Network Working Group B. Aboba
Request for Comments: 5247 D. Simon
Updates: 3748 Microsoft Corporation
Category: Standards Track P. Eronen
August 2008 Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) Key Management Framework
Status of This Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
The Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), defined in RFC 3748,
enables extensible network access authentication. This document
specifies the EAP key hierarchy and provides a framework for the
transport and usage of keying material and parameters generated by
EAP authentication algorithms, known as "methods". It also provides
a detailed system-level security analysis, describing the conditions
under which the key management guidelines described in RFC 4962 can
The Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), defined in [RFC3748],
was designed to enable extensible authentication for network access
in situations in which the Internet Protocol (IP) protocol is not
available. Originally developed for use with Point-to-Point Protocol
(PPP) [RFC1661], it has subsequently also been applied to IEEE 802
wired networks [IEEE-802.1X], Internet Key Exchange Protocol version
2 (IKEv2) [RFC4306], and wireless networks such as [IEEE-802.11] and
EAP is a two-party protocol spoken between the EAP peer and server.
Within EAP, keying material is generated by EAP authentication
algorithms, known as "methods". Part of this keying material can be
used by EAP methods themselves, and part of this material can be
exported. In addition to the export of keying material, EAP methods
can also export associated parameters such as authenticated peer and
server identities and a unique EAP conversation identifier, and can
import and export lower-layer parameters known as "channel binding
parameters", or simply "channel bindings".
This document specifies the EAP key hierarchy and provides a
framework for the transport and usage of keying material and
parameters generated by EAP methods. It also provides a detailed
security analysis, describing the conditions under which the
requirements described in "Guidance for Authentication,
Authorization, and Accounting (AAA) Key Management" [RFC4962] can be
1.1. Requirements Language
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].
The terms "Cryptographic binding", "Cryptographic separation", "Key
strength" and "Mutual authentication" are defined in [RFC3748] and
are used with the same meaning in this document, which also
frequently uses the following terms:
A pairwise Authentication and Key Management Protocol (AKMP)
defined in [IEEE-802.11], which confirms mutual possession of a
Pairwise Master Key by two parties and distributes a Group Key.
AAA Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting
AAA protocols with EAP support include "RADIUS Support for EAP"
[RFC3579] and "Diameter EAP Application" [RFC4072]. In this
document, the terms "AAA server" and "backend authentication
server" are used interchangeably.
The term AAA-Key is synonymous with Master Session Key (MSK).
Since multiple keys can be transported by AAA, the term is
potentially confusing and is not used in this document.
The entity initiating EAP authentication.
Backend Authentication Server
A backend authentication server is an entity that provides an
authentication service to an authenticator. When used, this
server typically executes EAP methods for the authenticator. This
terminology is also used in [IEEE-802.1X].
A secure mechanism for ensuring that a subset of the parameters
transmitted by the authenticator (such as authenticator
identifiers and properties) are agreed upon by the EAP peer and
server. It is expected that the parameters are also securely
agreed upon by the EAP peer and authenticator via the lower layer
if the authenticator advertised the parameters.
Derived Keying Material
Keys derived from EAP keying material, such as Transient Session
EAP Keying Material
Keys derived by an EAP method; this includes exported keying
material (MSK, Extended MSK (EMSK), Initialization Vector (IV)) as
well as local keying material such as Transient EAP Keys (TEKs).
The use of EAP to pre-establish EAP keying material on an
authenticator prior to arrival of the peer at the access network
managed by that authenticator.
EAP authentication between an EAP peer and a server with whom the
EAP peer shares valid unexpired EAP keying material.
The entity that terminates the EAP authentication method with the
peer. In the case where no backend authentication server is used,
the EAP server is part of the authenticator. In the case where
the authenticator operates in pass-through mode, the EAP server is
located on the backend authentication server.
Exported Keying Material
The EAP Master Session Key (MSK), Extended Master Session Key
(EMSK), and Initialization Vector (IV).
Extended Master Session Key (EMSK)
Additional keying material derived between the peer and server
that is exported by the EAP method. The EMSK is at least 64
octets in length and is never shared with a third party. The EMSK
MUST be at least as long as the MSK in size.
Initialization Vector (IV)
A quantity of at least 64 octets, suitable for use in an
initialization vector field, that is derived between the peer and
EAP server. Since the IV is a known value in methods such as
EAP-TLS (Transport Layer Security) [RFC5216], it cannot be used by
itself for computation of any quantity that needs to remain
secret. As a result, its use has been deprecated and it is
OPTIONAL for EAP methods to generate it. However, when it is
generated, it MUST be unpredictable.
Unless otherwise qualified, the term "keying material" refers to
EAP keying material as well as derived keying material.
The parties to whom a key is available.
The encryption of one symmetric cryptographic key in another. The
algorithm used for the encryption is called a key wrap algorithm
or a key encryption algorithm. The key used in the encryption
process is called a key-encryption key (KEK).
EAP methods frequently make use of long-term secrets in order to
enable authentication between the peer and server. In the case of
a method based on pre-shared key authentication, the long-term
credential is the pre-shared key. In the case of a
public-key-based method, the long-term credential is the
corresponding private key.
The lower layer is responsible for carrying EAP frames between the
peer and authenticator.
A name used to identify the EAP peer and authenticator within the
Master Session Key (MSK)
Keying material that is derived between the EAP peer and server
and exported by the EAP method. The MSK is at least 64 octets in
Network Access Server (NAS)
A device that provides an access service for a user to a network.
Pairwise Master Key (PMK)
Lower layers use the MSK in a lower-layer dependent manner. For
instance, in IEEE 802.11 [IEEE-802.11], Octets 0-31 of the MSK are
known as the Pairwise Master Key (PMK); the Temporal Key Integrity
Protocol (TKIP) and Advanced Encryption Standard Counter Mode with
CBC-MAC Protocol (AES CCMP) ciphersuites derive their Transient
Session Keys (TSKs) solely from the PMK, whereas the Wired
Equivalent Privacy (WEP) ciphersuite, as noted in "IEEE 802.1X
RADIUS Usage Guidelines" [RFC3580], derives its TSKs from both
halves of the MSK. In [IEEE-802.16e], the MSK is truncated to 20
octets for PMK and 20 octets for PMK2.
The entity that responds to the authenticator. In [IEEE-802.1X],
this entity is known as the Supplicant.
A set of policies and cryptographic state used to protect
information. Elements of a security association include
cryptographic keys, negotiated ciphersuites and other parameters,
counters, sequence spaces, authorization attributes, etc.
Secure Association Protocol
An exchange that occurs between the EAP peer and authenticator in
order to manage security associations derived from EAP exchanges.
The protocol establishes unicast and (optionally) multicast
security associations, which include symmetric keys and a context
for the use of the keys. An example of a Secure Association
Protocol is the 4-way handshake defined within [IEEE-802.11].
The EAP Session-Id uniquely identifies an EAP authentication
exchange between an EAP peer (as identified by the Peer-Id(s)) and
server (as identified by the Server-Id(s)). For more information,
see Section 1.4.
Transient EAP Keys (TEKs)
Session keys that are used to establish a protected channel
between the EAP peer and server during the EAP authentication
exchange. The TEKs are appropriate for use with the ciphersuite
negotiated between EAP peer and server for use in protecting the
EAP conversation. The TEKs are stored locally by the EAP method
and are not exported. Note that the ciphersuite used to set up
the protected channel between the EAP peer and server during EAP
authentication is unrelated to the ciphersuite used to
subsequently protect data sent between the EAP peer and
Transient Session Keys (TSKs)
Keys used to protect data exchanged after EAP authentication has
successfully completed using the ciphersuite negotiated between
the EAP peer and authenticator.
Where EAP key derivation is supported, the conversation typically
takes place in three phases:
Phase 0: Discovery
Phase 1: Authentication
1a: EAP authentication
1b: AAA Key Transport (optional)
Phase 2: Secure Association Protocol
2a: Unicast Secure Association
2b: Multicast Secure Association (optional)
Of these phases, phase 0, 1b, and 2 are handled external to EAP.
phases 0 and 2 are handled by the lower-layer protocol, and phase 1b
is typically handled by a AAA protocol.
In the discovery phase (phase 0), peers locate authenticators and
discover their capabilities. A peer can locate an authenticator
providing access to a particular network, or a peer can locate an
authenticator behind a bridge with which it desires to establish a
Secure Association. Discovery can occur manually or automatically,
depending on the lower layer over which EAP runs.
The authentication phase (phase 1) can begin once the peer and
authenticator discover each other. This phase, if it occurs, always
includes EAP authentication (phase 1a). Where the chosen EAP method
supports key derivation, in phase 1a, EAP keying material is derived
on both the peer and the EAP server.
An additional step (phase 1b) is needed in deployments that include a
backend authentication server, in order to transport keying material
from the backend authentication server to the authenticator. In
order to obey the principle of mode independence (see Section 1.6.1),
where a backend authentication server is present, all keying material
needed by the lower layer is transported from the EAP server to the
authenticator. Since existing TSK derivation and transport
techniques depend solely on the MSK, in existing implementations,
this is the only keying material replicated in the AAA key transport
Successful completion of EAP authentication and key derivation by a
peer and EAP server does not necessarily imply that the peer is
committed to joining the network associated with an EAP server.
Rather, this commitment is implied by the creation of a security
association between the EAP peer and authenticator, as part of the
Secure Association Protocol (phase 2). The Secure Association
Protocol exchange (phase 2) occurs between the peer and authenticator
in order to manage the creation and deletion of unicast (phase 2a)
and multicast (phase 2b) security associations between the peer and
authenticator. The conversation between the parties is shown in
EAP peer Authenticator Auth. Server
-------- ------------- ------------
| Discovery (phase 0) | |
| EAP auth (phase 1a) | AAA pass-through (optional) |
| | |
| | AAA Key transport |
| | (optional; phase 1b) |
| Unicast Secure association | |
| (phase 2a) | |
| | |
| Multicast Secure association | |
| (optional; phase 2b) | |
| | |
Figure 1: Conversation Overview1.3.1. Examples
Existing EAP lower layers implement phase 0, 2a, and 2b in different
The Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), defined in [RFC1661], does not
support discovery, nor does it include a Secure Association
PPP over Ethernet (PPPoE), defined in [RFC2516], includes support
for a Discovery stage (phase 0). In this step, the EAP peer sends
a PPPoE Active Discovery Initiation (PADI) packet to the broadcast
address, indicating the service it is requesting. The Access
Concentrator replies with a PPPoE Active Discovery Offer (PADO)
packet containing its name, the service name, and an indication of
the services offered by the concentrator. The discovery phase is
not secured. PPPoE, like PPP, does not include a Secure
Internet Key Exchange v2 (IKEv2), defined in [RFC4306], includes
support for EAP and handles the establishment of unicast security
associations (phase 2a). However, the establishment of multicast
security associations (phase 2b) typically does not involve EAP
and needs to be handled by a group key management protocol such as
Group Domain of Interpretation (GDOI) [RFC3547], Group Secure
Association Key Management Protocol (GSAKMP) [RFC4535], Multimedia
Internet KEYing (MIKEY) [RFC3830], or Group Key Distribution
Protocol (GKDP) [GKDP]. Several mechanisms have been proposed for
the discovery of IPsec security gateways. [RFC2230] discusses the
use of Key eXchange (KX) Resource Records (RRs) for IPsec gateway
discovery; while KX RRs are supported by many Domain Name Service
(DNS) server implementations, they have not yet been widely
deployed. Alternatively, DNS SRV RRs [RFC2782] can be used for
this purpose. Where DNS is used for gateway location, DNS
security mechanisms such as DNS Security (DNSSEC) ([RFC4033],
[RFC4035]), TSIG [RFC2845], and Simple Secure Dynamic Update
[RFC3007] are available.
IEEE 802.11, defined in [IEEE-802.11], handles discovery via the
Beacon and Probe Request/Response mechanisms. IEEE 802.11 Access
Points (APs) periodically announce their Service Set Identifiers
(SSIDs) as well as capabilities using Beacon frames. Stations can
query for APs by sending a Probe Request. Neither Beacon nor
Probe Request/Response frames are secured. The 4-way handshake
defined in [IEEE-802.11] enables the derivation of unicast (phase
2a) and multicast/broadcast (phase 2b) secure associations. Since
the group key exchange transports a group key from the AP to the
station, two 4-way handshakes can be needed in order to support
peer-to-peer communications. A proof of the security of the IEEE
802.11 4-way handshake, when used with EAP-TLS, is provided in
IEEE 802.1X-2004, defined in [IEEE-802.1X], does not support
discovery (phase 0), nor does it provide for derivation of unicast
or multicast secure associations.
1.4. EAP Key Hierarchy
As illustrated in Figure 2, the EAP method key derivation has, at the
root, the long-term credential utilized by the selected EAP method.
If authentication is based on a pre-shared key, the parties store the
EAP method to be used and the pre-shared key. The EAP server also
stores the peer's identity as well as additional information. This
information is typically used outside of the EAP method to determine
whether to grant access to a service. The peer stores information
necessary to choose which secret to use for which service.
If authentication is based on proof of possession of the private key
corresponding to the public key contained within a certificate, the
parties store the EAP method to be used and the trust anchors used to
validate the certificates. The EAP server also stores the peer's
identity, and the peer stores information necessary to choose which
certificate to use for which service. Based on the long-term
credential established between the peer and the server, methods
derive two types of EAP keying material:
(a) Keying material calculated locally by the EAP method but not
exported, such as the Transient EAP Keys (TEKs).
(b) Keying material exported by the EAP method: Master Session Key
(MSK), Extended Master Session Key (EMSK), Initialization
As noted in [RFC3748] Section 7.10:
In order to provide keying material for use in a subsequently
negotiated ciphersuite, an EAP method supporting key derivation
MUST export a Master Session Key (MSK) of at least 64 octets, and
an Extended Master Session Key (EMSK) of at least 64 octets.
EAP methods also MAY export the IV; however, the use of the IV is
deprecated. The EMSK MUST NOT be provided to an entity outside the
EAP server or peer, nor is it permitted to pass any quantity to an
entity outside the EAP server or peer from which the EMSK could be
computed without breaking some cryptographic assumption, such as
inverting a one-way function.
EAP methods supporting key derivation and mutual authentication
SHOULD export a method-specific EAP conversation identifier known as
the Session-Id, as well as one or more method-specific peer
identifiers (Peer-Id(s)) and MAY export one or more method-specific
server identifiers (Server-Id(s)). EAP methods MAY also support the
import and export of channel binding parameters. EAP method
specifications developed after the publication of this document MUST
define the Peer-Id, Server-Id, and Session-Id. The Peer-Id(s) and
Server-Id(s), when provided, identify the entities involved in
generating EAP keying material. For existing EAP methods, the
Peer-Id, Server-Id, and Session-Id are defined in Appendix A.
| | ^
| EAP Method | |
| | |
| +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | |
| | | | | | |
| | EAP Method Key |<->| Long-Term | | |
| | Derivation | | Credential | | |
| | | | | | |
| | | +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | Local to |
| | | | EAP |
| +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | Method |
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
| | +-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | |
| | | TEK | |MSK, EMSK | |IV | | |
| | |Derivation | |Derivation | |Derivation | | |
| | | | | | |(Deprecated) | | |
| | +-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ | |
| | ^ | | | |
| | | | | | V
| | | | ^
| | | | Exported |
| Peer-Id(s), | channel | MSK (64+B) | IV (64B) by |
| Server-Id(s), | bindings | EMSK (64+B) | (Optional) EAP |
| Session-Id | & Result | | Method |
V V V V V
Figure 2: EAP Method Parameter Import/Export
If an EAP method that generates keys authenticates one or more
method-specific peer identities, those identities are exported by
the method as the Peer-Id(s). It is possible for more than one
Peer-Id to be exported by an EAP method. Not all EAP methods
provide a method-specific peer identity; where this is not
defined, the Peer-Id is the null string. In EAP methods that do
not support key generation, the Peer-Id MUST be the null string.
Where an EAP method that derives keys does not provide a Peer-Id,
the EAP server will not authenticate the identity of the EAP peer
with which it derived keying material.
If an EAP method that generates keys authenticates one or more
method-specific server identities, those identities are exported
by the method as the Server-Id(s). It is possible for more than
one Server-Id to be exported by an EAP method. Not all EAP
methods provide a method-specific server identity; where this is
not defined, the Server-Id is the null string. If the EAP method
does not generate keying material, the Server-Id MUST be the null
string. Where an EAP method that derives keys does not provide a
Server-Id, the EAP peer will not authenticate the identity of the
EAP server with which it derived EAP keying material.
The Session-Id uniquely identifies an EAP session between an EAP
peer (as identified by the Peer-Id) and server (as identified by
the Server-Id). Where non-expanded EAP Type Codes are used (EAP
Type Code not equal to 254), the EAP Session-Id is the
concatenation of the single octet EAP Type Code and a temporally
unique identifier obtained from the method (known as the
Session-Id = Type-Code || Method-Id
Where expanded EAP Type Codes are used, the EAP Session-Id
consists of the Expanded Type Code (including the Type, Vendor-Id
(in network byte order) and Vendor-Type fields (in network byte
order) defined in [RFC3748] Section 5.7), concatenated with a
temporally unique identifier obtained from the method (Method-Id):
Session-Id = 0xFE || Vendor-Id || Vendor-Type || Method-Id
The Method-Id is typically constructed from nonces or counters
used within the EAP method exchange. The inclusion of the Type
Code or Expanded Type Code in the EAP Session-Id ensures that each
EAP method has a distinct Session-Id space. Since an EAP session
is not bound to a particular authenticator or specific ports on
the peer and authenticator, the authenticator port or identity are
not included in the Session-Id.
Channel binding is the process by which lower-layer parameters are
verified for consistency between the EAP peer and server. In
order to avoid introducing media dependencies, EAP methods that
transport channel binding parameters MUST treat this data as
opaque octets. See Section 5.3.3 for further discussion.
1.4.1. Key Naming
Each key created within the EAP key management framework has a name
(a unique identifier), as well as a scope (the parties to whom the
key is available). The scope of exported keying material and TEKs is
defined by the authenticated method-specific peer identities
(Peer-Id(s)) and the authenticated server identities (Server-Id(s)),
MSK and EMSK Names
The MSK and EMSK are exported by the EAP peer and EAP server,
and MUST be named using the EAP Session-Id and a binary or
textual indication of the EAP keying material being referred to.
This document does not specify a naming scheme for the Pairwise
Master Key (PMK). The PMK is only identified by the name of the
key from which it is derived.
Note: IEEE 802.11 names the PMK for the purposes of being able
to refer to it in the Secure Association Protocol; the PMK name
(known as the PMKID) is based on a hash of the PMK itself as
well as some other parameters (see [IEEE-802.11] Section
Transient EAP Keys (TEKs) MAY be named; their naming is
specified in the EAP method specification.
Transient Session Keys (TSKs) are typically named. Their naming
is specified in the lower layer so that the correct set of TSKs
can be identified for processing a given packet.
1.5. Security Goals
The goal of the EAP conversation is to derive fresh session keys
between the EAP peer and authenticator that are known only to those
parties, and for both the EAP peer and authenticator to demonstrate
that they are authorized to perform their roles either by each other
or by a trusted third party (the backend authentication server).
Completion of an EAP method exchange (phase 1a) supporting key
derivation results in the derivation of EAP keying material (MSK,
EMSK, TEKs) known only to the EAP peer (identified by the Peer-Id(s))
and EAP server (identified by the Server-Id(s)). Both the EAP peer
and EAP server know this keying material to be fresh. The Peer-Id
and Server-Id are discussed in Sections 1.4, 2.4, and 2.5 as well as
in Appendix A. Key freshness is discussed in Sections 3.4, 3.5, and
Completion of the AAA exchange (phase 1b) results in the transport of
keying material from the EAP server (identified by the Server-Id(s))
to the EAP authenticator (identified by the NAS-Identifier) without
disclosure to any other party. Both the EAP server and EAP
authenticator know this keying material to be fresh. Disclosure
issues are discussed in Sections 3.8 and 5.3; security properties of
AAA protocols are discussed in Sections 5.1 - 5.9.
The backend authentication server is trusted to transport keying
material only to the authenticator that was established with the
peer, and it is trusted to transport that keying material to no other
parties. In many systems, EAP keying material established by the EAP
peer and EAP server are combined with publicly available data to
derive other keys. The backend authentication server is trusted to
refrain from deriving these same keys or acting as a
man-in-the-middle even though it has access to the keying material
that is needed to do so.
The authenticator is also a trusted party. The authenticator is
trusted not to distribute keying material provided by the backend
authentication server to any other parties. If the authenticator
uses a key derivation function to derive additional keying material,
the authenticator is trusted to distribute the derived keying
material only to the appropriate party that is known to the peer, and
no other party. When this approach is used, care must be taken to
ensure that the resulting key management system meets all of the
principles in [RFC4962], confirming that keys used to protect data
are to be known only by the peer and authenticator.
Completion of the Secure Association Protocol (phase 2) results in
the derivation or transport of Transient Session Keys (TSKs) known
only to the EAP peer (identified by the Peer-Id(s)) and authenticator
(identified by the NAS-Identifier). Both the EAP peer and
authenticator know the TSKs to be fresh. Both the EAP peer and
authenticator demonstrate that they are authorized to perform their
roles. Authorization issues are discussed in Sections 4.3.2 and 5.5;
security properties of Secure Association Protocols are discussed in
1.6. EAP Invariants
Certain basic characteristics, known as "EAP Invariants", hold true
for EAP implementations:
1.6.1. Mode Independence
EAP is typically deployed to support extensible network access
authentication in situations where a peer desires network access via
one or more authenticators. Where authenticators are deployed
standalone, the EAP conversation occurs between the peer and
authenticator, and the authenticator locally implements one or more
EAP methods. However, when utilized in "pass-through" mode, EAP
enables the deployment of new authentication methods without
requiring the development of new code on the authenticator.
While the authenticator can implement some EAP methods locally and
use those methods to authenticate local users, it can at the same
time act as a pass-through for other users and methods, forwarding
EAP packets back and forth between the backend authentication server
and the peer. This is accomplished by encapsulating EAP packets
within the Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA)
protocol spoken between the authenticator and backend authentication
server. AAA protocols supporting EAP include RADIUS [RFC3579] and
It is a fundamental property of EAP that at the EAP method layer, the
conversation between the EAP peer and server is unaffected by whether
the EAP authenticator is operating in "pass-through" mode. EAP
methods operate identically in all aspects, including key derivation
and parameter import/export, regardless of whether or not the
authenticator is operating as a pass-through.
The successful completion of an EAP method that supports key
derivation results in the export of EAP keying material and
parameters on the EAP peer and server. Even though the EAP peer or
server can import channel binding parameters that can include the
identity of the EAP authenticator, this information is treated as
opaque octets. As a result, within EAP, the only relevant identities
are the Peer-Id(s) and Server-Id(s). Channel binding parameters are
only interpreted by the lower layer.
Within EAP, the primary function of the AAA protocol is to maintain
the principle of mode independence. As far as the EAP peer is
concerned, its conversation with the EAP authenticator, and all
consequences of that conversation, are identical, regardless of the
authenticator mode of operation.
1.6.2. Media Independence
One of the goals of EAP is to allow EAP methods to function on any
lower layer meeting the criteria outlined in [RFC3748] Section 3.1.
For example, as described in [RFC3748], EAP authentication can be run
over PPP [RFC1661], IEEE 802 wired networks [IEEE-802.1X], and
wireless networks such as 802.11 [IEEE-802.11] and 802.16
In order to maintain media independence, it is necessary for EAP to
avoid consideration of media-specific elements. For example, EAP
methods cannot be assumed to have knowledge of the lower layer over
which they are transported, and cannot be restricted to identifiers
associated with a particular usage environment (e.g., Medium Access
Control (MAC) addresses).
Note that media independence can be retained within EAP methods that
support channel binding or method-specific identification. An EAP
method need not be aware of the content of an identifier in order to
use it. This enables an EAP method to use media-specific identifiers
such as MAC addresses without compromising media independence.
Channel binding parameters are treated as opaque octets by EAP
methods so that handling them does not require media-specific
1.6.3. Method Independence
By enabling pass-through, authenticators can support any method
implemented on the peer and server, not just locally implemented
methods. This allows the authenticator to avoid having to implement
the EAP methods configured for use by peers. In fact, since a
pass-through authenticator need not implement any EAP methods at all,
it cannot be assumed to support any EAP method-specific code. As
noted in [RFC3748] Section 2.3:
Compliant pass-through authenticator implementations MUST by
default forward EAP packets of any Type.
This is useful where there is no single EAP method that is both
mandatory to implement and offers acceptable security for the media
in use. For example, the [RFC3748] mandatory-to-implement EAP method
(MD5-Challenge) does not provide dictionary attack resistance, mutual
authentication, or key derivation, and as a result, is not
appropriate for use in Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
authentication [RFC4017]. However, despite this, it is possible for
the peer and authenticator to interoperate as long as a suitable EAP
method is supported both on the EAP peer and server.
1.6.4. Ciphersuite Independence
Ciphersuite Independence is a requirement for media independence.
Since lower-layer ciphersuites vary between media, media independence
requires that exported EAP keying material be large enough (with
sufficient entropy) to handle any ciphersuite.
While EAP methods can negotiate the ciphersuite used in protection of
the EAP conversation, the ciphersuite used for the protection of the
data exchanged after EAP authentication has completed is negotiated
between the peer and authenticator within the lower layer, outside of
For example, within PPP, the ciphersuite is negotiated within the
Encryption Control Protocol (ECP) defined in [RFC1968], after EAP
authentication is completed. Within [IEEE-802.11], the AP
ciphersuites are advertised in the Beacon and Probe Responses prior
to EAP authentication and are securely verified during a 4-way
Since the ciphersuites used to protect data depend on the lower
layer, requiring that EAP methods have knowledge of lower-layer
ciphersuites would compromise the principle of media independence.
As a result, methods export EAP keying material that is ciphersuite
independent. Since ciphersuite negotiation occurs in the lower
layer, there is no need for lower-layer ciphersuite negotiation
In order to allow a ciphersuite to be usable within the EAP keying
framework, the ciphersuite specification needs to describe how TSKs
suitable for use with the ciphersuite are derived from exported EAP
keying material. To maintain method independence, algorithms for
deriving TSKs MUST NOT depend on the EAP method, although algorithms
for TEK derivation MAY be specific to the EAP method.
Advantages of ciphersuite-independence include:
Reduced update requirements
Ciphersuite independence enables EAP methods to be used with new
ciphersuites without requiring the methods to be updated. If
EAP methods were to specify how to derive transient session keys
for each ciphersuite, they would need to be updated each time a
new ciphersuite is developed. In addition, backend
authentication servers might not be usable with all EAP-capable
authenticators, since the backend authentication server would
also need to be updated each time support for a new ciphersuite
is added to the authenticator.
Reduced EAP method complexity
Ciphersuite independence enables EAP methods to avoid having to
include ciphersuite-specific code. Requiring each EAP method to
include ciphersuite-specific code for transient session key
derivation would increase method complexity and result in
Ciphersuite independence enables EAP method implementations on
the peer and server to avoid having to configure
ciphersuite-specific parameters. The ciphersuite is negotiated
between the peer and authenticator outside of EAP. Where the
authenticator operates in "pass-through" mode, the EAP server is
not a party to this negotiation, nor is it involved in the data
flow between the EAP peer and authenticator. As a result, the
EAP server does not have knowledge of the ciphersuites and
negotiation policies implemented by the peer and authenticator,
nor is it aware of the ciphersuite negotiated between them. For
example, since Encryption Control Protocol (ECP) negotiation
occurs after authentication, when run over PPP, the EAP peer and