Understanding EAP Authentication: A Deep Dive Into Protocols

Understanding EAP Authentication: A Deep Dive Into Protocols

EAP has been around for quite some time, but not everyone understands its process. It goes beyond knowing what it means. If you want to employ a successful EAP, you should know what method to use for your operations.

An Extensible Authentication Protocol method is based on users’ requirements. It is what defines the entire framework and helps transmit data between a client and an authenticated server.

EAP works for numerous network equipment and operating systems. It has many protocols for establishing a secure operation on the internet.

The inability to employ a protocol leads to vulnerabilities. This guide explains how each method can help popular enterprises improve their security.

Speaking of EAP methods, what are the most common protocols?

A Comprehensive Guide To EAP Protocols

There are over 40 EAP protocols, with each having a unique feature for authenticating a user before providing access to the internet. These methods help encrypt a device so that only users permitted can access the network without congestion.

While there are numerous protocols, the most effective ones are used by the most popular companies we see today. These methods include:


EAP Transport Layer Security uses a certificate-based feature. It is supported in almost all network devices and operating systems. It is a crucial factor in IEEE 802.2 (Ethernet), 802.11 (WiFi), and 802.1Ae (MACsec). It is also compatible with networks using 802.1x.

EAP-TLS has an underlying version (1.2), which requires much hardening to remain secure. Unfortunately, this update supports a weak algorithm, and revocation is optional. Identity protection is both slow and prone to bidding attacks.

The latest version (1.3) is a major update designed to fix these shortcomings and improve performance. This update is now being implemented in several operating systems and network equipment. In the run, it is expected to replace the old version.

EAP-TLS is a fundamental method that led to other developing methods like EAP-TTLS, LEAP, and PEAP. IETF is working on infiltrating other TLS methods to the 1.3 version.

Lightweight EAP

LEAP is a protocol designed by Cisco Systems. It allows for re-authenticating upon successful authentication and has features like the dynamic WEP key and mutual authentication. LEAP works between a client and a RADIUS server. It involves a process whereby the client acquires a new WEP key upon successful authentication, with the hope that the WEP key is sustainable for a while before getting cracked.

LEAP may also be configured to use TKIP instead of a dynamic WEP key. The Cisco Compatible Extensions allows several third-party vendors to use this protocol.

Protected EAP

PEAP is a more secure protocol established to safeguard wireless networks. It is extended by merging an EAP with the Transport Layer Security tunnel and is designed to authenticate 802.11 WLAN. So far, PEAP has been effective for client-server parameter exchanges. It addresses the flaws of an EAP by merging the session with a TLS channel.

With PEAP, it is possible to achieve what could not be realized by an EAP alone. Its features include notifications, acknowledgments, and result exchanges.

An In-Depth Analysis Of EAP

EAP has a flexible framework and has extended to vendor-specific methods. It is a necessary feature for connecting to the internet and other networks.

To understand how it works, it is essential to know the components surrounding its mechanism.

The user’s device with a secure tunnel is essential for accessing the benefits of an EAP. The type of device used impacts the process of connectivity and determines the method used.  While EAP can work for smartphones and PCs, it is more common in computers.

An AP transmits data between the authenticated server and a user’s device. It acts as an intermediary, which sends and receives requests between both parties.

The server is a significant component of an EAP. It is more like a fundamental block for building a connection between a device and the internet. A server authenticates a user before access to the internet is granted.

These three components help to understand the framework of an EAP. It gives a clear idea about which method to use.


EAP has an extensive framework. The IETF has been able to re-establish other protocols based on client-server requirements. It’d be difficult to provide maximum security between a computer and the Internet. Some of these infrastructures might be too difficult or expensive for some companies. However, they are a great option.

IETF has started discussing improving and regulating simpler and more secure certificate management for EAP peers. EAP will likely excel in the future. It is the dominating authentication framework in IEEE technologies. As 5G is fast developing, there’s a solid interest in employing EAP as a unifying authentication framework for IoT. That said, the importance of this infrastructure is likely to increase.

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