[Docs] [txt|pdf] [Tracker] [WG] [Email] [Diff1] [Diff2] [Nits]

Versions: (draft-aboba-radext-fixes) 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 RFC 5080

Network Working Group                                       David Nelson
INTERNET-DRAFT                                    Individual contributor
Updates: 2865, 2866, 2869, 3579                               Alan DeKok
Category: Proposed Standard                                   FreeRADIUS
26 March 2007

        Common RADIUS Implementation Issues and Suggested Fixes

   By submitting this Internet-Draft, each author represents that any
   applicable patent or other IPR claims of which he or she is aware
   have been or will be disclosed, and any of which he or she becomes
   aware will be disclosed, in accordance with Section 6 of BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that
   other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

   This Internet-Draft will expire on August 14, 2007.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2007).


   This document describes common issues seen in RADIUS implementations
   and suggests some fixes.  Where applicable, ambiguities and errors in
   previous RADIUS specifications are clarified.

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 1]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

Table of Contents

1.  Introduction .............................................    3
   1.1.  Terminology .........................................    3
   1.2.  Requirements Language ...............................    3
2.  Issues ...................................................    4
   2.1.  Session Definition ..................................    4
      2.1.1.  State Attribute ................................    4
      2.1.2.  Request-ID Supplementation .....................    5
   2.2.  Overload Conditions .................................    6
      2.2.1.  Retransmission Behavior ........................    6
      2.2.2.  Duplicate detection and orderly delivery. ......    6
      2.2.3.  Server Response to Overload ....................    7
   2.3.  Accounting Issues ...................................    8
      2.3.1.  Attributes allowed in an Interim Update ........    8
      2.3.2.  Acct-Session-Id and Acct-Multi-Session-Id ......    8
      2.3.3.  Request Authenticator ..........................    9
      2.3.4.  Interim-Accounting-Interval ....................    9
      2.3.5.  Counter values in the RADIUS MIBs ..............   10
   2.4.  Multiple Filter-ID Attributes .......................   11
   2.5.  Mandatory and Optional Attributes ...................   12
   2.6.  Interpretation of Access-Reject .....................   13
      2.6.1.  Improper Use of Access-Reject ..................   13
      2.6.2.  Service Request Denial .........................   15
   2.7.  Addressing ..........................................   15
      2.7.1.  Link-Local Addresses ...........................   15
      2.7.2.  Multiple Addresses .............................   16
   2.8.  Idle-Timeout ........................................   16
   2.9.  Unknown Identity ....................................   17
   2.10.  Responses after retransmissions ....................   18
   2.11.  Framed-IPv6-Prefix .................................   18
3.  IANA Considerations ......................................   20
4.  Security Considerations ..................................   20
5.  References ...............................................   20
   5.1.  Normative references. ...............................   20
   5.2.  Informative references. .............................   20
6.  RFC Editor instructions ..................................   21
Intellectual Property Statement ..............................   22
Disclaimer of Validity .......................................   23
Full Copyright Statement .....................................   23

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 2]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

1.  Introduction

   The last few years have seen an increase in the deployment of RADIUS
   clients and servers.  This document describes common issues seen in
   RADIUS implementations and suggests some fixes.  Where applicable,
   ambiguities and errors in previous RADIUS specifications are

1.1.  Terminology

   This document uses the following terms:

Network Access Server (NAS)
     The device providing access to the network.  Also known as the
     Authenticator (IEEE 802.1X or EAP terminology) or RADIUS client.

     The NAS provides a service to the user, such as network access via
     802.11 or PPP.

     Each service provided by the NAS to a peer constitutes a session,
     with the beginning of the session defined as the point where
     service is first provided and the end of the session defined as the
     point where service is ended.  A peer may have multiple sessions in
     parallel or series if the NAS supports that, with each session
     generating a separate start and stop accounting record.

silently discard
     This means the implementation discards the packet without further
     processing.  The implementation SHOULD provide the capability of
     logging the error, including the contents of the silently discarded
     packet, and SHOULD record the event in a statistics counter.

1.2.  Requirements Language

   In this document, several words are used to signify the requirements
   of the specification.  The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED",
   and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 3]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

2.  Issues

2.1.  Session Definition

2.1.1.  State Attribute

   Regarding the State attribute, [RFC2865] Section 5.24 states:

      This Attribute is available to be sent by the server to the client
      in an Access-Challenge and MUST be sent unmodified from the client
      to the server in the new Access-Request reply to that challenge,
      if any.

      This Attribute is available to be sent by the server to the client
      in an Access-Accept that also includes a Termination-Action
      Attribute with the value of RADIUS-Request.  If the NAS performs
      the Termination-Action by sending a new Access-Request upon
      termination of the current session, it MUST include the State
      attribute unchanged in that Access-Request.

   Some RADIUS client implementations do not properly use the State
   attribute in order to distinguish a restarted EAP authentication
   process from the continuation of an ongoing process (by the same user
   on the same NAS and port).

   Where an EAP-Message attribute is included in an Access-Challenge or
   Access-Accept attribute, RADIUS servers SHOULD also include a State
   attribute.  See the following section for additional benefits to
   using the State attribute in this fashion.

   An Access-Request sent as a result of a new or restarted
   authentication run MUST NOT include the State attribute, even if the
   State attribute has previously been received in an Access-Challenge
   for the same user and port.

   Since a State attribute is always initially provided by the server in
   an Access-Accept, Access-Challenge, CoA-Request or Disconnect-
   Request, a RADIUS client MUST NOT insert a State attribute that it
   has not previously received from the server.

   A State attribute is REQUIRED in Access-Request packets neither
   including an authentication attribute nor a Service-Type attribute
   with the value Call Check (10).

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 4]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

2.1.2.  Request-ID Supplementation

   [RFC3579] Section 2.6.1 states:

      In EAP, each session has its own unique Identifier space.  RADIUS
      server implementations MUST be able to distinguish between EAP
      packets with the same Identifier existing within distinct
      sessions, originating on the same NAS.  For this purpose, sessions
      can be distinguished based on NAS and session identification
      attributes. NAS identification attributes include NAS-Identifier,
      NAS-IPv6-Address and NAS-IPv4-Address.  Session identification
      attributes include User-Name, NAS-Port, NAS-Port-Type, NAS-Port-
      Id, Called-Station-Id, Calling-Station-Id and Originating-Line-

   There are issues with the suggested algorithm.  Since proxies may
   modify Access-Request attributes such as NAS-IP-Address, depending on
   any attribute under control of the NAS to distinguish request
   identifiers can result in deployment problems.

   The FreeRADIUS implementation does not track EAP identifiers by NAS-
   IP-Address or other non-EAP attributes sent by the NAS.  Instead, it
   uses the EAP identifier, source IP address, and the State attribute
   as a "key" to uniquely identify each EAP session.  Since the State
   attribute is under the control of the RADIUS server, this means that
   the uniqueness of each session is controlled by the server, not the
   NAS.  The algorithm used in FreeRADIUS is as follows:

      if (EAP start, or EAP identity) {
        allocate unique State Attribute
        insert session into "active session" table with
             key=(EAP identifier, State, source IP)
      } else {
        look up active session in table, with above key

   This algorithm appears to work well in variety of situations,
   including situations where home servers receive messages via
   intermediate RADIUS proxies.

   Implementations that do not use this algorithm are often restricted
   to having an EAP Identifier space per NAS, or perhaps one that is
   global to the implementation.  These restrictions are unnecessary
   when the above algorithm is used, which gives each session a unique
   EAP Identifier space.  The above algorithm SHOULD be used to track
   EAP sessions in preference to any other method.

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 5]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

2.2.  Overload Conditions

2.2.1.  Retransmission Behavior

   [RFC2865] Section 2.4 describes the retransmission requirements for
   RADIUS clients:

      At one extreme, RADIUS does not require a "responsive" detection
      of lost data.  The user is willing to wait several seconds for the
      authentication to complete.  The generally aggressive TCP
      retransmission (based on average round trip time) is not required,
      nor is the acknowledgment overhead of TCP.

      At the other extreme, the user is not willing to wait several
      minutes for authentication.  Therefore the reliable delivery of
      TCP data two minutes later is not useful.  The faster use of an
      alternate server allows the user to gain access before giving up.

   Some existing RADIUS clients implement excessively aggressive
   retransmission behavior, utilizing default retransmission timeouts of
   one second or less without support for congestive backoff.  When
   deployed at large scale, these implementations are susceptible to
   congestive collapse.  For example, as the result of a power failure,
   a network with 3000 NAS devices with a fixed retransmission timer of
   one second will continuously generate 3000 RADIUS Access-Requests per
   second.  This is sufficient to overwhelm most RADIUS servers.

   Suggested solutions include:

[a]  Jitter.  To avoid synchronization, a RADIUS client SHOULD
     incorporate jitter within its retransmission algorithm.

[b]  Congestive backoff.  While it is not necessary for RADIUS client
     implementations to implement complex retransmission algorithms,
     implementations SHOULD support congestive backoff within the limits
     suggested by [RFC2865] Section 2.4.  For example, an implementation
     SHOULD double the initial retransmission timer until a maximum
     retransmission time is reached, after which the client will
     failover to another RADIUS server.  For example, if the initial
     retransmission timer is one second, a maximum retransmission timer
     of 16 seconds might be used.

2.2.2.  Duplicate detection and orderly delivery.

   When packets are retransmitted by a client, the server may receive
   duplicate requests.  The limitations of the transport protocol used
   by RADIUS (UDP) means that the Access-Request packets may be
   received, and potentially processed, in an order different from the

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 6]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   order in which the packets were sent.  However, the discussion of the
   Identifier field in Section 3 of [RFC2865] suys:

      The RADIUS server can detect a duplicate request if it has the
      same client source IP address and source UDP port and Identifier
      within a short span of time.
   Also, Section 7 of [RFC4669] defines a
   radiusAuthServDupAccessRequests object, as
      The number of duplicate Access-Request packets received.
   This text has a number of implications.  First, without duplicate
   detection, a RADIUS server may process an authentication request
   twice, leading to an erroneous conclusion that a user has logged in
   twice.  That behavior is undesirable, so duplicate detection is
   desirable.  Second, the server may track not only the duplicate
   request, but also the replies to those requests.  This behavior
   permits the server to send duplicate replies in response to duplicate
   requests, increasing network stability.

   Since Access-Request packets may also be sent by the client in
   response to an Access-Challenge from the server, those packets form a
   logically ordered stream, and therefore have additional ordering
   requirements over Access-Request packets for different sessions.
   Implementing duplicate detection results in new packets being
   processed only once, ensuring order.

   RADIUS servers MUST therefore implement duplicate detection for
   Access-Request packets, as described in Section 3 of [RFC2865].
   Implementations MUST also cache the Responses (Access-Accept, Access-
   Challenge, or Access-Reject) that is sends for those Access-Request
   packets.  If a server receives a valid duplicate Access-Request for
   which is already has sent a Response, it MUST resend its original
   Response without reprocessing the request.  The server MUST silently
   discard any duplicate Access-Requests for which a Response has not
   been sent yet.

   Each cache entry SHOULD be purged after a period of time.  This time
   SHOULD be no less than 5 seconds, and no more than 30 seconds.

   Cache entries MUST also be purged if the server receives an Access-
   Request packet that matches a cached Access-Request packet in source
   address, source port, RADIUS Identifier, and receiving socket, but
   where the Request Authenticator field is different from the one in
   the cached packet.

2.2.3.  Server Response to Overload

   Some RADIUS server implementations are not robust in response to
   overload, dropping packets with even probability across multiple

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 7]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   sessions.  In an overload situation, this results in a high failure
   rate for multi-round authentication protocols such as EAP [RFC3579].
   Typically, users will continually retry in an attempt to gain access,
   increasing the load even further.

   A more sensible approach is for a RADIUS server to preferentially
   accept RADIUS Access-Request packets containing a valid State
   attribute, so that multi-round authentication conversations, once
   begun, will be more likely to succeed.  Similarly, a server that is
   proxying requests should preferentially process Access-Accept,
   Access-Challenge, or Access-Reject packets from home servers, before
   processing new requests from a NAS.

   These methods will allow some users to gain access to the network,
   reducing the load created by ongoing access attempts.

2.3.  Accounting Issues

2.3.1.  Attributes allowed in an Interim Update

   [RFC2866] indicates that Acct-Input-Octets, Acct-Output-Octets, Acct-
   Session-Time, Acct-Input-Packets, Acct-Output-Packets and Acct-
   Terminate-Cause attributes "can only be present in Accounting-Request
   records where the Acct-Status-Type is set to Stop."

   However [RFC2869] Section 2.1 states:

      It is envisioned that an Interim Accounting record (with Acct-
      Status-Type = Interim-Update (3)) would contain all of the
      attributes normally found in an Accounting Stop message with the
      exception of the Acct-Term-Cause attribute.

   Although [RFC2869] does not indicate that it updates [RFC2866], this
   is an oversight, and the above attributes are allowable in an Interim
   Accounting record.

2.3.2.  Acct-Session-Id and Acct-Multi-Session-Id

   [RFC2866] Section 5.5 describes Acct-Session-Id as Text within the
   figure summarizing the attribute format, but then goes to state that
   "The String field SHOULD be a string of UTF-8 encoded 10646

   [RFC2865] defines the "Text" type as "containing UTF-8 encoded 10646
   characters", which is compatible with the description of Acct-
   Session-Id.  Since other attributes are consistently described as
   "Text" within both the figure summarizing the attribute format, and
   the following attribute definition, it appears that this is a

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 8]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   typographical error, and that Acct-Session-Id is of type Text, and
   not of type String.

   The definition of the Acct-Multi-Session-Id attribute also has
   typographical errors.  It says

      A summary of the Acct-Session-Id attribute format ...

   This text should read

      A summary of the Acct-Multi-Session-Id attribute format ...

   The Acct-Multi-Session-Id attribute is also defined as being of type
   "String".  However, the language in the text strongly recommends that
   implementors consider the attribute as being of type "Text".  It is
   unclear why the type "String" was chosen for this attribute when the
   type "Text" would be sufficient.

2.3.3.  Request Authenticator

   [RFC2866] Section 4.1 states:

      The Request Authenticator of an Accounting-Request contains a
      16-octet MD5 hash value calculated according to the method
      described in "Request Authenticator" above.

   However, the text does not indicate any action to take when an
   Accounting-Request packet contains an invalid Request Authenticator.
   The following text should be considered to be part of the above

      The Request Authenticator field MUST contain the correct data, as
      given by the above calculation.  Invalid packets are silently
      discarded.  Note that some early implementations always set the
      Request Authenticator to all zeros.  New implementations of RADIUS
      clients MUST use the above algorithm to calculate the Request
      Authenticator field.  New RADIUS server implementations MUST
      silently discard invalid packets.

2.3.4.  Interim-Accounting-Interval

   [RFC2869] Section 2.1 states:

      It is also possible to statically configure an interim value on
      the NAS itself. Note that a locally configured value on the NAS
      MUST override the value found in an Access-Accept.

   This requirement may be phrased too strongly.  It is conceivable that

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                   [Page 9]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   a NAS implementation has a setting for a "minimum" value of Interim-
   Accounting-Interval, based on resource constraints in the NAS, and
   network loading in the local environment of the NAS.  In such cases,
   the value administratively provisioned in the NAS should not be over-
   ridden by a smaller value from an Access-Accept message. The NAS's
   value could be over-ridden by a larger one, however.  The intent is
   that the NAS sends accounting information at fixed intervals, short
   enough such that the potential loss of billable revenue is limited,
   but also that the accounting updates are infrequent enough such that
   the NAS, network, and RADIUS server are not overloaded.

2.3.5.  Counter values in the RADIUS MIBs

   The RADIUS Authentication and Authorization Client MIB module
   [RFC2618], [RFC4668] includes counters of packet statistics. In the
   descriptive text of the MIB module, formulas are provided for certain
   counter objects.  Implementors have noted apparent inconsistencies in
   the formulas, which could result in negative values.

   Since the original MIB module specified in [RFC2618] had been widely
   implemented, the RADEXT WG chose not to change the object definitions
   or to create new ones within the revised MIB module [RFC4668].
   However, this section explains the issues and provides guidance for
   implementors regarding the interpretation of the textual description
   and comments for certain MIB objects.

   The issues raised can be summarized as follows:

   Issue (1):

   -- TotalIncomingPackets = Accepts + Rejects + Challenges +
   -- TotalIncomingPackets - MalformedResponses - BadAuthenticators -
   -- UnknownTypes - PacketsDropped = Successfully received
   -- AccessRequests + PendingRequests + ClientTimeouts =
   -- Successfully Received

   It appears that the value of "Successfully Received" could be
   negative, since various counters are subtracted from
   TotalIncomingPackets that are not included in the calculation of

   It also appears that "AccessRequests + PendingRequests +
   ClientTimeouts = Successfully Received" should read "AccessRequests +

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 10]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   PendingRequests + ClientTimeouts = Successfully Transmitted".

   "TotalIncomingPackets" and "Successfully Received" are temporary
   variables, i.e. not objects within the MIB module.  The comment text
   in the MIB modules is intended, therefore, to aid in understanding.
   What's of consequence is the consistency of values of the objects in
   the MIB module, and that does not appear to be impacted by the
   inconsistencies noted above.  It does appear, however, that the
   "Successfully Received" variable should be labeled "Successfully

   In addition, the definition of Accept, Reject or Challenge counters
   indicates that they MUST be incremented before the message is
   validated.  If the message is invalid, one of MalformedResponses,
   BadAuthenticators or PacketsDropped counters will be additionally
   incremented.  In that case the first two equations are consistent,
   i.e. "Successfully Received" could not be negative.

   Issue (2):

   It appears that the radiusAuthClientPendingRequests counter is
   decremented upon retransmission. That would mean a retransmitted
   packet is not considered as being as pending, although such
   retransmissions can still be considered as being pending requests.

   The definition of this MIB object in [RFC2618] is as follows:

      The number of RADIUS Access-Request packets destined for this
      server that have not yet timed out or received a response. This
      variable is incremented when an Access-Request is sent and
      decremented due to receipt of an Access-Accept, Access-Reject or
      Access-Challenge, a timeout or retransmission.

   This object purports to count the number of pending request packets.
   It is open to interpretation whether or not retransmissions of a
   request are to be counted as additional pending packets.  In either
   event, it seems appropriate to treat retransmissions consistently
   with respect to incrementing and decrementing this counter.

2.4.  Multiple Filter-ID Attributes

   [RFC2865] Section 5.11 states:

      Zero or more Filter-Id attributes MAY be sent in an Access-Accept

   In practice the behavior of a RADIUS client receiving multiple

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 11]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   Filter-ID attributes is implementation dependent.  For example, some
   implementations treat multiple instances of the Filter-ID attribute
   as alternative filters; the first Filter-ID attribute having a name
   matching a locally defined filter is used, and the remaining ones are
   discarded.  Other implementations may combine matching filters.

   As a result, the interpretation of multiple Filter-ID attributes is
   undefined within RADIUS.  The sending of multiple Filter-ID
   attributes within an Access-Accept SHOULD be avoided within
   heterogeneous deployments and roaming scenarios, where it is likely
   to produce unpredictable results.

2.5.  Mandatory and Optional Attributes

   RADIUS attributes do not explicitly state whether they are optional
   or mandatory.  Nevertheless there are instances where RADIUS
   attributes need to be treated as mandatory.

   [RFC2865] Section 1.1 states:

      A NAS that does not implement a given service MUST NOT implement
      the RADIUS attributes for that service.  For example, a NAS that
      is unable to offer ARAP service MUST NOT implement the RADIUS
      attributes for ARAP.  A NAS MUST treat a RADIUS access-accept
      authorizing an unavailable service as an access-reject instead.

   With respect to the Service-Type attribute, [RFC2865] Section 5.6

      This Attribute indicates the type of service the user has
      requested, or the type of service to be provided. It MAY be used
      in both Access-Request and Access-Accept packets.  A NAS is not
      required to implement all of these service types, and MUST treat
      unknown or unsupported Service-Types as though an Access-Reject
      had been received instead.

   [RFC2865] Section 5 states:

      A RADIUS server MAY ignore Attributes with an unknown Type.
      A RADIUS client MAY ignore Attributes with an unknown Type.

   With respect to Vendor-Specific Attributes (VSAs), [RFC2865] Section
   5.26 states:

      Servers not equipped to interpret the vendor-specific information
      sent by a client MUST ignore it (although it may be reported).
      Clients which do not receive desired vendor-specific information
      SHOULD make an attempt to operate without it, although they may do

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 12]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

      so (and report they are doing so) in a degraded mode.

   It is possible for either a standard attribute or VSA to represent a
   request for an unavailable service.  However, where the Type or
   Vendor-ID is unknown, a RADIUS client will not know whether the
   attribute defines a service or not.

   In general, it is best for RADIUS clients to err on the side of
   caution.  On receiving an Access-Accept including an attribute of
   unknown Type, a RADIUS client SHOULD assume that it is a potential
   service definition, and treat it as an Access-Reject.  Unknown VSAs
   SHOULD be ignored by RADIUS clients.

   RADIUS authentication server implementations SHOULD ignore attributes
   of unknown Type.  Since RADIUS accounting server implementations
   typically do not need to understand attributes in order to write them
   to stable storage or pass them to the billing engine, accounting
   server implementations SHOULD be equipped to handle unknown

   To avoid misinterpretation of service requests encoded within VSAs,
   RADIUS servers SHOULD NOT send VSAs containing service requests to
   RADIUS clients that are not known to understand them.  For example, a
   RADIUS server should not send a VSA encoding a filter without
   knowledge that the RADIUS client supports the VSA.

2.6.  Interpretation of Access-Reject

2.6.1.  Improper Use of Access-Reject

   The intent of an Access-Reject is to deny access to the requested
   service.  [RFC2865] Section 2 states:

      If any condition is not met, the RADIUS server sends an "Access-
      Reject" response indicating that this user request is invalid.  If
      desired, the server MAY include a text message in the Access-
      Reject which MAY be displayed by the client to the user.  No other
      Attributes (except Proxy-State) are permitted in an Access-Reject.

   This text makes it clear that RADIUS does not allow the provisioning
   of services within an Access-Reject.  If the desire is to allow
   limited access, then an Access-Accept can be sent with attributes
   provisioning limited access.  Attributes within an Access-Reject are
   restricted to those necessary to route the message (e.g. Proxy-
   State), attributes providing the user with an indication that access
   has been denied (e.g. an EAP-Message attribute containing an EAP-
   Failure) or attributes conveying an error message (e.g. a Reply-
   Message or Error-Cause attribute).

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 13]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   Unfortunately, there are examples where this requirement has been
   misunderstood.  [RFC2869] Section 2.2 states:

      If that authentication fails, the RADIUS server should return an
      Access-Reject packet to the NAS, with optional Password-Retry and
      Reply-Messages attributes.  The presence of Password-Retry
      indicates the ARAP NAS MAY choose to initiate another challenge-
      response cycle,

   This paragraph is problematic from two perspectives.  Firstly, a
   Password-Retry attribute is being returned in an Access-Reject; this
   attribute does not fit into the categories established in [RFC2865].
   Secondly, an Access-Reject packet is being sent in the context of a
   continuing authentication conversation; [RFC2865] requires use of an
   Access-Challenge for this.  [RFC2869] uses the phrase "challenge-
   response" to describe this use of Access-Reject, indicating that the
   semantics of Access-Challenge are being used.

   [RFC2865] Section 4.4, addresses the semantics of Access-Challenge
   being equivalent to Access-Reject in some cases:

      If the NAS does not support challenge/response, it MUST treat an
      Access-Challenge as though it had received an Access-Reject

   While it is difficult to correct existing deployments of [RFC2869],
   we make the following recommendations:

[1]  New RADIUS specifications and implementations MUST NOT use Access-
     Reject where the semantics of Access-Challenge are intended.

[2]  Access-Reject MUST mean denial of access to the requested service.
     In response to an Access-Reject, the NAS MUST NOT send any
     additional Access-Request packets for that user session.

[3]  New deployments of ARAP [RFC2869] SHOULD use Access-Challenge
     instead of Access-Reject packets in the conversations described in
     [RFC2869] Section 2.2.

   We also note that the table of attributes [RFC2869] Section 5.19 has
   an error for the Password-Retry attribute.  It says:

   Request  Accept  Reject  Challenge   #    Attribute
   0        0       0-1     0           75   Password-Retry

   However, the text in [RFC2869] Section 2.3.2 says that Password-Retry
   can be included within an Access-Challenge packet, for EAP
   authentication sessions.  We recommend a correction to the table:

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 14]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   Request  Accept  Reject  Challenge   #    Attribute
   0        0       0       0-1         75   Password-Retry [Note 2]

   [Note 2] As per RFC 3579, the use of the Password-Retry in EAP
   authentications is deprecated.  The Password-Retry attribute can be
   used only for ARAP authentication.

2.6.2.  Service Request Denial

   RADIUS has been deployed for purposes outside network access
   authentication, authorization and accounting.  For example, RADIUS
   has been deployed as a "back-end" for authenticating Voice Over IP
   (VOIP) connections, HTTP sessions (e.g. Apache), FTP sessions (e.g.
   proftpd), and machine logins for multiple operating systems (e.g.
   bsdi, pam, gina).  In those contexts, an Access-Reject sent to the
   RADIUS client MUST be interpreted as a rejection of the request for
   service, and the RADIUS client MUST NOT offer that service to the

   For example, when an authentication failure occurs in the context of
   an FTP session, the normal semantics for rejecting FTP services
   apply.  The rejection does not necessarily cause the FTP server to
   terminate the underlying TCP connection, but the FTP server MUST NOT
   offer any services protected by user authentication.

   Users may request multiple services from the NAS.  Where those
   services are independent, the deployment MUST treat the RADIUS
   sessions as being independent.

   For example, a NAS may offer multi-link services, where a user may
   have multiple simultaneous network connections. In that case, an
   Access-Reject for a later multi-link connection request does not
   necessarily mean that earlier multi-link connections are torn down.
   Similarly, if a NAS offers both dialup and VOIP services, the
   rejection of a VOIP attempt does not mean that the dialup session is
   torn down.

2.7.  Addressing

2.7.1.  Link-Local Addresses

   Since Link-Local addresses are unique only on the local link, if the
   NAS and RADIUS server are not on the same link, then an IPv6 Link-
   Local address [RFC2462] or an IPv4 Link-Local Address [RFC3927]
   cannot be used to uniquely identify the NAS.  A NAS SHOULD NOT
   utilize a link-scope address within a NAS-IPv6-Address or NAS-IP-
   Address attributes.  A RADIUS server receiving a NAS-IPv6-Address or
   NAS-IP-Address attribute containing a Link-Local address SHOULD NOT

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 15]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   count such an attribute toward satisfying the requirements of
   [RFC3162] Section 2.1:

      NAS-IPv6-Address and/or NAS-IP-Address MAY be present in an
      Access-Request packet; however, if neither attribute is present
      then NAS-Identifier MUST be present.

2.7.2.  Multiple Addresses

   There are situations in which a RADIUS client or server may have
   multiple addresses.  For example, a dual stack host can have both
   IPv4 and IPv6 addresses; a host that is a member of multiple VLANs
   could have IPv4 and/or IPv6 addresses on each VLAN; a host can have
   multiple IPv4 or IPv6 addresses on a single interface.  However,
   [RFC2865] Section 5.44 only permits zero or one NAS-IP-Address
   attribute within an Access-Request and [RFC3162] Section 3 only
   permits zero or one NAS-IPv6-Address attribute within an Access-
   Request.  When a NAS has more than one global address and no ability
   to determine which is used for identification in a particular
   request, it is RECOMMENDED that the NAS include the NAS-Identifier
   attribute in an Access-Request in order to identify itself to the
   RADIUS server.

   [RFC2865] Section 3 states:

      A RADIUS server MUST use the source IP address of the RADIUS
      UDP packet to decide which shared secret to use, so that
      RADIUS requests can be proxied.

   Therefore if a RADIUS client sends packets from more than one source
   address, a shared secret will need to be configured on both the
   client and server for each source address.

2.8.  Idle-Timeout

   With respect to the Idle-Timeout attribute, [RFC2865] Section 5.28

      This Attribute sets the maximum number of consecutive seconds of
      idle connection allowed to the user before termination of the
      session or prompt.  This Attribute is available to be sent by the
      server to the client in an Access-Accept or Access-Challenge.

   [RFC3580] Section 3.12 states:

      The Idle-Timeout attribute is described in [RFC2865].  For IEEE
      802 media other than 802.11 the media are always on.  As a result
      the Idle-Timeout attribute is typically only used with wireless

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 16]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

      media such as IEEE 802.11.  It is possible for a wireless device
      to wander out of range of all Access Points.  In this case, the
      Idle-Timeout attribute indicates the maximum time that a wireless
      device may remain idle.

   In the above paragraphs "idle" may not necessarily mean "no traffic";
   the NAS may support filters defining what traffic is included in the
   idle time determination.  As a result, an "idle connection" is
   defined by local policy in the absence of other attributes.

2.9.  Unknown Identity

   [RFC3748] Section 5.1 states:

        If the Identity is unknown, the Identity Response field
        should be zero bytes in length.

   However, [RFC2865] Section 5.1 describes the User-Name attribute as

        The String field is one or more octets.

   How should the RADIUS client behave if it receives an EAP-
   Response/Identity that is zero octets in length?

   [RFC2865] Section 5.1 states:

      This Attribute indicates the name of the user to be authenticated.
      It MUST be sent in Access-Request packets if available.

   This suggests that the User-Name attribute may be ommitted if it is

   However, [RFC3579] Section 2.1 states:

      In order to permit non-EAP aware RADIUS proxies to forward the
      Access-Request packet, if the NAS initially sends an
      EAP-Request/Identity message to the peer, the NAS MUST copy the
      contents of the Type-Data field of the EAP-Response/Identity
      received from the peer into the User-Name attribute and MUST
      include the Type-Data field of the EAP-Response/Identity in the
      User-Name attribute in every subsequent Access-Request.

   This suggests that the User-Name attribute should contain the
   contents of the Type-Data field of the EAP-Response/Identity, even if
   it is zero octets in length.

   Note that [RFC4282] does not permit an NAI of zero octets, so that an

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 17]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   EAP-Response/Identity with a Type-Data field of zero octets MUST NOT
   be construed as a request for privacy (e.g. anonymous NAI).

   When a NAS receives an EAP-Response/Identity with a Type-Data field
   that is zero octets in length, it is RECOMMENDED that it either omit
   a User-Name attribute in the Access-Request or include the Calling-
   Station-Id in the User-Name attribute, along with a Calling-Station-
   Id attribute.

2.10.  Responses after retransmissions

   Some implementations do not correctly handle the receipt of RADIUS
   responses after retransmissions. [RFC2865] Section 2.5 states

      If the NAS is retransmitting a RADIUS request to the same server
      as before, and the attributes haven't changed, you MUST use the
      same Request Authenticator, ID, and source port.  If any
      attributes have changed, you MUST use a new Request Authenticator
      and ID.

   Note that changing the Request ID for a retransmission may have
   undesirable side effects.  Since RADIUS does not have a clear
   definition of a "session", it is perfectly valid for a RADIUS server
   to treat a retransmission as a new session request, and to reject it
   due to (say) multiple simultaneous login restrictions are enforced.
   In that situation, the NAS may receive a belated Access-Accept for
   the first request, and an Access-Reject for the retransmitted
   request, both of which apply to the same "session".

   We suggest that the contents of Access-Request packets SHOULD NOT be
   changed during retransmissions.  If they must be changed due to the
   inclusion of an Event-Timestampt attribute, for example, then
   responses to earlier transmissions MUST be silently discarded.  Any
   response to the current request MUST be treated as the definitive
   response, even if as noted above, it disagrees with earlier

   This problem can be made worse by implementations that use a fixed
   retransmission timeout (30 seconds is common).  We reiterate the
   suggestions above in Section 2.1 about using congestive backoff.  In
   that case, responses to earlier transmissions MAY be used as data
   points for congestive backoff, even if their contents are discarded.

2.11.  Framed-IPv6-Prefix

   [RFC3162] Section 2.3 says

      This Attribute indicates an IPv6 prefix (and corresponding route)

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 18]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

      to be configured for the user.  It MAY be used in Access-Accept
      packets, and can appear multiple times.  It MAY be used in an
      Access-Request packet as a hint by the NAS to the server that it
      would prefer these prefix(es), but the server is not required to
      honor the hint.  Since it is assumed that the NAS will plumb a
      route corresponding to the prefix, it is not necessary for the
      server to also send a Framed-IPv6-Route attribute for the same

   An ISP may desire to support Prefix Delegation [PREFIX] at the same
   time that it would like to assign a prefix for the link between the
   NAS and the user.  The intent of the paragraph was to enable the NAS
   to advertise the prefix (such as via a Router Advertisement). If the
   Framed-Routing attribute is used, it is also possible that the prefix
   would be advertised in a routing protocol such as RIPNG.  RFC 2865
   Section 5.10 describes the purpose of Framed-Routing:

      This Attribute indicates the routing method for the user, when the
      user is a router to a network.  It is only used in Access-Accept

   The description of the Prefix-Length field in RFC 3162 indicates
   excessively wide latitude:

      The length of the prefix, in bits.  At least 0 and no larger than

   This length appears too broad, because it is not clear what a NAS
   should do with a prefix of greater granularity than /64. For example,
   the Framed-IPv6-Prefix may contain a /128.  This does not imply that
   the NAS should assign an IPv6 address to the end user, because RFC
   3162 already defines a Framed-IPv6-Identifier attribute to handle the
   Identifier portion.

   It appears that the Framed-IPv6-Prefix is used for the link between
   the NAS and CPE only if a /64 prefix is assigned.  When a /64 or
   larger prefix is sent, the intent is for the NAS to send a routing
   advertisement containing the information present in the Framed-
   IPv6-Prefix attribute.

   The CPE may also require a delegated prefix for its own use, if it is
   decrementing the TTL field of IP headers.  In that case, it should be
   delegated a prefix by the NAS via the Delegated-IPv6-Prefix
   attribute.  [PREFIX].  If the CPE is not decrementing TTL, it does
   not require a delegated prefix.

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 19]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

3.  IANA Considerations

   This specification does not create any new registries, nor does it
   require assignment of any protocol parameters.

4.  Security Considerations

   Since this document describes the use of RADIUS for purposes of
   authentication, authorization, and accounting in WLANs, it is
   vulnerable to all of the threats that are present in other RADIUS
   applications.  For a discussion of these threats, see [RFC2865],
   [RFC2607], [RFC3162], [RFC3579], and [RFC3580].

5.  References

5.1.  Normative references.

     Rigney, C., Rubens, A., Simpson, W. and S. Willens, "Remote
     Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS)", RFC 2865, June 2000.

     Rigney, C., "RADIUS Accounting", RFC 2866, June 2000.

     Rigney, C., Willats, W. and P. Calhoun, "RADIUS Extensions", RFC
     2869, June 2000.

     Aboba, B. and P. Calhoun, "RADIUS Support for Extensible
     Authentication Protocol (EAP)", RFC 3579, September 2003.

     Salowey, J., Droms., R, "RADIUS Delegated-IPv6-Prefix Attribute",
     drafty-ietf-radext-delegated-prefix-05.txt, October, 2006.

5.2.  Informative references.

[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
          Requirement Levels", RFC 2119, March, 1997.

[RFC2462] Thomson, S. and T. Narten, "IPv6 Stateless Address
          Autoconfiguration", RFC 2462, December 1998.

[RFC2607] Aboba, B. and J. Vollbrecht, "Proxy Chaining and Policy
          Implementation in Roaming", RFC 2607, June 1999.

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 20]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

[RFC2618] Aboba, B. and G. Zorn, "RADIUS Authentication Client MIB", RFC
          2618, June 1999.

[RFC3162] Aboba, B., Zorn, G. and D. Mitton, "RADIUS and IPv6", RFC
          3162, August 2001.

[RFC3580] Congdon, P., Aboba, B., Smith, A., Zorn, G. and J. Roese,
          "IEEE 802.1X Remote Authentication Dial In User Service
          (RADIUS) Usage Guidelines", RFC 3580, September 2003.

[RFC3748] Aboba, B., Blunk, L., Vollbrecht, J., Carlson, J. and H.
          Levkowetz, "Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP)", RFC
          3748, June 2004.

[RFC3927] Cheshire, S., Aboba, B. and E. Guttman, "Dynamic Configuration
          of IPv4 Link-Local Addresses",  RFC 3927, May 2005.

[RFC4282] Aboba, B., Beadles, M., Arkko, J. and P. Eronen, "The Network
          Access Identifier", RFC 4282, December 2005.

[RFC4668] Nelson, D, "RADIUS Authentication Client MIB for IPv6", RFC
          4668, August 2006.

[RFC4669] Nelson, D, "RADIUS Authentication Server MIB for IPv6", RFC
          4669, August 2006.

6.  RFC Editor instructions

   The references to [PREFIX] should be replaced with a reference to the
   RFC when it is issued, and this section deleted, prior to issuing
   this document as an RFC.


   The authors would like to acknowledge Glen Zorn and Bernard Aboba for
   contributions to this document.

   The alternate algorithm to [RFC3579] Section 2.6.1 that is described
   in section 2.1.2 of this document was designed by Raghu Dendukuri.

   David Nelson wishes to acknowledge the support of Enterasys Networks,
   where he was employed during much of the work on this document.

Authors' Addresses

   David B. Nelson
   (Independent contributor)
   72 Old Chester Road

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 21]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

   Derry, NH 03038

   Email: d.b.nelson@comcast.net

   Alan DeKok
   The FreeRADIUS Server Project

   Email: aland@freeradius.org

Intellectual Property Statement

   The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
   Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
   pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
   this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
   might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has
   made any independent effort to identify any such rights.  Information
   on the procedures with respect to rights in RFC documents can be
   found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
   assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
   attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of
   such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
   specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at

   The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
   copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary
   rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement
   this standard.  Please address the information to the IETF at ietf-

Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 22]

INTERNET-DRAFT            RADIUS Issues & Fixes            26 March 2007

Disclaimer of Validity

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2007).

   This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions
   contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors
   retain all their rights.


   Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
   Internet Society.

Open issues

   Open issues relating to this specification are tracked on the
   following web site:


Nelson, et al.              Proposed Standard                  [Page 23]

Html markup produced by rfcmarkup 1.108, available from http://tools.ietf.org/tools/rfcmarkup/