Wireless networks extend wired networks and increase worker
productivity and access to information. However, an unauthorized wireless
network presents an additional layer of security concerns. Less thought is put
into port security on wired networks, and wireless networks are an easy
extension to wired networks. Therefore, an employee who brings his or her own
Cisco Access Point (AP) into a well-secured wireless or wired infrastructure
and allows unauthorized users access to this otherwise secured network can
easily compromise a secure network.
Rogue detection allows the network administrator to monitor and
eliminate this security concern. Cisco Unified Network Architecture provides
two methods of rogue detection that enable a complete rogue identification and
containment solution without the need for expensive and hard-to-justify overlay
networks and tools.
Rogue detection is not bound by any regulations and no legal adherence
is required for its operation. However, rogue containment usually introduces
legal issues that can put the infrastructure provider in an uncomfortable
position if left to operate automatically. Cisco is extremely sensitive to such
issues and provides these solutions. Each controller is configured with a RF
Group name.Once a Lightweight AP registers with a controller, it embeds an
authentication Information Element (IE) that is specific to
the RF Group configured on the controller in all its beacons/probe response
frames. When the Lightweight AP hears beacons/ probe response frames from an AP
either without this IE or with wrong IE, then
the Lightweight AP reports that AP as a rogue, records its BSSID in a rogue
table, and sends the table to the controller. There are two methods, namely
Rogue Location Discovery Protocol (RLDP) and passive operation, which are
explained in detail; see the Determine Active
Rogue discovery in an active wireless environment can be costly. This
process asks the AP in service (or local mode) to cease service, listen for
noise, and perform rogue detection. The network administrator configures the
channels to scan, and configures the time period in which all stations are
scanned. The AP listens for 50 ms for rogue client beacons, then returns to the
configured channel in order to service clients again. This active scanning,
combined with neighbor messages, identifies which APs are rogues and which APs
are valid and part of the network. In order to configure the scanned channels
and the scanning time period, browse to Wireless > 802.11b/g
Network (either “b/g” or “a”
depending on the network requirement) and select the Auto RF
button in the top right-hand corner of the browser window.
You can scroll down to Noise/Interference/Rogue Monitoring
Channels in order to configure the channels to be scanned for rogues
and noise. The available choices are: All Channels (1 through 14), Country
Channels (1 through 11) or Dynamic Channel Association (DCA) Channels (by
default 1, 6 and 11). The scanning time period through these channels can be
configured in the same window, under Monitor Intervals (60 to 3600
secs) along with the noise measurement interval. By default, the
listening interval for off-channel noise and rogues is 180 seconds. This means
that each channel is scanned every 180 seconds. This is an example of the DCA
channels that are scanned every 180 seconds:
As illustrated, a high number of channels configured to be scanned
combined with the short scanning intervals, leaves less time for the AP to
actually service data clients.
The Lightweight AP waits in order to label clients and APs as rogues
because these rogues are possibly not reported by another AP until another
cycle is completed. The same AP moves to the same channel again in order to
monitor for rogue APs and clients, as well as noise and interference. If the
same clients and/or APs are detected, they are listed as rogues on the
controller again. The controller now begins to determine if these rogues are
attached to the local network or simply to a neighboring AP. In either case, an
AP that is not part of the managed local wireless network is considered a
A Lightweight AP goes off-channel for 50 ms in order to listen for
rogue clients, monitor for noise, and channel interference. Any detected rogue
clients or APs are sent to the controller, which gathers this
The rogue AP MAC address
The rogue AP name
The rogue connected client(s) MAC address
Whether the frames are protected with WPA or WEP
The Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)
The Receiver Signal Strength Indicator
You can make an AP operate as a rogue detector, which allows it to be
placed on a trunk port so that it can hear all wired-side connected VLANs. It
proceeds to find the client on the wired subnet on all the VLANs. The rogue
detector AP listens for Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) packets in order to
determine the Layer 2 addresses of identified rogue clients or rogue APs sent
by the controller. If a Layer 2 address that matches is found, the controller
generates an alarm that identifies the rogue AP or client as a threat. This
alarm indicates that the rogue was seen on the wired network.
Rogue APs must be “seen” twice before they are added as a rogue by the
controller. Rogue APs are not considered to be a threat if they are not
connected to the wired segment of the corporate network. In order to determine
if the rogue is active, various approaches are used. Those approaches include
Rogue Location Discovery Protocol (RLDP)
RLDP is an active approach, which is used when rogue AP has no
authentication (Open Authentication) configured. This mode, which is disabled
by default, instructs an active AP to move to the rogue channel and connect to
the rogue as a client. During this time, the active AP sends deauthentication
messages to all connected clients and then shuts down the radio interface.
Then, it will associate to the rogue AP as a client.
The AP then tries to obtain an IP address from the rogue AP and
forwards a User Datagram Protocol (UDP) packet (port 6352) that contains the
local AP and rogue connection information to the controller through the rogue
AP. If the controller receives this packet, the alarm is set to notify the
network administrator that a rogue AP was discovered on the wired network with
the RLDP feature.
Note: Use the debug dot11 rldp enable command in
order to check if the Lightweight AP associates and receives a DHCP address
from the rogue AP. This command also displays the UDP packet sent by the
Lightweight AP to the controller.
A sample of a UDP (destination port 6352) packet sent by the
Lightweight AP is shown here:
0020 0a 01 01 0d 0a 01 .......(.*...... 0030 01 1e 00 07
85 92 78 01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 ......x......... 0040 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
00 00 00
The first 5 bytes of the data contain the DHCP address given to the
local mode AP by the rogue AP. The next 5 bytes are the IP address of the
controller, followed by 6 bytes that represent the rogue AP MAC address. Then,
there are 18 bytes of zeros.
This approach is used when rogue AP has some form of authentication,
either WEP or WPA. When a form of authentication is configured on rogue AP, the
Lightweight AP cannot associate because it does not know the key configured on
the rogue AP. The process begins with the controller when it passes on the list
of rogue client MAC addresses to an AP that is configured as a rogue detector.
The rogue detector scans all connected and configured subnets for ARP requests,
and ARP searches for a matching Layer 2 address. If a match is discovered, the
controller notifies the network administrator that a rogue is detected on the
Once a rogue client is detected on the wired network, the network
administrator is able to contain both the rogue AP and the rogue clients. This
can be achieved because 802.11 de-authentication packets are sent to clients
that are associated to rogue APs so that the threat that such a hole creates is
mitigated. Each time there is an attempt to contain the rogue AP, nearly 15% of
the Lightweight AP's resource is used. Therefore, it is suggested to physically
locate and remove the rogue AP once it is contained.
Note: From the WLC release 184.108.40.206, once the rouge is detected you can
now choose to either manually or automatically contain the detected rogue. In
controller software releases prior to 220.127.116.11, manual containment is the only
Almost the entire rogue detection configuration is enabled by default
to allow for maximized, out-of-the-box network security. These configuration
steps assume that no rogue detection is set up on the controller in order to
clarify important rogue detection information.
In order to set up rogue detection, complete these
Ensure that Rogue Location Discovery protocol is turned on. In
order to turn it on, choose Security > Rogue Policies and
click Enabled on the Rogue Location Discovery
Protocol as shown in the figure.
Note: If a rogue AP is not heard for a certain amount of time, it is
removed form the controller. This is the Expiration Timeout
for a rogue AP, which is configured below the RLDP option.
This is an optional step. When this feature is enabled, the APs
sending RRM neighbor packets with different RF Group names are
reported as rogues. This will be helpful in studying your RF environment. In
order to enable it, choose Security-> AP Authentication.
Then, choose AP Authentication as the Protection Type as shown
in the figure.
Verify the channels to be scanned in these steps:
Select Wireless > 802.11a Network, then
Auto RF in the right hand side as shown in the
On the Auto RF page, scroll down and choose
The Channel List details the channels to be scanned for rogue
monitoring, in addition to other controller and AP functions. Refer to
Access Point FAQ for more information on Lightweight APs, and
LAN Controller (WLC) Troubleshoot FAQ for more information on wireless
Set the Time Period for scanning selected
The scanning duration of the defined group of channels is
configured under Monitor Intervals > Noise Measurement, and
the allowable range is from 60 to 3600 seconds. If left at the default of 180
seconds, the APs scan each channel in the channel group once, for 50 ms, every
180 seconds. During this period, the AP radio changes from its service channel
to the specified channel, listens and records values for a period of 50 ms, and
then returns to the original channel. The hop time plus the dwell time of 50 ms
takes the AP off-channel for approximately 60 ms each time. This means that
each AP spends approximately 840 ms out of the total 180 seconds listening for
The “listen” or “dwell” time cannot be modified and is not changed
with an adjustment of the Noise Measurement value. If the Noise Measurement
timer is lowered, the rogue discovery process is likely to find more rogues and
to find them more quickly. However, this improvement comes at the expense of
data integrity and client service. A higher value, on the other hand, allows
for better data integrity but lowers the ability to find rogues quickly.
Configure the AP mode of operation:
A Lightweight AP mode of operation defines the role of the AP. The
modes related to the information presented in this document are:
Local—This is the normal operation of an AP.
This mode allows data clients to be serviced while configured channels are
scanned for noise and rogues. In this mode of operation, the AP goes
off-channel for 50 ms and listens for rogues. It cycles through each channel,
one at a time, for the period specified under the Auto RF configuration.
Monitor—This is radio receive only mode, and
allows the AP to scan all configured channels every 12 seconds. Only
de-authentication packets are sent in the air with an AP configured this way. A
monitor mode AP can detect rogues, but it cannot connect to a suspicious rogue
as a client in order to send the RLDP packets.
Note: DCA refers to non-overlapping channels that are configurable
with the default modes.
Rogue Detector—In this mode, the AP radio is
turned off, and the AP listens to wired traffic only. The controller passes the
APs configured as rogue detectors as well as lists of suspected rogue clients
and AP MAC addresses. The rogue detector listens for ARP packets only, and can
be connected to all broadcast domains through a trunk link if
You can configure an individual AP mode simply, once the
Lightweight AP is connected to the controller. In order to change the AP mode,
connect to the controller web-interface and navigate to
Wireless. Click on Details next to the
desired AP to in order to display a screen similar to this
Use the AP Mode drop-down menu in order to select the desired AP
mode of operation.
You can also use these commands in order to troubleshoot your
configuration on the AP:
show rogue ap summary—This command
displays the list of rogue APs detected by the Lightweight APs.
show rogue ap detailed <MAC address of the
—Use this command in order to view
details about an individual rogue AP. This is the command that helps to
determine if the rogue AP is plugged onto the wired network.
Rogue detection and containment within the Cisco centralized controller
solution is the most effective and least intrusive method in the industry. The
flexibility provided to the network administrator allows for a more customized
fit that can accommodate any network requirements.