The Cisco NX-OS software supports security features that can protect
your network against degradation or failure and also against data loss or
compromise resulting from intentional attacks and from unintended but damaging
mistakes by well-meaning network users.
Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting
Authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) is an architectural framework for configuring a set of three independent security functions in a consistent, modular manner.
- Provides the method of identifying users, including login and password dialog, challenge and response, messaging support, and, depending on the security protocol that you select, encryption. Authentication is the way a user is identified prior to being allowed access to the network and network services. You configure AAA authentication by defining a named list of authentication methods and then applying that list to various interfaces.
- Provides the method for remote access control, including one-time authorization or authorization for each service, per-user account list and profile, user group support, and support of IP, IPX, ARA, and Telnet.
Remote security servers, such as RADIUS and TACACS+, authorize users for specific rights by associating attribute-value (AV) pairs, which define those rights, with the appropriate user. AAA authorization works by assembling a set of attributes that describe what the user is authorized to perform. These attributes are compared with the information contained in a database for a given user, and the result is returned to AAA to determine the user’s actual capabilities and restrictions.
- Provides the method for collecting and sending security server information used for billing, auditing, and reporting, such as user identities, start and stop times, executed commands (such as PPP), number of packets, and number of bytes. Accounting enables you to track the services that users are accessing, as well as the amount of network resources that they are consuming.
You can configure authentication outside of AAA. However, you must configure AAA if you want to use RADIUS or TACACS+, or if you want to configure a backup authentication method.
RADIUS and TACACS+ Security Protocols
AAA uses security protocols to administer its security functions. If your router or access server is acting as a network access server, AAA is the means through which you establish communication between your network access server and your RADIUS or TACACS+ security server.
The chapters in this guide describe how to configure the following security server protocols:
- A distributed client/server system implemented through AAA that secures networks against unauthorized access. In the Cisco implementation, RADIUS clients run on Cisco routers and send authentication requests to a central RADIUS server that contains all user authentication and network service access information.
- A security application implemented through AAA that provides a centralized validation of users who are attempting to gain access to a router 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.
SSH and Telnet
You can use the Secure Shell (SSH) server to enable an SSH client to make a secure, encrypted connection to a Cisco NX-OS device. SSH uses strong encryption for authentication. The SSH server in the Cisco NX-OS software can interoperate with publicly and commercially available SSH clients.
The SSH client in the Cisco NX-OS software works with publicly and commercially available SSH servers.
The Telnet protocol enables TCP/IP connections to a host. Telnet allows a user at one site to establish a TCP connection to a login server at another site and then passes the keystrokes from one device to the other. Telnet can accept either an IP address or a domain name as the remote device address.
IP ACLs are ordered sets of rules that you can use to filter traffic based on IPv4 information in the Layer 3 header of packets. Each rule specifies a set of conditions that a packet must satisfy to match the rule. When the Cisco NX-OS software determines that an IP ACL applies to a packet, it tests the packet against the conditions of all rules. The first match determines whether a packet is permitted or denied, or if there is no match, the Cisco NX-OS software applies the applicable default rule. The Cisco NX-OS software continues processing packets that are permitted and drops packets that are denied.