Deploying the Infrastructure

A significant amount of infrastructure is required to support WPA when you are not using preshared keys. The effort required to set up the infrastructure is, unfortunately, nontrivial. However, it is only a one-time cost, and setting it up properly will save you time in the long run.

As with everything in security, the devil is in the details, and setting up your infrastructure is no exception. Because vendor products change, it is difficult to provide a step-by-step cookbook for you. So instead, we describe in general what you must do and provide pointers to more detailed guidance, usually on the Web.

Add a RADIUS Server for IEEE 802.1X Support

The central arbiter for all access and authentication decisions in WPA is the organization's RADIUS server. It's likely that this is exactly how your Internet service provider (ISP) makes access decisions when you dial up the service. You can obtain a RADIUS server in many ways. For example, the software package Microsoft Windows 2000 Server includes a RADIUS server, and several vendors sell RADIUS servers for various operating systems. There is also an open source RADIUS server available known as FreeRADIUS, which we describe later in this chapter.

Managing a RADIUS server is an extremely important task because the server makes all of the security-relevant decisions. As a result, improper configuration can lead to breaches in your security. Fortunately, an excellent text has been recently written that describes how to install and configure FreeRADIUS (Hassell, 2003).

Use a Public Key Infrastructure for Client Certificates

To use WPA to its fullest, you need to use EAP/TLS as an authentication mechanism, and this requires using public key certificates based on the X.509 standard. Issuing and managing these certificates requires that a public key infrastructure (PKI) be established within your organization, if it hasn't been already.

Setting up a PKI has been the subject of several books, and we can't cover all of the nuances involved. We will, however, show how to use an open source cryptographic package to make certificates suitable for testing purposes or for use at home or in very small offices later in this chapter.

Install Client IEEE 802.1X Supplicant Software

To gain the full benefit of WPA, you need to upgrade your clients to use the IEEE 802.1X protocol for authentication and access control. At the time of this writing Microsoft Windows XP is the only operating system to include the client portion, the supplicant, as part of the operating system. However, your vendor will probably provide software to support older versions of Windows and the Apple Macintosh. For UNIX, you can use supplicant software developed at the University of Maryland and released under both the GPL and BSD style licenses. The software is located at and runs under FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Linux.

To install the software, you have to review the documentation for the clients you use, and you have to generate and add public key certificates to each client. This is mandatory to support the EAP/TLS protocol.

    Part II: The Design of Wi-Fi Security