TACACS

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Terminal Access Controller Access-Control System (TACACS, usually pronounced like tack-axe) refers to a family of related protocols handling remote authentication and related services for networked access control through a centralized server. The original TACACS protocol, which dates back to 1984, was utilized for communicating with an authentication server commonly used in older UNIX networks and spawned related protocols:

History[edit]

TACACS was originally developed in 1984 by BBN Technologies for administering MILNET, which ran unclassified network traffic for DARPA at the time and would later evolve into the U.S. Department of Defense's NIPRNet.

Description[edit]

TACACS is defined in RFC 1492, and uses (either TCP or UDP) port 49 by default. TACACS allows a client to accept a username and password and send a query to a TACACS authentication server, sometimes called a TACACS daemon or simply TACACSD. TACACSD uses TCP and usually runs on port 49. It would determine whether to accept or deny the authentication request and send a response back. The TIP (routing node accepting dial-up line connections, which the user would normally want to log in into) would then allow access or not, based upon the response. In this way, the process of making the decision is "opened up" and the algorithms and data used to make the decision are under the complete control of whomever is running the TACACS daemon.

A later version of TACACS introduced by Cisco in 1990 was called Extended TACACS (XTACACS). The XTACACS protocol was developed by and is proprietary to Cisco Systems.

TACACS+ and RADIUS have generally replaced TACACS and XTACACS in more recently built or updated networks. TACACS+ is an entirely new protocol and is not compatible with TACACS or XTACACS. TACACS+ uses the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and RADIUS uses the User Datagram Protocol (UDP). Since TCP is connection oriented protocol, TACACS+ does not have to implement transmission control. RADIUS, however, does have to detect and correct transmission errors like packet loss, timeout etc. since it rides on UDP which is connectionless.

RADIUS encrypts only the users' password as it travels from the RADIUS client to RADIUS server. All other information such as the username, authorization, accounting are transmitted in clear text. Therefore it is vulnerable to different types of attacks. TACACS+ encrypts all the information mentioned above and therefore does not have the vulnerabilities present in the RADIUS protocol.

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