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RFC 7593

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The eduroam Architecture for Network Roaming

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Independent Submission                                       K. Wierenga
Request for Comments: 7593                                 Cisco Systems
Category: Informational                                        S. Winter
ISSN: 2070-1721                                                  RESTENA
                                                           T. Wolniewicz
                                          Nicolaus Copernicus University
                                                          September 2015

              The eduroam Architecture for Network Roaming


   This document describes the architecture of the eduroam service for
   federated (wireless) network access in academia.  The combination of
   IEEE 802.1X, the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), and RADIUS
   that is used in eduroam provides a secure, scalable, and deployable
   service for roaming network access.  The successful deployment of
   eduroam over the last decade in the educational sector may serve as
   an example for other sectors, hence this document.  In particular,
   the initial architectural choices and selection of standards are
   described, along with the changes that were prompted by operational

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This is a contribution to the RFC Series, independently of any other
   RFC stream.  The RFC Editor has chosen to publish this document at
   its discretion and makes no statement about its value for
   implementation or deployment.  Documents approved for publication by
   the RFC Editor are not a candidate for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Page 2 
Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2015 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.1.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.2.  Notational Conventions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.3.  Design Goals  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.4.  Solutions That Were Considered  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   2.  Classic Architecture  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     2.1.  Authentication  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       2.1.1.  IEEE 802.1X . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       2.1.2.  EAP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     2.2.  Federation Trust Fabric . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
       2.2.1.  RADIUS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   3.  Issues with Initial Trust Fabric  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     3.1.  Server Failure Handling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     3.2.  No Signaling of Error Conditions  . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     3.3.  Routing Table Complexity  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     3.4.  UDP Issues  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     3.5.  Insufficient Payload Encryption and EAP Server Validation  16
   4.  New Trust Fabric  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
     4.1.  RADIUS with TLS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     4.2.  Dynamic Discovery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
       4.2.1.  Discovery of Responsible Server . . . . . . . . . . .  19
       4.2.2.  Verifying Server Authorization  . . . . . . . . . . .  20
       4.2.3.  Operational Experience  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
       4.2.4.  Possible Alternatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
   5.  Abuse Prevention and Incident Handling  . . . . . . . . . . .  22
     5.1.  Incident Handling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  22
       5.1.1.  Blocking Users on the SP Side . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
       5.1.2.  Blocking Users on the IdP Side  . . . . . . . . . . .  24
       5.1.3.  Communicating Account Blocking to the End User  . . .  25
     5.2.  Operator Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
     5.3.  Chargeable User Identity  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  27
   6.  Privacy Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
     6.1.  Collusion of Service Providers  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
     6.2.  Exposing User Credentials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28

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     6.3.  Track Location of Users . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
     7.1.  Man-in-the-Middle and Tunneling Attacks . . . . . . . . .  29
       7.1.1.  Verification of Server Name Not Supported . . . . . .  29
       7.1.2.  Neither Specification of CA nor Server Name Checks
               during Bootstrap  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
       7.1.3.  User Does Not Configure CA or Server Name Checks  . .  30
       7.1.4.  Tunneling Authentication Traffic to Obfuscate User
               Origin  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  30
     7.2.  Denial-of-Service Attacks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  31
       7.2.1.  Intentional DoS by Malign Individuals . . . . . . . .  31
       7.2.2.  DoS as a Side-Effect of Expired Credentials . . . . .  32
   8.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  33
     8.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  33
     8.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  34
   Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  36
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  37

1.  Introduction

   In 2002, the European Research and Education community set out to
   create a network roaming service for students and employees in
   academia [eduroam-start].  Now, over 10 years later, this service has
   grown to more than 10,000 service locations, serving millions of
   users on all continents with the exception of Antarctica.

   This memo serves to explain the considerations for the design of
   eduroam as well as to document operational experience and resulting
   changes that led to IETF specifications such as RADIUS over TCP
   [RFC6613] and RADIUS with TLS [RFC6614] and that promoted alternative
   uses of RADIUS like in Application Bridging for Federated Access
   Beyond web (ABFAB) [ABFAB-ARCH].  Whereas the eduroam service is
   limited to academia, the eduroam architecture can easily be reused in
   other environments.

   First, this memo describes the original architecture of eduroam
   [eduroam-homepage].  Then, a number of operational problems are
   presented that surfaced when eduroam gained wide-scale deployment.
   Lastly, enhancements to the eduroam architecture that mitigate the
   aforementioned issues are discussed.

1.1.  Terminology

   This document uses identity management and privacy terminology from
   [RFC6973].  In particular, this document uses the terms "Identity
   Provider", "Service Provider", and "identity management".

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1.2.  Notational Conventions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

   Note: Also, the policy to which eduroam participants subscribe
   expresses the requirements for participation in RFC 2119 language.

1.3.  Design Goals

   The guiding design considerations for eduroam were as follows:

   -  Unique identification of users at the edge of the network

      The access Service Provider (SP) needs to be able to determine
      whether a user is authorized to use the network resources.
      Furthermore, in case of abuse of the resources, there is a
      requirement to be able to identify the user uniquely (with the
      cooperation of the user's Identity Provider (IdP) operator).

   -  Enable (trusted) guest use

      In order to enable roaming, it should be possible for users of
      participating institutions to get seamless access to the networks
      of other institutions.

      Note: Traffic separation between guest users and normal users is
      possible (for example, through the use of VLANs), and indeed
      widely used in eduroam.

   -  Scalable

      The infrastructure that is created should scale to a large number
      of users and organizations without requiring a lot of coordination
      and other administrative procedures (possibly with the exception
      of an initial setup).  Specifically, it should not be necessary
      for a user that visits another organization to go through an
      administrative process.

   -  Easy to install and use

      It should be easy for both organizations and users to participate
      in the roaming infrastructure; otherwise, it may inhibit wide-
      scale adoption.  In particular, there should be no client
      installation (or it should be easy) and only one-time

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   -  Secure

      An important design criterion has been that there needs to be a
      security association between the end user and their Identity
      Provider, eliminating the possibility of credential theft.  The
      minimal requirements for security are specified in the eduroam
      policy and subject to change over time.  As an additional
      protection against user errors and negligence, it should be
      possible for participating Identity Providers to add their own
      requirements for the quality of authentication of their own users
      without the need for the infrastructure as a whole to implement
      the same requirements.

   -  Privacy preserving

      The design of the system should provide for user anonymization,
      i.e., a possibility to hide the user's identity from any third
      parties, including Service Providers.

   -  Standards based

      In an infrastructure in which many thousands of organizations
      participate, it is obvious that it should be possible to use
      equipment from different vendors; therefore, it is important to
      build the infrastructure using open standards.

1.4.  Solutions That Were Considered

   Three architectures were trialed: one based on the use of VPN
   technology (deemed secure but not scalable), one based on Web
   captive-portals (scalable but not secure), and one based on IEEE
   802.1X, the latter being the basis of what is now the eduroam
   architecture.  An overview of the candidate architectures and their
   relative merits can be found in [nrenroaming-select].

   The chosen architecture is based on:

   o  IEEE 802.1X [IEEE.802.1X] as the port-based authentication
      framework using

   o  EAP [RFC3748] for integrity-protected and confidential transport
      of credentials and

   o  a RADIUS [RFC2865] hierarchy as the trust fabric.

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2.  Classic Architecture

   Federations, like eduroam, implement essentially two types of direct
   trust relations (and one indirect).  The trust relation between an
   end user and the IdP (operated by the home organization of the user)
   and between the IdP and the SP (in eduroam, the operator of the
   network at the visited location).  In eduroam, the trust relation
   between the user and IdP is through mutual authentication.  IdPs and
   the SP establish trust through the use of a RADIUS hierarchy.

   These two forms of trust relations in turn provide the transitive
   trust relation that makes the SP trust the user to use its network

2.1.  Authentication

   Authentication in eduroam is achieved by using a combination of IEEE
   802.1X [IEEE.802.1X] and EAP [RFC4372] (the latter carried over
   RADIUS for guest access; see Section 2.2).

2.1.1.  IEEE 802.1X

   By using the IEEE 802.1X [IEEE.802.1X] framework for port-based
   network authentication, organizations that offer network access (SPs)
   for visiting (and local) eduroam users can make sure that only
   authorized users get access.  The user (or rather the user's
   supplicant) sends an access request to the authenticator (Wi-Fi
   Access Point or switch) at the SP, the authenticator forwards the
   access request to the authentication server of the SP, that in turn
   proxies the request through the RADIUS hierarchy to the
   authentication server of the user's home organization (the IdP).

   Note: The security of the connections between local wireless
   infrastructure and local RADIUS servers is a part of the local
   network of each SP; therefore, it is out of scope for this document.
   For completeness, it should be stated that security between access
   points and their controllers is vendor specific, and security between
   controllers (or standalone access points) and local RADIUS servers is
   based on the typical RADIUS shared secret mechanism.

   In order for users to be aware of the availability of the eduroam
   service, an SP that offers wireless network access MUST broadcast the
   Service Set Identifier (SSID) 'eduroam', unless that conflicts with
   the SSID of another eduroam SP, in which case, an SSID starting with
   "eduroam-" MAY be used.  The downside of the latter is that clients
   will not automatically connect to that SSID, thus losing the seamless
   connection experience.

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   Note: A direct implication of the common eduroam SSID is that the
   users cannot distinguish between a connection to the home network and
   a guest network at another eduroam institution (IEEE 802.11-2012 does
   have the so-called "Interworking" to make that distinction, but it is
   not widely implemented yet).  Furthermore, without proper server
   verification, users may even be tricked into joining a rogue eduroam
   network.  Therefore, users should be made aware that they should not
   assume data confidentiality in the eduroam infrastructure.

   To protect over-the-air confidentiality of user data, IEEE 802.11
   wireless networks of eduroam SPs MUST deploy WPA2+AES, and they MAY
   additionally support Wi-Fi Protected Access with the Temporal Key
   Integrity Protocol (WPA/TKIP) as a courtesy to users of legacy

2.1.2.  EAP

   The use of the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) [RFC4372]
   serves two purposes.  In the first place, a properly chosen EAP
   method allows for integrity-protected and confidential transport of
   the user credentials to the home organization.  Secondly, by having
   all RADIUS servers transparently proxy access requests, regardless of
   the EAP method inside the RADIUS packet, the choice of EAP method is
   between the 'home' organization of the user and the user.  In other
   words, in principle, every authentication form that can be carried
   inside EAP can be used in eduroam, as long as they adhere to minimal
   requirements as set forth in the eduroam Policy Service Definition

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                              /       \
                             /         \
                            /           \
                           /             \
          ,----------\    |               |   ,---------\
          |    SP    |    |    eduroam    |   |    IdP  |
          |          +----+  trust fabric +---+         |
          `------+---'    |               |   '-----+---'
                 |        |               |         |
                 |         \             /          |
                 |          \           /           |
                 |           \         /            |
                 |            \       /             |
            +----+             +-----+              +----+
            |                                            |
            |                                            |
        +---+--+                                      +--+---+
        |      |                                      |      |
      +-+------+-+    ___________________________     |      |
      |          |   O__________________________ )    +------+
      Host (supplicant)      EAP tunnel       Authentication server

                          Figure 1: Tunneled EAP

   Proxying of access requests is based on the outer identity in the
   EAP-Message.  Those outer identities MUST be a valid user identifier
   with a mandatory realm as per [RFC7542], i.e., be of the form
   something@realm or just @realm, where the realm part is the domain
   name of the institution that the IdP belongs to.  In order to
   preserve credential protection, participating organizations MUST
   deploy EAP methods that provide mutual authentication.  For EAP
   methods that support outer identity, anonymous outer identities are
   recommended.  Most commonly used in eduroam are the so-called
   tunneled EAP methods that first create a server-authenticated TLS
   [RFC5246] tunnel through which the user credentials are transmitted.
   As depicted in Figure 1, the use of a tunneled EAP method creates a
   direct logical connection between the supplicant and the
   authentication server, even though the actual traffic flows through
   the RADIUS hierarchy.

2.2.  Federation Trust Fabric

   The eduroam federation trust fabric is based on RADIUS.  RADIUS trust
   is based on shared secrets between RADIUS peers.  In eduroam, any
   RADIUS message originating from a trusted peer is implicitly assumed
   to originate from a member of the roaming consortium.

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   Note: See also the security considerations for a discussion on RADIUS
   security that motivated the work on RADIUS with TLS [RFC6614].

2.2.1.  RADIUS

   The eduroam trust fabric consists of a proxy hierarchy of RADIUS
   servers (organizational, national, global) that is loosely based on
   the DNS hierarchy.  That is, typically an organizational RADIUS
   server agrees on a shared secret with a national server, and the
   national server in turn agrees on a shared secret with the root
   server.  Access requests are routed through a chain of RADIUS proxies
   towards the Identity Provider of the user, and the access accept (or
   reject) follows the same path back.

   Note: In some circumstances, there are more levels of RADIUS servers
   (for example, regional or continental servers), but that doesn't
   change the general model.  Also, the packet exchange that is
   described below requires, in reality, several round-trips.

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                                  |       |
                                  |   .   |
                                  |       |
                                    / | \
                  +----------------/  |  \---------------------+
                  |                   |                        |
                  |                   |                        |
                  |                   |                        |
               +--+---+            +--+--+                +----+---+
               |      |            |     |                |        |
               | .edu |    . . .   | .nl |      . . .     | |
               |      |            |     |                |        |
               +--+---+            +--+--+                +----+---+
                / | \                 | \                      |
               /  |  \                |  \                     |
              /   |   \               |   \                    |
       +-----+    |    +-----+        |    +------+            |
       |          |          |        |           |            |
       |          |          |        |           |            |
   +---+---+ +----+---+ +----+---+ +--+---+ +-----+----+ +-----+-----+
   |       | |        | |        | |      | |          | |           |
   || || || || || ||
   |       | |        | |        | |      | |          | |           |
   +----+--+ +--------+ +--------+ +------+ +----+-----+ +-----------+
        |                                        |
        |                                        |
     +--+--+                                  +--+--+
     |     |                                  |     |
   +-+-----+-+                                |     |
   |         |                                +-----+
   user:    Authentication server

                    Figure 2: eduroam RADIUS Hierarchy

   Routing of access requests to the home IdP is done based on the realm
   part of the outer identity.  For example (as in Figure 2), when user of SURFnet ( tries to gain wireless
   network access at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (
   the following happens:

   o  Paul's supplicant transmits an EAP access request to the Access
      Point (Authenticator) at UTK with outer identity of

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   o  The Access Point forwards the EAP message to its Authentication
      Server (the UTK RADIUS server).

   o  The UTK RADIUS server checks the realm to see if it is a local
      realm; since it isn't, the request is proxied to the .edu RADIUS

   o  The .edu RADIUS server verifies the realm; since it is not in a
      .edu subdomain, it proxies the request to the root server.

   o  The root RADIUS server proxies the request to the .nl RADIUS
      server, since the ".nl" domain is known to the root server.

   o  The .nl RADIUS server proxies the request to the
      server, since it knows the SURFnet server.

   o  The RADIUS server decapsulates the EAP message and
      verifies the user credentials, since the user is known to SURFnet.

   o  The RADIUS server informs the server of the
      outcome of the authentication request (Access-Accept or Access-
      Reject) by proxying the outcome through the RADIUS hierarchy in
      reverse order.

   o  The UTK RADIUS server instructs the UTK Access Point to either
      accept or reject access based on the outcome of the

   Note: The depiction of the root RADIUS server is a simplification.
   In reality, the root server is distributed over three continents and
   each maintains a list of the top-level realms that a specific root
   server is responsible for.  This also means that, for
   intercontinental roaming, there is an extra proxy step from one root
   server to the other.  Also, the physical distribution of nodes
   doesn't need to mirror the logical distribution of nodes.  This helps
   with stability and scalability.

3.  Issues with Initial Trust Fabric

   While the hierarchical RADIUS architecture described in the previous
   section has served as the basis for eduroam operations for an entire
   decade, the exponential growth of authentications is expected to lead
   to, and has in fact in some cases already led to, performance and
   operations bottlenecks on the aggregation proxies.  The following
   sections describe some of the shortcomings and the resulting

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3.1.  Server Failure Handling

   In eduroam, authentication requests for roaming users are statically
   routed through preconfigured proxies.  The number of proxies varies:
   in a national roaming case, the number of proxies is typically 1 or 2
   (some countries deploy regional proxies, which are in turn aggregated
   by a national proxy); in international roaming, 3 or 4 proxy servers
   are typically involved (the number may be higher along some routes).

   RFC 2865 [RFC2865] does not define a failover algorithm.  In
   particular, the failure of a server needs to be deduced from the
   absence of a reply.  Operational experience has shown that this has
   detrimental effects on the infrastructure and end-user experience:

   1.  Authentication failure: the first user whose authentication path
       is along a newly failed server will experience a long delay and
       possibly timeout

   2.  Wrongly deduced states: since the proxy chain is longer than one
       hop, a failure further along in the authentication path is
       indistinguishable from a failure in the next hop.

   3.  Inability to determine recovery of a server: only a "live"
       authentication request sent to a server that is believed to be
       inoperable can lead to the discovery that the server is in
       working order again.  This issue has been resolved with RFC 5997

   The second point can have significant impact on the operational state
   of the system in a worst-case scenario: imagine one realm's home
   server being inoperable.  A user from that realm is trying to roam
   internationally and tries to authenticate.  The RADIUS server on the
   hotspot location may assume its own national proxy is down because it
   does not reply.  That national server, being perfectly alive, in turn
   will assume that the international aggregation proxy is down, which
   in turn will believe the home country proxy national server is down.
   None of these assumptions are true.  Worse yet: in case of failover
   to a back-up next-hop RADIUS server, also that server will be marked
   as being defunct, since through that server no reply will be received
   from the defunct home server either.  Within a short time, all
   redundant aggregation proxies might be considered defunct by their
   preceding hop.

   In the absence of proper next-hop state derivation, some interesting
   concepts have been introduced by eduroam participants -- the most
   noteworthy being a failover logic that considers up/down states not
   per next-hop RADIUS peer, but instead per realm (See [dead-realm] for
   details).  Recently, implementations of RFC 5997 [RFC5997] and

Top      ToC       Page 13 
   cautious failover parameters make false "downs" unlikely to happen,
   as long as every hop implements RFC 5997.  In that case, dead realm
   detection serves mainly to prevent proxying of large numbers of
   requests to known dead realms.

3.2.  No Signaling of Error Conditions

   The RADIUS protocol lacks signaling of error conditions, and the IEEE
   802.1X standard does not allow conveying of extended failure reasons
   to the end user's device.  For eduroam, this creates two issues:

   o  The home server may have an operational problem, for example, its
      authentication decisions may depend on an external data source
      such as a SQL server or Microsoft's Active Directory, and the
      external data source is unavailable.  If the RADIUS interface is
      still functional, there are two options for how to reply to an
      Access-Request that can't be serviced due to such error

      1.  Do Not Reply: The inability to reach a conclusion can be
          handled by not replying to the request.  The upside of this
          approach is that the end user's software doesn't come to wrong
          conclusions and won't give unhelpful hints such as "maybe your
          password is wrong".  The downside is that intermediate proxies
          may come to wrong conclusions because their downstream RADIUS
          server isn't responding.

      2.  Reply with Reject: In this option, the inability to reach a
          conclusion is treated like an authentication failure.  The
          upside of this approach is that intermediate proxies maintain
          a correct view on the reachability state of their RADIUS peer.
          The downside is that EAP supplicants on end-user devices often
          react with either false advice ("your password is wrong") or
          even trigger permanent configuration changes (e.g., the
          Windows built-in supplicant will delete the credential set
          from its registry, prompting the user for their password on
          the next connection attempt).  The latter case of Windows is a
          source of significant help-desk activity; users may have
          forgotten their password after initially storing it but are
          suddenly prompted again.

   There have been epic discussions in the eduroam community as well as
   in the IETF RADEXT Working Group as to which of the two approaches is
   more appropriate, but they were not conclusive.

   Similar considerations apply when an intermediate proxy does not
   receive a reply from a downstream RADIUS server.  The proxy may
   either choose not to reply to the original request, leading to

Top      ToC       Page 14 
   retries and its upstream peers coming to wrong conclusions about its
   own availability; or, it may decide to reply with Access-Reject to
   indicate its own liveliness, but again with implications for the end

   The ability to send Status-Server watchdog requests is only of use
   after the fact, in case a downstream server doesn't reply (or hasn't
   been contacted in a long while, so that its previous working state is
   stale).  The active link-state monitoring of the TCP connection with,
   e.g., RADIUS/TLS (see Section 4.1), gives a clearer indication
   whether there is an alive RADIUS peer, but it does not solve the
   defunct back-end problem.  An explicit ability to send Error-Replies,
   on the RADIUS level (for other RADIUS peer information) and EAP level
   (for end-user supplicant information), would alleviate these problems
   but is currently not available.

3.3.  Routing Table Complexity

   The aggregation of RADIUS requests based on the structure of the
   user's realm implies that realms ending with the same top-level
   domain are routed to the same server, i.e., to a common
   administrative domain.  While this is true for country code Top-Level
   Domains (ccTLDs), which map into national eduroam federations, it is
   not true for realms residing in generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs).
   Realms in gTLDs were historically discouraged because the automatic
   mapping "realm ending" -> "eduroam federation's server" could not be
   applied.  However, with growing demand from eduroam realm
   administrators, it became necessary to create exception entries in
   the forwarding rules; such realms need to be mapped on a realm-by-
   realm basis to their eduroam federations.  Example: ""
   (Karlsruher Institut fuer Technologie) needs to be routed to the
   German federation server, whereas "" (Indiana University) needs
   to be routed to the USA federation server.

   While the ccTLDs occupy only approximately 50 routing entries in
   total (and have an upper bound of approximately 200), the potential
   size of the routing table becomes virtually unlimited if it needs to
   accommodate all individual entries in .edu, .org, etc.

   In addition to that, all these routes need to be synchronized between
   three international root servers, and the updates need to be applied
   manually to RADIUS server configuration files.  The frequency of the
   required updates makes this approach fragile and error-prone as the
   number of entries grows.

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3.4.  UDP Issues

   RADIUS is based on UDP, which was a reasonable choice when its main
   use was with simple Password Authentication Protocol (PAP) requests
   that required only exactly one packet exchange in each direction.

   When transporting EAP over RADIUS, the EAP conversations require
   multiple round-trips; depending on the total payload size, 8-10
   round-trips are not uncommon.  The loss of a single UDP packet will
   lead to user-visible delays and might result in servers being marked
   as dead due to the absence of a reply.  The proxy path in eduroam
   consists of several proxies, all of which introduce a very small
   packet loss probability; that is, the more proxies needed, the higher
   the failure rate is going to be.

   For some EAP types, depending on the exact payload size they carry,
   RADIUS servers and/or supplicants may choose to put as much EAP data
   into a single RADIUS packet as the supplicant's Layer 2 medium allows
   -- typically 1500 bytes.  In that case, the RADIUS encapsulation
   around the EAP-Message will add more bytes to the overall RADIUS
   payload size and in the end exceed the 1500-byte limit, leading to
   fragmentation of the UDP datagram on the IP layer.  While in theory
   this is not a problem, in practice there is evidence of misbehaving
   firewalls that erroneously discard non-first UDP fragments; this
   ultimately leads to a denial of service for users with such EAP types
   and that specific configuration.

   One EAP type proved to be particularly problematic: EAP-TLS.  While
   it is possible to configure the EAP server to send smaller chunks of
   EAP payload to the supplicant (e.g., 1200 bytes, to allow for another
   300 bytes of RADIUS overhead without fragmentation), very often the
   supplicants that send the client certificate do not expose such a
   configuration detail to the user.  Consequently, when the client
   certificate is over 1500 bytes in size, the EAP-Message will always
   make use of the maximum possible Layer 2 chunk size, and this
   introduces fragmentation on the path from EAP peer to EAP server.

   Both of the previously mentioned sources of errors (packet loss and
   fragment discard) lead to significant frustration for the affected
   users.  Operational experience of eduroam shows that such cases are
   hard to debug since they require coordinated cooperation of all
   eduroam administrators on the authentication path.  For that reason,
   the eduroam community is developing monitoring tools that help to
   locate fragmentation problems.

   Note: For more detailed discussion of these issues, please refer to
   Section 1.1 of [RFC6613].

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3.5.  Insufficient Payload Encryption and EAP Server Validation

   The RADIUS protocol's design foresaw only the encryption of select
   RADIUS attributes, most notably User-Password.  With EAP methods
   conforming to the requirements of [RFC4017], the user's credential is
   not transmitted using the User-Password attribute, and stronger
   encryption than the one for RADIUS User-Password is in use (typically

   Still, the use of EAP does not encrypt all personally identifiable
   details of the user session, as some are carried inside cleartext
   RADIUS attributes.  In particular, the user's device can be
   identified by inspecting the Calling-Station-ID attribute; and the
   user's location may be derived from observing NAS-IP-Address, NAS-
   Identifier, or Operator-Name attributes.  Since these attributes are
   not encrypted, even IP-layer third parties can harvest the
   corresponding data.  In a worst-case scenario, this enables the
   creation of mobility profiles.  Pervasive passive surveillance using
   this connection metadata such as the recently uncovered incidents in
   the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government
   Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) becomes possible by tapping RADIUS
   traffic from an IP hop near a RADIUS aggregation proxy.  While this
   is possible, the authors are not aware whether this has actually been

   These profiles are not necessarily linkable to an actual user because
   EAP allows for the use of anonymous outer identities and protected
   credential exchanges.  However, practical experience has shown that
   many users neglect to configure their supplicants in a privacy-
   preserving way or their supplicants don't support that.  In
   particular, for EAP-TLS users, the use of EAP-TLS identity protection
   is not usually implemented and cannot be used.  In eduroam, concerned
   individuals and IdPs that use EAP-TLS are using pseudonymous client
   certificates to provide for better privacy.

   One way out, at least for EAP types involving a username, is to
   pursue the creation and deployment of preconfigured supplicant
   configurations that make all the required settings in user devices
   prior to their first connection attempt; this depends heavily on the
   remote configuration possibilities of the supplicants though.

   A further threat involves the verification of the EAP server's
   identity.  Even though the cryptographic foundation, TLS tunnels, is
   sound, there is a weakness in the supplicant configuration: many
   users do not understand or are not willing to invest time into the
   inspection of server certificates or the installation of a trusted
   certification authority (CA).  As a result, users may easily be

Top      ToC       Page 17 
   tricked into connecting to an unauthorized EAP server, ultimately
   leading to a leak of their credentials to that unauthorized third

   Again, one way out of this particular threat is to pursue the
   creation and deployment of preconfigured supplicant configurations
   that make all the required settings in user devices prior to their
   first connection attempt.

   Note: There are many different and vendor-proprietary ways to
   preconfigure a device with the necessary EAP parameters (examples
   include Apple, Inc.'s "mobileconfig" and Microsoft's "EAPHost" XML
   schema).  Some manufacturers even completely lack any means to
   distribute EAP configuration data.  We believe there is value in
   defining a common EAP configuration metadata format that could be
   used across manufacturers, ideally leading to a situation where IEEE
   802.1X network end users merely need to apply this configuration file
   to configure any of their devices securely with the required
   connection properties.

   Another possible privacy threat involves transport of user-specific
   attributes in a Reply-Message.  If, for example, a RADIUS server
   sends back a hypothetical RADIUS Vendor-Specific-Attribute "User-Role
   = Student of Computer Science" (e.g., for consumption of an SP RADIUS
   server and subsequent assignment into a "student" VLAN), this
   information would also be visible for third parties and could be
   added to the mobility profile.

   The only way to mitigate all information leakage to third parties is
   by protecting the entire RADIUS packet payload so that IP-layer third
   parties cannot extract privacy-relevant information.  RADIUS as
   specified in RFC 2865 does not offer this possibility though.  This
   motivated [RFC6614]; see Section 4.1.

4.  New Trust Fabric

   The operational difficulties with an ever-increasing number of
   participants (as documented in the previous section) have led to a
   number of changes to the eduroam architecture that in turn have led
   to IETF specifications (as mentioned in the introduction).

   Note: The enhanced architecture components are fully backwards
   compatible with the existing installed base and are, in fact,
   gradually replacing those parts of it where problems may arise.

   Whereas the user authentication using IEEE 802.1X and EAP has
   remained unchanged (i.e., no need for end users to change any
   configurations), the issues as reported in Section 3 have resulted in

Top      ToC       Page 18 
   a major overhaul of the way EAP messages are transported from the
   RADIUS server of the SP to that of the IdP and back.  The two
   fundamental changes are the use of TCP instead of UDP and reliance on
   TLS instead of shared secrets between RADIUS peers, as outlined in

4.1.  RADIUS with TLS

   The deficiencies of RADIUS over UDP as described in Section 3.4
   warranted a search for a replacement of RFC 2865 [RFC2865] for the
   transport of EAP.  By the time this need was understood, the
   designated successor protocol to RADIUS, Diameter, was already
   specified by the IETF in its intial version [RFC3588].  However,
   within the operational constraints of eduroam (listed below), no
   single combination of software could be found (and that is believed
   to still be true, more than ten years and one revision of Diameter
   [RFC6733] later).  The constraints are:

   o  reasonably cheap to deploy on many administrative domains

   o  supporting the application of Network Access Server Requirements

   o  supporting EAP application

   o  supporting Diameter Redirect

   o  supporting validation of authentication requests of the most
      popular EAP types (EAP Tunneled Transport Layer Security
      (EAP-TTLS), Protected EAP (PEAP), and EAP-TLS)

   o  possibility to retrieve these credentials from popular back-ends
      such as MySQL or Microsoft's Active Directory.

   In addition, no Wi-Fi Access Points at the disposal of eduroam
   participants supported Diameter, nor did any of the manufacturers
   have a roadmap towards Diameter support (and that is believed to
   still be true, more than 10 years later).  This led to the open
   question of lossless translation from RADIUS to Diameter and vice
   versa -- a question not satisfactorily answered by NASREQ.

   After monitoring the Diameter implementation landscape for a while,
   it became clear that a solution with better compatibility and a
   plausible upgrade path from the existing RADIUS hierarchy was needed.
   The eduroam community actively engaged in the IETF towards the
   specification of several enhancements to RADIUS to overcome the
   limitations mentioned in Section 3.  The outcome of this process was
   [RFC6614] and [DYN-DISC].

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   With its use of TCP instead of UDP, and with its full packet
   encryption, while maintaining full packet format compatibility with
   RADIUS/UDP, RADIUS/TLS [RFC6614] allows any given RADIUS link in
   eduroam to be upgraded without the need of a "flag day".

   In a first upgrade phase, the classic eduroam hierarchy (forwarding
   decision made by inspecting the realm) remains intact.  That way,
   RADIUS/TLS merely enhances the underlying transport of the RADIUS
   datagrams.  But, this already provides some key advantages:

   o  explicit peer reachability detection using long-lived TCP sessions

   o  protection of user credentials and all privacy-relevant RADIUS

   RADIUS/TLS connections for the static hierarchy could be realized
   with the TLS-PSK [RFC4279] operation mode (which effectively provides
   a 1:1 replacement for RADIUS/UDP's "shared secrets"), but since this
   operation mode is not widely supported as of yet, all RADIUS/TLS
   links in eduroam are secured by TLS with X.509 certificates from a
   set of accredited CAs.

   This first deployment phase does not yet solve the routing table
   complexity problem (see Section 3.3); this aspect is covered by
   introducing dynamic discovery for RADIUS/TLS servers.

4.2.  Dynamic Discovery

   When introducing peer discovery, two separate issues had to be

   1.  how to find the network address of a responsible RADIUS server
       for a given realm

   2.  how to verify that this realm is an authorized eduroam

4.2.1.  Discovery of Responsible Server

   Issue 1 can relatively simply be addressed by putting eduroam-
   specific service discovery information into the global DNS tree.  In
   eduroam, this is done by using NAPTR records as per the S-NAPTR
   specification [RFC3958] with a private-use NAPTR service tag
   ("x-eduroam:radius.tls").  The usage profile of that NAPTR resource
   record is that exclusively "S" type delegations are allowed and that
   no regular expressions are allowed.

Top      ToC       Page 20 
   A subsequent lookup of the resulting SRV records will eventually
   yield hostnames and IP addresses of the authoritative server(s) of a
   given realm.

   Example (wrapped for readability):

   > dig -t naptr education.example.

   education.example.            43200   IN      NAPTR   100 10 "s"
                                     "x-eduroam:radius.tls" ""

   > dig -t srv _radsec._tcp.eduroam.example.

   _radsec._tcp.eduroam.example. 43200  IN      SRV     0 0 2083

   > dig -t aaaa tld1.eduroam.example.

   tld1.eduroam.example.         21751  IN      AAAA    2001:db8:1::2

                        Figure 3: SRV Record Lookup

   From the operational experience with this mode of operation, eduroam
   is pursuing standardization of this approach for generic AAA use
   cases.  The current RADEXT working group document for this is

   Note: It is worth mentioning that this move to a more complex,
   flexible system may make the system as a whole more fragile, as
   compared to the static set up.

4.2.2.  Verifying Server Authorization

   Any organization can put "x-eduroam" NAPTR entries into their Domain
   Name Server, pretending to be the eduroam Identity Provider for the
   corresponding realm.  Since eduroam is a service for a heterogeneous,
   but closed, user group, additional sources of information need to be
   consulted to verify that a realm with its discovered server is
   actually an eduroam participant.

   The eduroam consortium has chosen to deploy a separate PKI that
   issues certificates only to authorized eduroam Identity Providers and
   eduroam Service Providers.  Since certificates are needed for RADIUS/

Top      ToC       Page 21 
   TLS anyway, it was a straightforward solution to reuse the PKI for
   that.  The PKI fabric allows multiple CAs as trust roots (overseen by
   a Policy Management Authority) and requires that certificates that
   were issued to verified eduroam participants are marked with
   corresponding "X509v3 Policy OID" fields; eduroam RADIUS servers and
   clients need to verify the existence of these OIDs in the incoming

   The policies and OIDs can be retrieved from the "eduPKI Trust Profile
   for eduroam Certificates" [eduPKI].

4.2.3.  Operational Experience

   The discovery model is currently deployed in approximately 10
   countries that participate in eduroam, making more than 100 realms
   discoverable via their NAPTR records.  Experience has shown that the
   model works and scales as expected, the only drawback being that the
   additional burden of operating a PKI that is not local to the
   national eduroam administrators creates significant administrative
   complexities.  Also, the presence of multiple CAs and regular updates
   of Certificate Revocation Lists makes the operation of RADIUS servers
   more complex.

4.2.4.  Possible Alternatives

   There are two alternatives to this approach to dynamic server
   discovery that are monitored by the eduroam community:

   1.  DNSSEC + DNS-Based Authentication of Named Entities (DANE) TLSA

   2.  ABFAB Trust Router

   For DNSSEC+DANE TLSA, the biggest advantage is that the certificate
   data itself can be stored in the DNS -- possibly obsoleting the PKI
   infrastructure *if* a new place for the server authorization checks
   can be found.  Its most significant downside is that the DANE
   specifications only include client-to-server certificate checks,
   while RADIUS/TLS requires also server-to-client verification.

   For the ABFAB Trust Router, the biggest advantage is that it would
   work without certificates altogether (by negotiating TLS-PSK keys ad
   hoc).  The downside is that it is currently not formally specified
   and not as thoroughly understood as any of the other solutions.

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