802.1X Security Embraces Legacy Windows OS

By Matthew Peretz

February 15, 2002

802.1X authentication protocols can now be used in older Windows OSs, including 98/Me.

Meetinghouse Data Communications Thursday announced the immediate commercial availability of its 802.1X authentication software for MS Win 98/98SE/ME operating systems. The 802.1X standard is an IEEE -ratified authentication protocol designed to be used in conjunction with wireless and wired LANs to authenticate users at log-in and enables dynamic key encryption of network traffic during network sessions.

IEEE 802.1X is a highly regarded authentication protocol but up until now it could not be used in legacy Windows operating systems. While it is supported in Windows XP, most enterprises consider upgrading to the new OS cost prohibitive at this time, and therefore cannot avail themselves of the 802.1X protocol capabilities.

The Meetinghouse solution enables system administrators to use the 802.1X protocol with existing Win NT, 2000, 98, and Me operating systems and several Linux flavors as well.

In actual use, the 802.1X authentication software can be summarized as follows. When a user (client side software), known as a supplicant, requests permission to access an access point (AP, a.k.a. an authenticator here), the authenticator forces the supplicant into an unauthorized state. From this unauthorized state, the supplicant can only send an EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) start message to the authenticator. Next, the authenticator requests an ID from the user, and then forwards that to an authentication server, which then sends an accept/reject message back to the AP. If accepted, the authenticator changes the supplicant's state to authorized, enabling access to the network.

Meetinghouse stated that the authenticator software was developed in a joint R&D effort with Hewlett-Packard Company. The company reported that Win 98/98SE/Me versions of the 802.1X supplicant software package are immediately available from the Meetinghouse Web site. Individual licenses are priced at $39.99 per copy with multiple seat and volume discounts available. The 802.1X Authenticator package is also available now, the company said.



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