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Configure 802.1X authentication on wired networks with Windows 10

What is the 802.1X authentication protocol

The 802.1X authentication protocol is present in many routers and allows the device authentication connected to a port. This prevents a computer from connecting without proper authentication. What it does is establish a point-to-point connection.

It is also known as extensible or extensible authentication protocol (EAP). It is mainly used in environments where there are many connected computers, such as a company. It is a reality that we have more and more devices that connect through wireless networks and it is essential to maintain security and not have any type of problem.

Undoubtedly the 802.1X authentication protocol is very interesting in wireless networks. Wi-Fi can present problems on certain occasions when it comes to security, since if unwanted equipment is connected, they could have access to all the others.

To authenticate what it does is open a virtual port on the access point and this port will allow communication. If it is not authorized, that virtual port would not be available and therefore communications would be blocked.

We can say that for authentication to take place, there must be three components: requester, authenticator, and authentication service. The first would be the client, the software that is used on the computer. The second would be the Wi-Fi access point we are trying to connect to. Finally, there would be the authentication service, which is a database, which is usually a RADIUS server.

Steps to enable the 802.1X authentication protocol in Windows

We can activate this protocol in Windows 10. It must be taken into account that it is the operating system most used by desktop computer users. Therefore, it can be very useful both for individuals and also in companies and organizations where many devices have to be connected.

The first thing we have to do in Windows is go to Start, we look for Services and, once there, we go to the section Automatic configuration of wired networks. We have to click with the right mouse button and we click Properties.

We will see that by default the Startup type is marked as manual. What we have to do is put it on automatic. Later we give to Apply and we accept.

802.1X authentication

Once this is done, the next step is to go to Start again, we enter Settings, Network and Internet and there we click on Change adapter options. We have to select the adapter that interests us, which would be the network card where we want to activate the 802.1X authentication protocol. You have to click with the second mouse button.

Microsoft AEP protected

Three options will appear, as we see in the image above, and you have to click on Authentication, which is the one that interests us in this case. We have to choose the network authentication method. They will show us different options, as we can see. The one that interests us is Microsoft: Protected EAP (PEAP).

Once we are at this point, we have to go to Settings again, Network and Internet, we are going to Change adapter options and double-click on the network that interests us. A new window will open and we click Properties and in the Security tab, within the network authentication method, we select Microsoft: Protected EAP (PEAP) and click the Settings button that appears next to it.

This will take us to the next screen that we can see in the image below. There you have to check that the authentication method checked is correct and the boxes that appear in our image are checked.

After this we click OK and a dialog box like the one we can see will appear. Again we accept. You do not have to check that box that appears.

After this step you have to go back to the Properties screen, we click Advanced configuration and it takes us to the image that we see below. You must check the Authentication option for users or computers.

Benefits of activating this protocol

The main benefit is undoubtedly the safety. We have more and more devices connected to the network. Especially when we talk about a large company or organization, we have many computers, printers and other equipment that can be connected through Wi-Fi.

By activating the 802.1X authentication protocol we will be gaining in security and reliability. If, for example, we are talking about a public Wi-Fi to which many users connect daily, it is essential that they use mechanisms that help maintain security at all times.

For example, it is beneficial for companies that share that network with customers. Take for example a restaurant, in which there will be equipment that corresponds to that company, such as computers, the POS, some IoT device, etc. But clients can also connect to that same network. It is important keep safe and it would not be very practical to have to constantly change the password.

By activating this protocol we can solve those port security problems. We are going to require that the user be authenticated, no matter what type of device they are using. In this way, customers will be able to use the network together with the company’s own equipment, without compromising security at any time.

In short, the 802.1X authentication protocol is a very interesting option that we have in order to improve network security. It is especially interesting for places where many devices are to be connected at the same time. In this way we will avoid risks that could compromise us.

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