or pleasure. If not secured, it leaves our information as vulnerable as going out and leaving the front door open.
This concern over cybersecurity has paved the way for various Wi-Fi security measures to avoid compromising our networks. The best Wi-Fi protection for WPA2-Enterprise networks is a RADIUS server. RADIUS servers offer a host of security benefits when authenticating via credentials (username and password), but they can offer even more protection when authenticating with X.509 digital certificates. In this article, we will illustrate the benefits of both methods.
Before we delve into how RADIUS works with Wi-Fi, let’s first understand a bit about what RADIUS is and what are its general benefits.
What is RADIUS?
Remote Authentication Dial In User Service, popularly known as RADIUS, is a centralized server used for the authentication, accounting, and authorization of a user on an organization’s network. Developed in the late nineties, RADIUS is also referred to as an AAA (authentication, authorization, and accounting) server.
The RADIUS protocol allows network access to users through a system called NAS (Network Access Server). The NAS authenticates, authorizes, and configures information about remote users through the authentication server. Since this process is automated, the scope of human error is completely eliminated.
RADIUS WiFI Authentication Protocols
The RADIUS protocol primarily uses one of three authentication protocols, EAP-TLS, PEAP-MSCHAPv2, or EAP-TTLS/PAP:
This protocol uses an encrypted EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) tunnel, however, this method’s dependency on passwords is arguably its biggest flaw. Its dependency on the use of passwords makes it vulnerable to phishing and hacking. Using passwords for authentication is considered vulnerable by industry titans like Microsoft writes, “For WiFi and VPN connections, Microsoft recommends that organizations move from MSCHAPv2-based connections such as PEAP-MSCHAPv2 and EAP-MSCHAPv2 to certificate-based authentication such as PEAP-TLS or EAP-TLS”.
EAP-TLS (Extensible Authentication Protocol-Transport Layer Security)
This is the authentication protocol that uses digital certificates sent through an encrypted EAP tunnel, to authenticate both clients and servers. Its biggest benefit is that it is a passwordless authentication solution that does not need any on-prem servers. Until recently using certificates for authentication was not the most popular because setting up a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) was a tedious process and certificates were almost impossible to manage. However, with the right tools, such as onboarding applications and auto-enrollment gateways, modern PKIs are much easier to deploy and maintain.
This protocol is similar to PEAP-MSCHAPv2 as they both use credentials to authenticate a user and, so, are faced with all the disadvantages that the former protocol encounters. The primary difference between the two protocols is that EAP-TTLS/PAP uses an EAP tunnel to send the credentials. Though EAP tunnels are generally considered safe, EAP-TTLS/PAP sends the credentials in cleartext format, which means it is not encrypted, making them vulnerable in Man in middle attacks (MIM).
Risks with Credential-Based RADIUS Authentication for Wi-Fi
A pre-shared key is usually vulnerable from a cybersecurity standpoint because of multiple users sharing the same password. With credential-based RADIUS authentication, you have some degree of protection against cyber-attacks because, unlike with pre-shared keys, each user/machine is provided with unique credentials. However, they still carry with them all the risks involved with passwords like Over-the-Air (OTA) attacks, especially Man-In-The-Middle attacks, and phishing. There is also the risk of password theft/loss which can be a big burden for the IT retrieving locked accounts or resetting lost passwords.
RADIUS authentication with unique credentials will limit access to one user’s account instead of the whole network. But depending on the devices compromised, the risk can be substantial (such as if CEO’s device is compromised, as opposed to a new hire’s). Additionally, individual credential for Wi-Fi does nothing to improve the bad user experience, as every user still has to remember/store their passwords and keep resetting them periodically. It also increases the workload of IT as instead of managing one centralized password, IT now has to handle all password management-related issues for multiple users.
Advantages of Certificate-Based RADIUS Authentication for Wi-Fi
Authenticating through certificates though is similar to passwords in the sense that a user presents identification to their Access Point (AP), which then forwards the information to the respective RADIUS server, after which the RADIUS tells the user’s AP whether they are authorized to access it or not. There are, however, a few key differences that make certificates more secure than passwords. Let’s check out the key benefits of this method of authentication.
Superior Cryptographic Security
Digital certificates cannot be stolen, or replicated nor can they be transferred from one machine to another as they are based on a cryptographic system called Public Key Infrastructure PKI). PKI integration with a managed cloud RADIUS server makes your network impenetrable.
Customizable Network Access Control (NAC)
A managed cloud RADIUS allows admins to control the level of access based on multiple factors like the job role of the user or the location they are at. This conditional access helps in ensuring that people have access to the information appropriate to their position in an organization, which is in sync with a solid Zero trust policy.
Zero trust requires that users and devices are constantly monitored, their access limited to only the applications and resources that they need to function at their level. Zero trust also requires proper verification for every access request.
Centralized User and System Authentication
User Access Management becomes more efficient, especially for larger networks and remote working companies with a BYOD culture, when IT admins have a centralized point of contact for all user and system authentication, authorization, and password management. With a managed cloud RADIUS like SecureW2’s, you can implement your Azure, Okta, and Google User, Group, and Device policies from a centralized platform.
Integration with your Existing Infrastructure
A managed cloud RADIUS like SecureW2 also integrates with any infrastructure that you currently have in place. Cloud RADIUS was designed to seamlessly integrate with any IDP and even any Certificate Authorities you may use. As a result, you don’t need to invest in complicated and costly forklift upgrades.
Improved Identify Context
Certificates provide a much wider identity context that is used for security decisions that result in improved user experience, with over-the-air security and future-proofing. Certificates cannot be shared or removed from a device and they cannot be duplicated or modified, either, making them unique to the user. They can be configured with detailed information about the user, unlike passwords. T This info can be used across services.
Better Identity Management
The use of certificates to authenticate a user/device is a better way of identity management as unlike passwords, certificates are unique to the user/machine. Just like an identity card like a passport or a Driver’s License is unique for every individual, certificates are specific to a user/machine which creates accountability for the user unlike in the case of shared passwords or accounts. As certificates cannot be moved from the device, it provides better identity assurance.
Elimination of Insecure Passwords
The use of certificates eliminates the hassle of managing passwords and other tasks related to it like password reset policies, password sharing, forgotten passwords, etc. Since certificates are issued to a device/user, authentication is automated and thus does away with the hassle of password management.
Faster & Secured
The use of certificates to authenticate applications and desktops is a faster process of authentication as it is automated, and the scope of human error is eliminated. Also, the process of authenticating a user/machine becomes faster.
Eliminate Over the Air Attacks
Certificates provide better security against cyber attacks. Asymmetric cryptography or public-key cryptography ensures that even if a hacker intercepts the data they will not have the private key that is needed to identify the owner of the certificate and the phishers are made ineffective as there are no credentials that they can steal.
Better Customer Experience
Passwordless authentication overall ensures a better user experience both for the organization and the user in the sense that it does away with the need to manage passwords, enhanced security, and overall ease of use.
Secure Your Wi-Fi With Cloud RADIUS
Whether we work from home or from the office, the threat to cybersecurity is real and unavoidable. Does it then not make sense to be smarter about how we manage our information?
A managed cloud RADIUS with certificate-based authentication helps manage data security by addressing major security concerns like phishing and hacking while making the process of authentication much more secure and efficient. It is time we look at upgrading our digital security to ensure a robust security system is in place to protect our business from cybersecurity threats no matter what the scale of the business is. Want to know how SecureW2 helps organizations with managing their cybersecurity? Click here.
A managed cloud RADIUS with certificate-based authentication is the most secure way to keep your organization’s data protected from cyber attacks. With SecureW2’s cloud RADIUS, safeguard your data and manage your network security with greater ease and accuracy. Our easy integration of your cloud IDPs like Azure AD, Okta, and your MDM like Google Workspace, jampf, and Intune help you manage both your managed and BOYD devices. Connect with our experts to learn more.