TACACS+ is a security application that provides centralized validation of users attempting to gain access to a device or network access server. TACACS+ services are maintained in a database on a TACACS+ daemon running, typically, on a UNIX or Windows NT workstation.
TACACS+ provides for separate and modular authentication, authorization, and accounting facilities. TACACS+ allows for a single access control server (the TACACS+ daemon) to provide each service--authentication, authorization, and accounting--independently. Each service can be tied into its own database to take advantage of other services available on that server or on the network, depending on the capabilities of the daemon.
The goal of TACACS+ is to provide a methodology for managing multiple network access points from a single management service. The Cisco family of access servers and devices and the Cisco IOS user interface (for both devices and access servers) can be network access servers.
Network access points enable traditional “dumb” terminals, terminal emulators, workstations, personal computers (PCs), and devices in conjunction with suitable adapters (for example, modems or ISDN adapters) to communicate using protocols such as Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP), Compressed SLIP (CSLIP), or AppleTalk Remote Access (ARA) protocol. In other words, a network access server provides connections to a single user, to a network or subnetwork, and to interconnected networks. The entities connected to the network through a network access server are called network access clients; for example, a PC running PPP over a voice-grade circuit is a network access client. TACACS+, administered through the AAA security services, can provide the following services:
Authentication--Provides complete control of authentication through login and password dialog, challenge and response, messaging support.
The authentication facility provides the ability to conduct an arbitrary dialog with the user (for example, after a login and password are provided, to challenge a user with a number of questions, such as home address, mother’s maiden name, service type, and social security number). In addition, the TACACS+ authentication service supports sending messages to user screens. For example, a message could notify users that their passwords must be changed because of the company’s password aging policy.
Authorization--Provides fine-grained control over user capabilities for the duration of the user’s session, including but not limited to setting autocommands, access control, session duration, or protocol support. You can also enforce restrictions on what commands a user may execute with the TACACS+ authorization feature.
Accounting--Collects and sends information used for billing, auditing, and reporting to the TACACS+ daemon. Network managers can use the accounting facility to track user activity for a security audit or to provide information for user billing. Accounting records include user identities, start and stop times, executed commands (such as PPP), number of packets, and number of bytes.
The TACACS+ protocol provides authentication between the network access server and the TACACS+ daemon, and it ensures confidentiality because all protocol exchanges between a network access server and a TACACS+ daemon are encrypted.
You need a system running TACACS+ daemon software to use the TACACS+ functionality on your network access server.
Cisco makes the TACACS+ protocol specification available as a draft RFC for those customers interested in developing their own TACACS+ software.