Authentication is obviously a major part of any security system on a network, or a computer, and so there's a number of things that have developed over the years, a number of technologies and protocols that have to do with authentication. And we're all trying to get to the same place, and that is find some rock solid way of making sure that we know who is on our systems and that we're protecting the data that's being authenticated as well as making the authentication take place. Now there's three types of authentication that we're using currently. The first one is the standard give me a username and a password and I'll check it against a database. The next one is a Smart Card. A Smart Card is where we have a number of different devices. Some of them generate numbers that we have to put in at a certain time, some of them generate information. We have to put in that information and then a PIN that we have, some of these we have to insert into the machine, and then of course, there's biometrics. It can read fingerprints, retinas, facial recognition, hand prints, all kinds of things. Well, there's four authentication Protocols that are predominant on the Network+ exam that you need to be aware of and I'm going to give you some basics on these. And again, I think I'm giving you enough here to be able to choose the correct answers, but I would strongly recommend, for the real world, that you go out and read each one on these, just read up on them, and kind of deepen and widen your knowledge on them. The first one is EAP, the next one is CHAP, then MS-CHAP, and then Kerberos. Now let's talk about each one of these, and give you just a little information on them. First of all EAP is the Extensible Authentication Protocol. Now this is actually a Protocol that is a framework standard for building authentication systems. It allows you to create your own plugin modules and use them for current and even future solutions, and the idea was that authentication and encryption, and so forth, is going to continue to need to change going forward. And so EAP promised that it would allow us to extend our functionalities as the world changed around us and as technology changed. As it turns out, this was used quite a bit in the early Windows networks for things like dial up connections, virtual private networking, and site-to-site connections. The next one you need to be aware of is something called CHAP, and this is the Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol. This was really hot stuff. This was really a big deal back in the 2000's, early 2000's, late 90's, around in there. And this was a challenge response type Authentication Protocol. Again, notice we're talking about a Protocol here. And in this one the password is never actually sent over the network. What happens is a one-way hash of the password is created and it is sent over the network. And so on the server side, it has the password, it does a one-way hash of the password that it has, and it compares the two hashes. If the hashes are identical then obviously the password the user entered is the same one we had on file on the server. And so that's a really cool way of storing these things. Now MS-CHAP is the Microsoft Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol, and this again, is an extension of CHAP. It was a Challenge Response Authentication Protocol, the password again, never sent over the network. It provided an authenticator-controlled password change functionality that was different from CHAP and that extended the useability of it. It also provided for an authenticator-controlled retry mechanism. And so this just kind of extended some of the functionality and it got a lot of attention, but as you can see, MS-CHAP's not really used that much anymore, rarely, and MS-CHAP2 is the current version that gets the attention. Now Kerberos is one that I need to mention because you will see this on the exam. Kerberos is the default authentication method for all of Microsofts Windows systems since Windows 2000, OK? And we're talking about on the server side, so when we're talking about their Active Directory implementations, all of the authentication works on the Kerberos, I think it's version 5 Protocol. Now this provides not only authentication of the user logging in, but it provides mutual authentication even of the machines involved. The servers and the clients verify each other's identity to make sure that we know who everybody is on the network. Now here's the thing you really need to remember about Kerberos. Kerberos issues tickets. They call them tickets, they're really kind of like little signatures, but these are, it's called a ticket granting system, and what happens when you authenticate into Kerberos, it grants you a ticket and this ticket has a specified lifetime, kind of like a TTL on a packet on a network. But this ticket grants you access to the server, to the system, for a specified period of time, and then you'll have to get a new ticket. Now this prevents you from getting logged on and just staying logged on, or from coming back and reusing something that you hacked. And so again, any time you see ticket granting, or a ticket-based system, if you get any of those questions on the exam, they're talking about Kerberos, OK? So that's some of the basics on authentication, but I really can't stress enough that you need to look over these, familiarize yourself with them. They tend, on these questions on the exam, to ask you little things about various predominant aspects about these Authentication Protocols, and you just need to be able to pick them out based on the descriptions of the functionalities of these Protocols.
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