Skip to main content

Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) Attributes Suboption for the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Relay Agent Information Option

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 4014.
Authors Ralph Droms , Dr. John M. Schnizlein
Last updated 2013-03-02 (Latest revision 2004-09-08)
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state (None)
Document shepherd (None)
IESG IESG state RFC 4014 (Proposed Standard)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD Margaret Cullen
Send notices to (None)
Network Working Group                                           R. Droms
Internet-Draft                                             J. Schnizlein
Expires: February 16, 2005                                 Cisco Systems
                                                         August 18, 2004

   RADIUS Attributes Sub-option for the DHCP Relay Agent Information

Status of this Memo

   By submitting this Internet-Draft, I certify that any applicable
   patent or other IPR claims of which I am aware have been disclosed,
   and any of which I become aware will be disclosed, in accordance with
   RFC 3667.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups. Note that other
   groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at http://

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

   This Internet-Draft will expire on February 16, 2005.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004). All Rights Reserved.


   A NAS (network access server) may choose to authenticate the identity
   of a device before granting that device access to the network.  The
   IEEE 802.1X protocol is an example of a mechanism for providing
   authenticated layer 2 network access.  A network element using RADIUS
   as an authentication authority will receive attributes from a RADIUS
   server that may be used by a DHCP server in the selection of
   configuration parameters to be delivered to the device through its
   DHCP client. The RADIUS Attributes sub-option enables a network
   element to pass along attributes for the user of a device received

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 1]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004

   during RADIUS authentication to a DHCP server.

1. Introduction and Background

   The RADIUS Attributes sub-option for the DHCP Relay Agent option
   provides a way in which a NAS can pass attributes obtained from a
   RADIUS server to a DHCP server [1].  IEEE 802.1X [2] is an example of
   a mechanism through which a NAS such as a switch or a wireless LAN
   access point can authenticate the identity of the user of a device
   before providing layer 2 network access using RADIUS as the
   Authentication Service specified in RFC3580 [10].  In IEEE 802.1X
   authenticated access, a device must first exchange some
   authentication credentials with the NAS.  The NAS then supplies these
   credentials to a RADIUS server, which eventually sends either an
   Access-Accept or an Access-Reject in response to an Access-Request.
   The NAS, based on the reply of the RADIUS server, then allows or
   denies network access to the requesting device.

   Figure 1 summarizes the message exchange among the participants in
   IEEE 802.1X authentication.

         |Device requesting|
         | network access  |
          |         ^
          |         |
         (1) Request for access
          |         |
          |        (4) Success/Failure
          v         |
         |       NAS       |
         |(IEEE 802.1X and |
         |DHCP relay agent}|
            |     ^
            |     |
           (2) Request for authentication
            |     |
            |    (3) Access-Accept/Reject
            v     |
         |     RADIUS      |
         |     Server      |

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 2]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004

                                Figure 1

   In the application described in this document, the access device acts
   as an IEEE 802.1X Authenticator and adds a DHCP relay agent option
   which includes a RADIUS Attributes sub-option to DHCP messages. At
   the successful conclusion of IEEE 802.1X authentication, a RADIUS
   Access-Accept provides attributes for service authorizations to the
   NAS.  The NAS stores these attributes locally. When the NAS
   subsequently forwards DHCP messages from the network device, the NAS
   adds these attributes in a RADIUS Attributes sub-option.  The RADIUS
   Attributes sub-option is another suboption of the Relay Agent
   Information option [5].

   This document uses IEEE 802.1X as an example to motivate the use of
   RADIUS by a NAS.  The RADIUS Attributes sub-option described in this
   document is not limited to use in conjunction with IEEE 802.1X and
   can be used to carry RADIUS attributes obtained by the relay agent
   for any reason.  That is, the option is not limited to use with IEEE
   802.1X, but is constrained by RADIUS semantics (see Section 4).

   The scope of applicability of this specification is such that robust
   interoperability is only guaranteed for RADIUS service
   implementations that exist within the same scope as the DHCP service
   implementation, i.e. within a single, localized administrative
   domain.  Global interoperability of this specification, across
   administrative domains, is not required.

2. Terminology

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [3].

   The use of the standard keywords MUST, SHOULD, MUST NOT and SHOULD
   NOT within this specification are with respect to RADIUS clients and
   servers that implement the optional features of this specification,
   do not create any normative requirements outside of that scope and do
   not modify the base RADIUS specifications, such as RFC2865 or

2.1 DHCP Terminology

   The following terms are used as defined in RFC2131 and RFC3046: DHCP
   relay agent, DHCP server, DHCP client.

2.2 RADIUS Terminology

   The following terms are used in conjunction with RADIUS:

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 3]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004

   RADIUS server: A RADIUS server is responsible for receiving user
      connection requests, authenticating the user, and then returning
      all configuration information necessary for the client to deliver
      service to the user.
   Attribute: A Type-Length-Value tuple encapsulating data elements as
      defined in RFC 2865 [4].
   NAS:  A Network Access Server (NAS) provides access to the network
      and operates as a client of RADIUS. The client is responsible for
      passing user information to designated RADIUS servers, and then
      acting on the response which is returned.  Unlike a traditional
      dial NAS, the NAS considered here may not have a protocol like PPP
      through which it can pass configuration information from the
      RADIUS attributes to the client

2.3 IEEE 802.1X Terminology

   The following terms are used as defined in the IEEE 802.1X protocol:
   Authenticator, Supplicant.

3. RADIUS Attributes sub-option format

   The RADIUS Attributes Sub-option is a new sub-option for the DHCP
   Relay Agent option.

   The format of the RADIUS Attributes sub-option is:

        SubOpt   Len     RADIUS attributes
       |  TBD  |  N  |  o1  |  o2  |  o3  |  o4  |      |  oN  |

   The RADIUS attributes are encoded according to the encoding rules in
   RFC 2865, in octets o1...oN.

   The DHCP relay agent truncates the RADIUS attributes to fit in the
   RADIUS Attributes sub-option.

4. DHCP Relay Agent Behavior

   When the DHCP relay agent receives a DHCP message from the client, it
   MAY append a DHCP Relay Agent Information option containing the
   RADIUS Attributes sub-option, along with any other sub-options it is
   configured to supply.  The RADIUS Attributes sub-option MUST only
   contain the attributes provided in the RADIUS Access/Accept message.
   The DHCP relay agent MUST NOT add more than one RADIUS Attributes
   sub-option in a message.

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 4]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004

   The relay agent MUST include the User-Name and Framed-Pool attributes
   in the RADIUS Attributes sub-option if available, and MAY include
   other attributes.

   To avoid dependencies between the address allocation and other state
   information between the RADIUS server and the DHCP server, the DHCP
   relay agent SHOULD include only the attributes in the table below an
   instance of the RADIUS Attributes sub-option.  The table, based on
   the analysis in RFC 3580 [10], lists attributes that MAY be included:

            #   Attribute
          ---   ---------
            1   User-Name (RFC 2865 [3])
            6   Service-Type (RFC 2865)
           26   Vendor-Specific (RFC 2865)
           27   Session-Timeout (RFC 2865)
           88   Framed-Pool (RFC 2869)
          100   Framed-IPv6-Pool (RFC 3162 [8])

5. DHCP Server Behavior

   When the DHCP server receives a message from a relay agent containing
   a RADIUS Attributes sub-option, it extracts the contents of the
   sub-option and uses that information in selecting configuration
   parameters for the client.  If the relay agent forwards RADIUS
   attributes not included in the table in Section 4, the DHCP server
   SHOULD ignore them.  If the DHCP server uses attributes not specified
   here, it might result in side effects not anticipated in the existing
   RADIUS specifications.

6. DHCP Client Behavior

   Relay agent options are exchanged only between relay agents and DHCP
   server, so DHCP clients are never aware of their use.

7. Security Considerations

   Message authentication in DHCP for intradomain use where the
   out-of-band exchange of a shared secret is feasible is defined in RFC
   3118 [8].  Potential exposures to attack are discussed in section 7
   of the DHCP protocol specification in RFC 2131 [1].

   The DHCP Relay Agent option depends on a trusted relationship between
   the DHCP relay agent and the server, as described in section 5 of RFC
   3046 [5].  While the introduction of fraudulent relay-agent options
   can be prevented by a perimeter defense that blocks these options
   unless the relay agent is trusted, a deeper defense using the

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 5]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004

   authentication option for relay agent options [11] or IPsec [12]
   SHOULD be deployed as well.

8. IANA Considerations

   IANA has assigned the value of TBD for the DHCP Relay Agent
   Information option sub-option code for this sub-option.  This
   document does not define any new namespaces or other constants for
   which IANA must maintain a registry.

9. Acknowledgments

   Expert advice from Bernard Aboba, Paul Funk, David Nelson, Ashwin
   Palekar and Greg Weber on avoiding RADIUS entanglements is gratefully

Normative References

   [1]  Droms, R., "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol", RFC 2131,
        March 1997.

   [2]  Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, "Local and
        Metropolitan Area Networks: Port based Network Access Control",
        IEEE Standard 802.1X, March 2001.

   [3]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
        Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [4]  Rigney, C., Willens, S., Rubens, A. and W. Simpson, "Remote
        Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS)", RFC 2865, June

   [5]  Patrick, M., "DHCP Relay Agent Information Option", RFC 3046,
        January 2001.

Informative References

   [6]   Rigney, C., "RADIUS Accounting", RFC 2866, June 2000.

   [7]   Rigney, C., Willats, W. and P. Calhoun, "RADIUS Extensions",
         RFC 2869, June 2000.

   [8]   Droms, R. and W. Arbaugh, "Authentication for DHCP Messages",
         RFC 3118, June 2001.

   [9]   Aboba, B., Zorn, G. and D. Mitton, "RADIUS and IPv6", RFC 3162,
         August 2001.

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 6]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004

   [10]  Congdon, P., Aboba, B., Smith, A., Zorn, G. and J. Roese, "IEEE
         802.1X Remote Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS)
         Usage Guidelines", RFC 3580, September 2003.

   [11]  Stapp, M. and T. Lemon, "The Authentication Suboption for the
         DHCP Relay Agent Option", draft-ietf-dhc-auth-suboption-02
         (work in progress), October 2003.

   [12]  Droms, R., "Authentication of DHCP Relay Agent Options Using
         IPsec", draft-ietf-dhc-relay-agent-ipsec-00 (work in progress),
         September 2003.

Authors' Addresses

   Ralph Droms
   Cisco Systems
   1414 Massachusetts Avenue
   Boxborough, MA  01719


   John Schnizlein
   Cisco Systems
   9123 Loughran Road
   Fort Washington, MD  20744


Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 7]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004

Intellectual Property Statement

   The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
   Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
   pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
   this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
   might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has
   made any independent effort to identify any such rights. Information
   on the IETF's procedures with respect to rights in IETF Documents can
   be found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
   assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
   attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of
   such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
   specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at

   The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
   copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary
   rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement
   this standard. Please address the information to the IETF at

   The IETF has been notified of intellectual property rights claimed in
   regard to some or all of the specification contained in this
   document. For more information consult the online list of claimed

Disclaimer of Validity

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004). This document is subject
   to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78, and
   except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 8]
Internet-Draft        RADIUS Attributes Sub-Option           August 2004


   Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
   Internet Society.

Droms & Schnizlein     Expires February 16, 2005                [Page 9]