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The Network Access Identifier

The information below is for an old version of the document.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 7542.
Author Alan DeKok
Last updated 2014-12-04
Replaces draft-dekok-radext-nai
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state Submitted to IESG for Publication
Other - see Comment Log
Document shepherd Stefan Winter
Shepherd write-up Show Last changed 2014-12-04
IESG IESG state Became RFC 7542 (Proposed Standard)
Consensus boilerplate Yes
Telechat date (None)
Needs a YES. Needs 10 more YES or NO OBJECTION positions to pass.
Responsible AD Benoît Claise
Send notices to,
IANA IANA review state Version Changed - Review Needed
RADEXT Working Group                                         DeKok, Alan
INTERNET-DRAFT                                                FreeRADIUS
Obsoletes: 4282
Category: Standards Track
4 December 2014

                     The Network Access Identifier


   In order to provide inter-domain authentication services, it is
   necessary to have a standardized method that domains can use to
   identify each other's users.  This document defines the syntax for
   the Network Access Identifier (NAI), the user identifier submitted by
   the client prior to accessing resources. This document is a revised
   version of RFC 4282, which addresses issues with international
   character sets, as well as a number of other corrections to the
   previous document.

Status of this Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted to IETF in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   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-

   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

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

   This Internet-Draft will expire on June 04, 2015.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2014 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the

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   document authors. All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document. Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
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   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

   This document may contain material from IETF Documents or IETF
   Contributions published or made publicly available before November
   10, 2008. The person(s) controlling the copyright in some of this
   material may not have granted the IETF Trust the right to allow
   modifications of such material outside the IETF Standards Process.
   Without obtaining an adequate license from the person(s) controlling
   the copyright in such materials, this document may not be modified
   outside the IETF Standards Process, and derivative works of it may
   not be created outside the IETF Standards Process, except to format
   it for publication as an RFC or to translate it into languages other
   than English.

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Table of Contents

Appendix A - Changes from RFC4282 ............................    3
1.  Introduction .............................................    4
   1.1.  Terminology .........................................    6
   1.2.  Requirements Language ...............................    7
   1.3.  Purpose .............................................    8
   1.4.  Motivation ..........................................    9
2.  NAI Definition ...........................................   10
   2.1.  UTF-8 Syntax and Normalization ......................   10
   2.2.  Formal Syntax .......................................   11
   2.3.  NAI Length Considerations ...........................   11
   2.4.  Support for Username Privacy ........................   12
   2.5.  International Character Sets ........................   13
   2.6.  The Normalization Process ...........................   14
      2.6.1.  Issues with the Normalization Process ..........   15
   2.7.  Use in Other Protocols ..............................   16
   2.8.  Using the NAI format for other identifiers ..........   17
3.  Routing inside of AAA Systems ............................   18
   3.1.  Compatibility with Email Usernames ..................   19
   3.2.  Compatibility with DNS ..............................   19
   3.3.  Realm Construction ..................................   20
      3.3.1.  Historical Practices ...........................   20
   3.4.  Examples ............................................   21
4.  Security Considerations ..................................   22
   4.1.  Correlation of Identities over Time and Protocols ...   23
   4.2.  Multiple Identifiers ................................   23
5.  Administration of Names ..................................   24
6.  IANA Considerations ......................................   24
7.  References ...............................................   25
   7.1.  Normative References ................................   25
   7.2.  Informative References ..............................   25
Appendix A - Changes from RFC4282 ............................   28

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1.  Introduction

   Considerable interest exists for a set of features that fit within
   the general category of inter-domain authentication, or "roaming
   capability" for network access, including dialup Internet users,
   Virtual Private Network (VPN) usage, wireless LAN authentication, and
   other applications.

   By "inter-domain authentication", we mean situations where a user has
   authentication credentials at one "home" domain, but is able to
   present them at a second "visited" domain to access certain services
   at the visited domain.  The two domains generally have a pre-existing
   relationship, so that the credentials can be passed from the visited
   domain to the home domain for verification.  The home domain
   typically responds with a permit / deny response, which may also
   include authorization parameters which the visited domain is expected
   to enforce on the user.

   That is, the "roaming" scenario involves a user visiting, or
   "roaming" to a non-home domain, and requesting the use of services at
   that visted domain.

   Interested parties have included the following:

   *  Regional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating within a
      particular state or province, looking to combine their efforts
      with those of other regional providers to offer dialup service
      over a wider area.

   *  Telecommunications companies who wish to combine their
      operations with those of one or more companies in another areas or
      nations, in order to offer more comprehensive network access
      service in areas where there is no native service.  e.g. In
      another country.

   *  Wireless LAN hotspots providing service to one or more ISPs.

   *  Businesses desiring to offer their employees a comprehensive
      package of dialup services on a global basis.  Those services may
      include Internet access as well as secure access to corporate
      intranets via a VPN, enabled by tunneling protocols such as the
      Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) [RFC2637], the Layer 2
      Forwarding (L2F) protocol [RFC2341], the Layer 2 Tunneling
      Protocol (L2TP) [RFC2661], and the IPsec tunnel mode [RFC4301].

   * Other protocols which are interested in leveraging the users
      credentials in order to take advantage of an existing
      authentication framework.

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   In order to enhance the interoperability of these services, it is
   necessary to have a standardized method for identifying users.  This
   document defines syntax for the Network Access Identifier (NAI).
   Examples of implementations that use the NAI, and descriptions of its
   semantics, can be found in [RFC2194].

   When the NAI was defined for network access, it had the side effect
   of defining an identifier which could be used in non-AAA systems.
   Some non-AAA systems defined identifiers which were compatible with
   the NAI, and deployments used the NAI.  This process simplified the
   management of credentials, by re-using the same credential in
   multiple situations.  Protocols that re-use the same credential or
   the same identifier format can benefit from this management
   simplicity. The alternative is to have protocol-specific credentials
   or identifier formats, which increases cost to both the user and the

   There are privacy implications to using one identifier across
   multiple protocols.  See Section 2.7 and Section 4 for further
   discussion of this topic.

   The goal of this document is to define the format of an identifier
   which can be used in many protocols.  A protocol may transport an
   encoded version of the NAI (e.g. '.' as %2E).  However, the
   definition of the NAI is protocol independent.  We hope to encourage
   the wide-spread adoption of the NAI format.  This adoption will
   decrease work required to leverage identification and authentication
   in other protocols.  It will also decrease the complexity of non-AAA
   systems for end users and administrators.

   We note that this document only suggests that the NAI format be used,
   but does not require such use.  Many protocols already define their
   own identifier formats.  Some of these are incompatible with the NAI,
   while others allow the NAI in addition to non-NAI identifiers.  The
   definition of the NAI in this document has no requirements on
   protocol specifications, implementations, or deployments.

   However, this document suggests that using one standard identifier
   format is preferable to using multiple incompatible identifier
   formats.  Where identifiers need to be used in new protocols and/or
   specifications, it is RECOMMENDED that the format of the NAI be used.
   That is, the interpretation of the identifier is context-specific,
   while the format of the identifier remains the same.  These issues
   are discussed in more detail in Section 2.8, below.

   The recommendation for a standard identifier format is not a
   recommendation that each user have one universal identifier.  In
   contrast, this document allows for the use of multiple identifiers,

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   and recommends the use of anonymous identifiers where those
   identifiers are publicly visible.

   This document is a revised version of [RFC4282], which originally
   defined internationalized NAIs.  Differences and enhancements
   compared to that document are listed in Appendix A.

1.1.  Terminology

   This document frequently uses the following terms:

   "Local" or "localized" text

      Text which is either in non-UTF-8, or in non-normalized form.  The
      character set, encoding, and locale are (in general) unknown to
      Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA) network
      protocols.  The client which "knows" the locale may have a
      different concept of this text than other AAA entities, which do
      not know the same locale.

   Network Access Identifier

      The Network Access Identifier (NAI) is a common format for user
      identifiers submitted by a client during authentication.  The
      purpose of the NAI is to allow a user to be associated with an
      account name, as well as to assist in the routing of the
      authentication request across multiple domains.  Please note that
      the NAI may not necessarily be the same as the user's email
      address or the user identifier submitted in an application layer

   Network Access Server

      The Network Access Server (NAS) is the device that clients connect
      to in order to get access to the network.  In PPTP terminology,
      this is referred to as the PPTP Access Concentrator (PAC), and in
      L2TP terminology, it is referred to as the L2TP Access
      Concentrator (LAC).  In IEEE 802.11, it is referred to as an
      Access Point.

   Roaming Capability

      Roaming capability can be loosely defined as the ability to use
      any one of multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs), while
      maintaining a formal, customer-vendor relationship with only one.
      Examples of cases where roaming capability might be required
      include ISP "confederations" and ISP-provided corporate network
      access support.

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   Normalization or Canonicalization

      These terms are defined in [RFC6365] Section 4.  We incorporate
      the definitions here by reference.


      This term is defined in [RFC6365] Section 8.  We incorporate the
      definition here by reference.

   Tunneling Service

      A tunneling service is any network service enabled by tunneling
      protocols such as PPTP, L2F, L2TP, and IPsec tunnel mode.  One
      example of a tunneling service is secure access to corporate
      intranets via a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

1.2.  Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in

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1.3.  Purpose

   As described in [RFC2194], there are a number of providers offering
   network access services, and essentially all Internet Service
   Providers are involved in roaming consortia.

   In order to be able to offer roaming capability, one of the
   requirements is to be able to identify the user's home authentication
   server.  For use in roaming, this function is accomplished via the
   Network Access Identifier (NAI) submitted by the user to the NAS in
   the initial network authentication.  It is also expected that NASes
   will use the NAI as part of the process of opening a new tunnel, in
   order to determine the tunnel endpoint.

   We also hope that other protocols can take advantage of the NAI
   format.  Many protocols include authentication capabilities,
   including defining their own identifier formats.  These identifiers
   can then end up being transported in AAA protocols, so that the
   originating protocols can leverage AAA for user authentication.
   There is therefore a need for a definition of a user identifier which
   can be used in multiple protocols.

   While we define the NAI here, we recognize that existing protocols
   and deployments do not always use it.  AAA systems MUST therefore be
   able to handle user identifiers which are not in the NAI format.  The
   process by which that is done is outside of the scope of this

   Non-AAA systems can accept user identifiers in forms other than the
   NAI.  This specification does not forbid that practice.  It only
   codifies the format and interpretation of the NAI.  We cannot expect
   to change existing protocols or practices.  We can, however, suggest
   that using a consistent form for a user identifier is of a benefit to
   the community.

   We note that this document does not make any protocol-specific
   definitions for an identifier format, and it does not make changes to
   any existing protocol.  Instead, it defines a protocol-independent
   form for the NAI.  It is hoped that the NAI is a user identifier
   which can be used in multiple protocols.

   Using a common identifier format implifies protocols requiring
   authentication, as they no longer need to specify protocol-specific
   format for user identifiers.  It increases security, as it multiple
   identifier formats allow attackers to make contradictory claims
   without being detected (see Section 4.2 for further discussion of
   this topic).  It simplifies deployments, as a user can have one
   identifier in multiple contexts, which allows them to be uniquely

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   identified, so long as that identifier is itself protected against

   In short, having a standard is better than having no standard at all.

1.4.  Motivation

   The changes from [RFC4282] are listed in detail in Appendix A.
   However, some additional discussion is appropriate to motivate those

   The motivation to revise [RFC4282] began with internationalization
   concerns raised in the context of [EDUROAM].  Section 2.1 of
   [RFC4282] defines ABNF for realms which limits the realm grammar to
   English letters, digits, and the hyphen "-" character.  The intent
   appears to have been to encode, compare, and transport realms with
   the Punycode [RFC3492] encoding form as described in [RFC5891] There
   are a number of problems with this approach:

   * The [RFC4282] ABNF is not aligned with internationalization of DNS.

   * The requirement in [RFC4282] Section 2.1 that realms are ASCII
      conflicts with the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP)
      defined in [RFC3748], and RADIUS, which are both 8-bit clean, and
      which both recommend the use of UTF-8 for identitifiers.

   * [RFC4282] Section 2.4 required mappings that are
      language-specific, and which are nearly impossible for
      intermediate nodes to perform correctly without information about
      that language.

   * [RFC4282] Section 2.4 requires normalization of user names,
      which may conflict with local system or administrative

   * The recommendations in RFC4282] Section 2.4 for treatment of
      bidirectional characters have proven to be unworkable.

   * The prohibition against use of unassigned code points in
      RFC4282] Section 2.4 effectively prohibits support for new

   * No Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA)
      client, proxy, or server has implemented any of the requirements
      in [RFC4282] Section 2.4, among other sections.

   With international roaming growing in popularity, it is important for
   these issues to be corrected in order to provide robust and inter-

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   operable network services.

   Furthermore, this document was motivated by a desire to codify
   existing practice related to the use of the NAI format and to
   encourage widespread use of the format.

2.  NAI Definition

2.1.  UTF-8 Syntax and Normalization

   UTF-8 characters can be defined in terms of octets using the
   following ABNF [RFC5234], taken from [RFC3629]:

   UTF8-xtra-char  =   UTF8-2 / UTF8-3 / UTF8-4

   UTF8-2          =   %xC2-DF UTF8-tail

   UTF8-3          =   %xE0 %xA0-BF UTF8-tail /
                       %xE1-EC 2(UTF8-tail) /
                       %xED %x80-9F UTF8-tail /
                       %xEE-EF 2(UTF8-tail)

   UTF8-4          =   %xF0 %x90-BF 2( UTF8-tail ) /
                       %xF1-F3 3( UTF8-tail ) /
                       %xF4 %x80-8F 2( UTF8-tail )

   UTF8-tail       =   %x80-BF

   These are normatively defined in [RFC3629], but are repeated in this
   document for reasons of convenience.

   See [RFC5198] and section 2.6 of this specification for a discussion
   of normalization. Strings which are not in Normal Form Composed (NFC)
   are not valid NAIs and SHOULD NOT be treated as such.
   Implementations which expect to receive a NAI, but which instead
   receive non-normalised (but otherwise valid) UTF-8 strings instead
   SHOULD attempt to create a local version of the NAI, which is
   normalized from the input identifier.  This local version can then be
   used for local processing.  This local version of the identifier MUST
   NOT be used outside of the local context.

   Where protocols carry identifiers which are expected to be
   transported over an AAA protocol, it is RECOMMENDED that the
   identifiers be in NAI format.  Where the identifiers are not in the
   NAI format, it is up to the AAA systems to discover this, and to
   process them.  This document does not suggest how that is done.
   However, existing practice indicates that it is possible.

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   We expect that with wider use of internationalized domain names,
   existing practices will be inadequate.  We therefore define the NAI,
   which is a user identifier format that can correctly deal with
   internationalized identifiers.

2.2.  Formal Syntax

   The grammar for the NAI is given below, described in Augmented
   Backus-Naur Form (ABNF) as documented in [RFC5234].

   nai            =   utf8-username
   nai            =/  "@" utf8-realm
   nai            =/  utf8-username "@" utf8-realm

   utf8-username  =  dot-string

   dot-string     = string *("." string)
   string         = 1*utf8-atext

   utf8-atext     =  ALPHA / DIGIT /
                     "!" / "#" /
                     "$" / "%" /
                     "&" / "'" /
                     "*" / "+" /
                     "-" / "/" /
                     "=" / "?" /
                     "^" / "_" /
                     "`" / "{" /
                     "|" / "}" /
                     "~" /

   utf8-realm     =  1*( label "." ) label

   label          =  utf8-rtext *(ldh-str)
   ldh-str        =  *( utf8-rtext / "-" ) utf8-rtext
   utf8-rtext     =  ALPHA / DIGIT / UTF8-xtra-char

2.3.  NAI Length Considerations

   Devices handling NAIs MUST support an NAI length of at least 72
   octets.  Devices SHOULD support an NAI length of 253 octets.
   However, the following implementation issues should be considered:

   * NAI octet length constraints may impose a more severe constraint
      on the number of UTF-8 characters.

   * NAIs are often transported in the User-Name attribute of the

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      Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) protocol.
      Unfortunately, RFC 2865 [RFC2865], Section 5.1, states that "the
      ability to handle at least 63 octets is recommended."  As a
      result, it may not be possible to transfer NAIs beyond 63 octets
      through all devices.  In addition, since only a single User-Name
      attribute may be included in a RADIUS message and the maximum
      attribute length is 253 octets, RADIUS is unable to support NAI
      lengths beyond 253 octets.

   * NAIs can also be transported in the User-Name attribute of
      Diameter [RFC6733], which supports content lengths up to 2^24 - 9
      octets.  As a result, NAIs processed only by Diameter nodes can be
      very long.  However, an NAI transported over Diameter may
      eventually be translated to RADIUS, in which case the above
      limitations will apply.

   * NAIs may be transported in other protocols.  Each protocol
      can have its own limitations on maximum NAI length.
   The above criteria should permit the widest use, and widest possible
   inter-operability of the NAI.

2.4.  Support for Username Privacy

   Interpretation of the username part of the NAI depends on the realm
   in question.  Therefore, the utf8-username portion SHOULD be treated
   as opaque data when processed by nodes that are not a part of the
   home domain for that realm.

   That is, the only domain which is capable of interpreting the meaning
   of the utf8-username portion of the NAI is the home domain.  Any
   third-party domains cannot form any conclusions about the
   utf8-username, and cannot decode it into sub-fields.  For example, it
   may be used as "firstname.lastname", or it may be entirely digits, or
   it may be a random hex identifier.  There is simply no way (and no
   reason) for any other domain to interpret the utf8-username field as
   having any meaning whatsoever.

   In some situations, NAIs are used together with a separate
   authentication method that can transfer the username part in a more
   secure manner to increase privacy.  In this case, NAIs MAY be
   provided in an abbreviated form by omitting the username part.
   Omitting the username part is RECOMMENDED over using a fixed username
   part, such as "anonymous", since including a fixed username part is
   ambiguous as to whether or not the NAI refers to a single user.
   However, current practice is to use the username "anonymous" instead
   of omitting the username part.  This behavior is also permitted.

   The most common use-case of such behavior is with TLS-based EAP

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   methods such as TTLS [RFC5281].  Those methods allow for an "outer"
   identifier, which is typically an anonymous "@realm".  This outer
   identifier allows the authentication request to be routed from a
   visited domain to a home domain.  At the same time, user privacy is
   preserved.  The protocol provides for an "inner" authentication
   exchange, in which a full identifier is used to authenticate a user.

   That scenario offers the best of both worlds.  An anonymous NAI can
   be used to route authentication to the home domain, and the home
   domain has sufficient information to identify and authenticate users.

   However, some protocols do not support authenticate methods which
   allow for "inner" and "outer" exchanges.  Those protocols are limited
   to using an identifier which is publicly visible.  It is therefore
   RECOMMENDED that such protocols use ephemeral identifiers.  We
   recognize that this practice is not currently used, and will likely
   be difficult to implement.

   Similarly to the anonymous user, there may be situations where
   portions of the realm are sensitive.  For those situations, it is
   RECOMMENDED that the sensitive portion of the realm also be omitted.
   e.g. To use "" instead of "", or
   "".  The home domain is authoritative
   for users in all subdomains, and can (if necessary) route the
   authentication request to the appropriate subsystem within the home

   For roaming purposes, it is typically necessary to locate the
   appropriate backend authentication server for the given NAI before
   the authentication conversation can proceed.  As a result,
   authentication routing is impossible unless the realm portion is
   available, and in a well-known format.

2.5.  International Character Sets

   This specification allows both international usernames and realms.
   International usernames are based on the use of Unicode characters,
   encoded as UTF-8.  Internationalization of the realm portion of the
   NAI is based on [RFC5890].

   In order to ensure a canonical representation, characters of the
   realm portion in an NAI MUST match the ABNF in this specification as
   well as the requirements specified in [RFC5891].  In practice, these
   requirements consist of the following item:

   * Realms MUST be of the form that can be registered as a
      Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) within the DNS.

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   This list is significantly shorter and simpler than the list in
   Section 2.4 of [RFC4282].  The form suggested in [RFC4282] depended
   on intermediate nodes performing canonicalizations based on
   insufficient information, which meant that the form was not

   Specifying the realm requirement as above means that the requirements
   depend on specifications that are referenced here, rather than copied
   here.  This allows the realm definition to be updated when the
   referenced documents change, without requiring a revision of this

   One caveat on the above recommendation is the issues noted in
   [RFC6912].  That document notes that there are additional
   restrictions around DNS registration which forbid some code points
   from being valid in a DNS U-label.  These restrictions cannot be
   expressed algorithmically.

   For this specification, that caveat means the following.  Realms not
   matching the above ABNF are not valid NAIs.  However, some realms
   which do match the ABNF are still invalid NAIs.  That is, matching
   the ABNF is a necessary, but not sufficient, requirement for an NAI.

   In general, the above requirement means following the requirements
   specified in [RFC5891].

2.6.  The Normalization Process

   Conversion to Unicode as well as normalization SHOULD be performed by
   edge systems (e.g. laptops, desktops, smart phones, etc.) that take
   "local" text as input.  These edge systems are best suited to
   determine the users intent, and can best convert from "local" text to
   a normalized form.

   Other AAA systems such as proxies do not have access to locale and
   character set information that is available to edge systems.
   Therefore, they may not always be able to convert local input to

   That is, all processing of NAIs from "local" character sets and
   locales to UTF-8 SHOULD be performed by edge systems, prior to the
   NAIs entering the AAA system.  Inside of an AAA system, NAIs are sent
   over the wire in their canonical form, and this canonical form is
   used for all NAI and/or realm comparisons.

   Copying of localized text into fields that can subsequently be placed
   into the RADIUS User-Name attribute is problematic.  This practice
   can result in a AAA proxy encountering non-UTF8 characters within

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   what it expects to be an NAI.  An example of this requirement is
   [RFC3579] Section 2.1, which states:

      the NAS MUST copy the contents of the Type-Data field of the
      EAP-Response/Identity received from the peer into the User-Name

   As a result, AAA proxies expect the contents of the EAP-
   Response/Identity sent by an EAP supplicant to consist of UTF-8
   characters, not localized text.  Using localized text in AAA username
   or identity fields means that realm routing becomes difficult or

   In contrast to [RFC4282] Section 2.4, we expect AAA systems to
   perform NAI comparisons, matching, and AAA routing based on the NAI
   as it is received.  This specification provides a canonical
   representation, ensures that intermediate AAA systems such as proxies
   are not required to perform translations, and can be expected to work
   through AAA systems that are unaware of international character sets.

   In an ideal world, the following requirements would be widely

    * Edge systems using "localized" text SHOULD normalize the NAI
      prior to it being used as an identifier in an authentication

    * AAA systems SHOULD NOT normalize the NAI, as they may not have
      sufficient information to perform the normalization.

   There are issues with this approach, however.

2.6.1.  Issues with the Normalization Process

   We recognize that the requirements in the preceding section are not
   implemented today.  For example, most EAP implementations use a user
   identifier which is passed to them from some other local system.
   This identifier is treated as an opaque blob, and is placed as-is
   into the EAP Identity field.  Any subsequent system which receives
   that identifier is assumed to be able to understand and process it.

   This opaque blob unfortunately can contain localized text, which
   means that the AAA systems have to process that text.

   These limitations have the following theoretical and practical

    * edge systems used today generally do not normalize the NAI

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    * Therefore AAA systems SHOUD attempt to normalize the NAI

   The suggestion in the above sentence contradicts the suggestion in
   the previous section.  This is the reality of imperfect protocols.

   Where the user identifier can be normalized, or determined to be in
   normal form, the normal form MUST be used as the NAI.  In all other
   circumstances, the user identifier MUST NOT be treated as an NAI.
   That data is still, however, a user identifier.  AAA systems MUST NOT
   fail authentication simply because the user identifier is not an NAI.

   That is, when the realm portion of the NAI is not recognized by an
   AAA server, it SHOULD try to normalize the NAI into NFC form.  That
   normalized form can then be used to see if the realm matches a known
   realm.  If no match is found, the original form of the NAI SHOULD be
   used in all subsequent processing.

   The AAA server may also convert realms to punycode, and perform all
   realm comparisons on the resulting punycode strings.  This conversion
   follows the recommendations above, but may have different operational
   effects and failure modes.

2.7.  Use in Other Protocols

   As noted earlier, the NAI format can be used in other, non-AAA
   protocols.  It is RECOMMENDED that the definition given here be used
   unchanged.  Using other definitions for user identifiers may hinder
   interoperability, along with the users ability to authenticate
   successfully.  It is RECOMMENDED that protocols requiring the use of
   a user identifier use the NAI format.

   We cannot require other protocols to use the NAI format for user
   identifiers.  Their needs are unknown, and at this time unknowable.
   This document suggests that interoperability and inter-domain
   authentication is useful, and should be encouraged.

   Where a protocol is 8-bit clean, it can likely transport the NAI as-
   is, without further modification.

   Where a protocol is not 8-bit clean, it cannot transport the NAI as-
   is.  Instead, we presume that a protocol-specific transport layer
   takes care of encoding the NAI on input to the protocol, and decoding
   it when the NAI exits the protocol.  The encoded or escaped version
   of the NAI is not a valid NAI, and MUST NOT be presented to the AAA

   For example, HTTP carries user identifiers, but escapes the '.'
   character as "%2E" (among others).  When we desire HTTP to transport

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   the NAI "", the data as transported will be in the
   form "fred@example%2Ecom".  That data exists only within HTTP, and
   has no relevance to any AAA system.

   Any comparison, validation, or use of the NAI MUST be done on its un-
   escaped (i.e. utf8-clean) form.

2.8.  Using the NAI format for other identifiers

   As discussed in Section 1, above, is RECOMMENDED that the NAI format
   be used as the standard format for user identifiers.  This section
   discusses that use in more detail.

   It is often useful to create new identifiers for use in specific
   contexts.  These identifiers may have a number of different
   properties, most of which are unimportant to this document.  For our
   purposes, we are interested in identifiers which need to be in a
   well-known format, and to have namespaces.  The NAI format fits these

   One example of such use is the "private user identity", which is an
   identifier defined by the 3rd-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).
   That identifier is used to uniquely identify the user to the network.
   The identifier is used for authorization, authentication, accounting,
   administation, etc.  The "private user identity" is globally unique,
   and is defined by the home network operator.  The format of the
   identifier is explicitly the NAI, as stated by Section 13.3 of

      The private user identity shall take the form of an NAI, and shall
      have the form username@realm as specified in clause 2.1 of IETF
      RFC 4282

   For 3GPP, the "username" portion is a unique identifier which is
   derived from device-specific information.  The "realm" portion is
   composed of information about the home network, followed by the base
   string "".  e.g.

   This format as defiend by 3GPP ensures that the identifier is
   globally unique, as it is based off of the "" domain.
   It ensures that the "realm" portion is specific to a particular home
   network (or organization), via the "ims.mnc015.mcc234" prefix to the
   realm.  Finally, it ensures that the "username" portion follows a
   well-known format.

   This document suggests that the NAI format be used for all new
   specifications and/or protocols where a user identifier is required.

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   It is RECOMMENDED that methods similar to that described above for
   3GPP be used to derive the identifier.

3.  Routing inside of AAA Systems

   Many AAA systems use the "utf8-realm" portion of the NAI to route
   requests within a AAA proxy network.  The semantics of this operation
   involves a logical AAA routing table, where the "utf8-realm" portion
   acts as a key, and the values stored in the table are one or more
   "next hop" AAA servers.

   Intermediate nodes MUST use the "utf8-realm" portion of the NAI
   without modification to perform this lookup.  As noted earlier,
   intermediate nodes may not have access to the same locale information
   as the system which injected the NAI into the AAA routing systems.
   Therefore, almost all "case insensitive" comparisons can be wrong.
   Where the "utf8-realm" is entirely ASCII, current AAA systems
   sometimes perform case-insensitive matching on realms.  This method
   MAY be continued, as it has been shown to work in practice.

   We also note that many existing non-AAA systems have user identifiers
   which are similar in format to the NAI, but which are not compliant
   with this specification.  For example, they may use non-NFC form, or
   they may have multiple "@" characters in the user identifier.
   Intermediate nodes SHOULD normalize non-NFC identifiers to NFC, prior
   to looking up the "utf8-realm" in the logical routing table.
   Intermediate nodes MUST NOT modify the identifiers that they forward.
   The data as entered by the user is inviolate.

   The "utf8-realm" provisioned in the logical AAA routing table SHOULD
   be provisioned to the proxy prior to it receiving any AAA traffic.
   The "utf8-realm" SHOULD be supplied by the "next hop" or "home"
   system that also supplies the routing information necessary for
   packets to reach the next hop.

   This "next hop" information may be any of, or all of, the following
   information: IP address; port; RADIUS shared secret; TLS certificate;
   DNS host name; or instruction to use dyanmic DNS discovery (i.e. look
   up a record in the "utf8-realm" domain).  This list is not
   exhaustive, and my be extended by future specifications.

   It is RECOMMENDED to use the entirety of the "utf8-realm" for the
   routing decisions.  However, AAA systems MAY use a portion of the
   "utf8-realm" portion, so long as that portion is a valid
   "utf8-realm", and that portion is handled as above.  For example,
   routing "" to a "com" destination is forbidden,
   because "com" is not a valid "utf8-realm".  However, routing
   "" to the "" destination is

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   Another reason to forbid the use of a single label (e.g.
   "fred@sales") is that many non-AAA systems treat a single label as
   being a local identifier within their realm.  That is, a user logging
   in as "fred@sales" to a domain "", would be treated as if
   the NAI was instead "".  Permitting the use of
   a single label would mean changing the interpretation and meaning of
   a single label, which cannot be done.

3.1.  Compatibility with Email Usernames

   As proposed in this document, the Network Access Identifier is of the
   form "user@realm".  Please note that while the user portion of the
   NAI is based on the BNF described in [RFC5198], it has been modified
   for the purposes of Section 2.2.  It does not permit quoted text
   along with "folding" or "non-folding" whitespace that is commonly
   used in email addresses.  As such, the NAI is not necessarily
   equivalent to usernames used in e-mail.

   However, it is a common practice to use email addresses as user
   identifiers in AAA systems.  The ABNF in Section 2.2 is defined to be
   close to the "utf8-addr-spec" portion of [RFC5335], while still being
   compatible with [RFC4282], [RFC5890], and [RFC5891].

   In contrast to [RFC4282] Section 2.5, we state that the
   internationalization requirements for NAIs and email addresses are
   substantially similar.  The NAI and email identifiers may be the
   same, and both need to be entered by the user and/or the operator
   supplying network access to that user.  There is therefore good
   reason for the internationalization requirements to be similar.

3.2.  Compatibility with DNS

   The "utf8-realm" portion of the NAI is intended to be compatible with
   Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) [RFC5890].  As defined above,
   the "utf8-realm" portion as transported within an 8-bit clean
   protocol such as RADIUS and EAP can contain any valid UTF8 character.
   There is therefore no reason for a NAS to convert the "utf8-realm"
   portion of an NAI into Punycode encoding form [RFC3492] prior to
   placing the NAI into a RADIUS User-Name attribute.

   The NAI does not make a distinction between A-labels and U-labels, as
   those are terms specific to DNS.  It is instead an IDNA-valid label,
   as per the first item in Section of [RFC5890].  As noted in
   that section, the term "IDNA-valid label" encompases both of the
   terms A-label and U-label.

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   When the realm portion of the NAI is used as the basis for name
   resolution, it may be necessary to convert internationalized realm
   names to Punycode [RFC3492] encoding form as described in [RFC5891].
   As noted in [RFC6055] Section 2, resolver Application Programming
   Interfaces (APIs) are not necessarily DNS-specific, so conversion to
   Punycode needs to be done carefully:

   Applications which convert an IDN to A-label form before calling (for
   example) getaddrinfo() will result in name resolution failures if the
   Punycode name is directly used in such protocols.  Having libraries
   or protocols to convert from A-labels to the encoding scheme defined
   by the protocol (e.g., UTF-8) would require changes to APIs and/or
   servers, which IDNA was intended to avoid.

   As a result, applications SHOULD NOT assume that non-ASCII names are
   resolvable using the public DNS and blindly convert them to A-labels
   without knowledge of what protocol will be selected by the name
   resolution library.

3.3.  Realm Construction

   The home realm usually appears in the "utf8-realm" portion of the
   NAI, but in some cases a different realm can be used.  This may be
   useful, for instance, when the home realm is reachable only via
   intermediate proxies.

   Such usage may prevent interoperability unless the parties involved
   have a mutual agreement that the usage is allowed.  In particular,
   NAIs MUST NOT use a different realm than the home realm unless the
   sender has explicit knowledge that (a) the specified other realm is
   available and (b) the other realm supports such usage.  The sender
   may determine the fulfillment of these conditions through a database,
   dynamic discovery, or other means not specified here.  Note that the
   first condition is affected by roaming, as the availability of the
   other realm may depend on the user's location or the desired

   The use of the home realm MUST be the default unless otherwise

3.3.1.  Historical Practices

   Some AAA systems have historically used NAI modifications with
   multiple "prefix" and "suffix" decorations to perform explicit
   routing through multiple proxies inside of a AAA network.  This
   practice is NOT RECOMMENDED for the following reasons:

   *  Using explicit routing paths is fragile, and is unresponsive to

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      changes in the network due to servers going up or down, or to
      changing business relationships.

   *  There is no RADIUS routing protocol, meaning that routing paths
      have to be communicated "out of band" to all intermediate AAA
      nodes, and also to all edge systems (e.g. supplicants) expecting
      to obtain network access.

   *  Using explicit routing paths requires thousands, if not
      millions of edge systems to be updated with new path information
      when a AAA routing path changes.  This adds huge expense for
      updates that would be better done at only a few AAA systems in the

   *  Manual updates to RADIUS paths are expensive, time-consuming,
      and prone to error.

   *  Creating compatible formats for the NAI is difficult
      when locally-defined "prefixes" and "suffixes" conflict with
      similar practices elsewhere in the network.  These conflicts mean
      that connecting two networks may be impossible in some cases, as
      there is no way for packets to be routed properly in a way that
      meets all requirements at all intermediate proxies.

   *  Leveraging the DNS name system for realm names establishes
      a globally unique name space for realms.

   In summary, network practices and capabilities have changed
   significantly since NAIs were first overloaded to define AAA routes
   through a network.  While manually managed explicit path routing was
   once useful, the time has come for better methods to be used.

   Notwithstanding the above recommendations, we note that the above
   practice is widely used for Diameter routing [RFC5729].  The routes
   described there are managed automatically, from both credential
   provisioning and routing updates.  Those routes also exist within a
   particular framework (typically 3G), where membership is controlled
   and system behavior is standardized.  There are no known issues with
   using explicit routing in such an environment.

3.4.  Examples

   Examples of valid Network Access Identifiers include the following:


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   An additional valid NAI is the following, given as a hex string, as
   this document can only contain ASCII characters.

           626f 6240 ceb4 cebf ceba ceb9 cebc ceae 2e63 6f6d

   Examples of invalid Network Access Identifiers include the following:


   One example given in [RFC4282] is still permitted by the ABNF, but it
   is NOT RECOMMMENDED because of the use of the Punycode [RFC3492]
   encoding form for what is now a valid UTF-8 string.


4.  Security Considerations

   Since an NAI reveals the home affiliation of a user, it may assist an
   attacker in further probing the username space.  Typically, this
   problem is of most concern in protocols that transmit the username in
   clear-text across the Internet, such as in RADIUS, described in
   [RFC2865] and [RFC2866].  In order to prevent snooping of the
   username, protocols may use confidentiality services provided by
   protocols transporting them, such as RADIUS protected by IPsec
   [RFC3579] or Diameter protected by TLS [RFC6733].

   This specification adds the possibility of hiding the username part
   in the NAI, by omitting it.  As discussed in Section 2.4, this is
   possible only when NAIs are used together with a separate
   authentication method that can transfer the username in a secure
   manner.  In some cases, application-specific privacy mechanism have

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   also been used with NAIs.  For instance, some EAP methods apply
   method-specific pseudonyms in the username part of the NAI [RFC3748].
   While neither of these approaches can protect the realm part, their
   advantage over transport protection is that privacy of the username
   is protected, even through intermediate nodes such as NASes.

4.1.  Correlation of Identities over Time and Protocols

   The recommendations in Section 2.7 and Section 2.8 for using the NAI
   in other protocols has implications for privacy.  Any attacker who is
   capable of observing traffic containing the NAI can track the user,
   and correlate his activity across time and across multiple protocols.
   The authentication credentials therefore SHOULD be transported over
   channels which permit private communications, or multiple identifiers
   SHOULD be used, so that user tracking is impossible.

   It is RECOMMENDED that user privacy be enhanced by configuring
   multiple identifiers for one user.  These identifiers can be changed
   over time, in order to make user tracking more difficult for a
   malicous observer.  However, we recognise that provisioning and
   management of the identifiers may be difficult in to do in practice,
   which is likely why multiple identifiers are rarely used today.

4.2.  Multiple Identifiers

   Section 1.3 states that multiple identifier formats allow attackers
   to make contradictory claims without being detected.  This statement
   deserves further discussion.

   Section 2.4 discussed "inner" and "outer" identifiers in the context
   of TTLS [RFC5281].  A close reading of that specification shows there
   is no requirement that the inner and outer identifiers be in any way
   related.  That is, it is perfectly valid to use "" for an
   outer identifier, and "" as an inner identifier.  The
   authentication request will then be routed to "", which
   will likely be unable to authenticate "".

   Even worse, a misconfiguration of "" means that it may in
   turn proxy the inner authentication request to the ""
   domain.  Such cross-domain authentication is highly problematic, and
   there are few good reasons to allow it.

   It is therefore RECOMMENDED that systems which permit anonymous
   "outer" identifiers require that the "inner" domain be the same as,
   or a sub-domain of the "outer" domain.  An authentication request
   using disparate realms is a security violation, and the request
   SHOULD be rejected.

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   The situation gets worse when multiple protocols are involved.  The
   TTLS protocol permits MS-CHAP [RFC2433] to be carried inside of the
   TLS tunnel.  MS-CHAP defines its own identifier which is encapsulated
   inside of the MS-CHAP exchange.  That identifier is not required to
   be UTF-8, and in practice, can be one of many unknown character sets.
   There is no way in practice to determine which character set was used
   for that identifier.

   The result is that the "outer" EAP Identity carried by TTLS is likely
   to not even share the same character set as the "inner" identifier
   used by MS-CHAP.  The two identifiers are entirely independent, and
   fundamentally incomparable.

   Such protocol design is NOT RECOMMENDED.

5.  Administration of Names

   In order to avoid creating any new administrative procedures,
   administration of the NAI realm namespace piggybacks on the
   administration of the DNS namespace.

   NAI realm names are required to be unique, and the rights to use a
   given NAI realm for roaming purposes are obtained coincident with
   acquiring the rights to use a particular Fully Qualified Domain Name
   (FQDN).  Those wishing to use an NAI realm name should first acquire
   the rights to use the corresponding FQDN.  Administrators MUST NOT
   publicly use an NAI realm without first owning the corresponding
   FQDN.  Private use of unowned NAI realms within an administative
   domain is allowed, though it is RECOMMENDED that example names be
   used, such as "".

   Note that the use of an FQDN as the realm name does not require use
   of the DNS for location of the authentication server.  While Diameter
   [RFC6733] supports the use of DNS for location of authentication
   servers, existing RADIUS implementations typically use proxy
   configuration files in order to locate authentication servers within
   a domain and perform authentication routing.  The implementations
   described in [RFC2194] did not use DNS for location of the
   authentication server within a domain.  Similarly, existing
   implementations have not found a need for dynamic routing protocols
   or propagation of global routing information.  Note also that there
   is no requirement that the NAI represent a valid email address.

6.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no actions for IANA.

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7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

     Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
     Levels", RFC 2119, March, 1997.

     Yergeau, F., "UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO 10646", STD 63,
     RFC 3629, November 2003.

     Klensin J., and Padlipsky M., "Unicode Format for Network
     Interchange", RFC 5198, March 2008

     Crocker, D. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
     Specifications: ABNF", RFC 5234, January 2008.

     Faltstrom, P., Hoffman, P., and A. Costello, "Internationalizing
     Domain Names in Applications (IDNA)", RFC 5890, August 2010

     Klensin, J., "Internationalized Domain Names in Applications
     (IDNA): Protocol", RFC 5891, August 2010

     Hoffman, P., and Klensin, J., "Terminology Used in
     Internationalization in the IETF", RFC 6365, September 2011

7.2.  Informative References

     Aboba, B., Lu, J., Alsop, J., Ding, J., and W. Wang, "Review of
     Roaming Implementations", RFC 2194, September 1997.

     Valencia, A., Littlewood, M., and T. Kolar, "Cisco Layer Two
     Forwarding (Protocol) "L2F"", RFC 2341, May 1998.

     Zorn G., and Cobb, S. "Microsoft PPP CHAP Extensions", RFC 2433,
     October 1998.

     Hamzeh, K., Pall, G., Verthein, W., Taarud, J., Little, W., and G.

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     Zorn, "Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol", RFC 2637, July 1999.

     Townsley, W., Valencia, A., Rubens, A., Pall, G., Zorn, G., and B.
     Palter, "Layer Two Tunneling Protocol "L2TP"", RFC 2661, August

     Rigney, C., Willens, S., Rubens, A. and W. Simpson, "Remote
     Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS)", RFC 2865, June 2000.

     Rigney, C., "RADIUS Accounting", RFC 2866, June 2000.

     Costello, A., "Punycode: A Bootstring encoding of Unicode for
     Internationalized Domain Names in Applications (IDNA)", RFC 3492,
     March 2003.

     Aboba, B. and P. Calhoun, "RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial In
     User Service) Support For Extensible Authentication Protocol
     (EAP)", RFC 3579, September 2003.

     Aboba, B., Blunk, L., Vollbrecht, J., Carlson, J., and H.
     Levkowetz, "Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP)", RFC 3748,
     June 2004.

     Aboba, B. et al., "The Network Access Identifier", RFC 4282,
     December 2005.

     Kent, S. and S. Keo, "Security Architecture for the Internet
     Protocol", RFC 4301, December 2005.

     Funk, P., and Blake-Wilson, S., "Extensible Authentication Protocol
     Tunneled Transport Layer Security Authenticated Protocol Version 0
     (EAP-TTLSv0)", RFC 5281, August 2008/

     Y. Abel, Ed., "Internationalized Email Headers", RFC 5335,
     September 2008.

     Korhohen, J. (Ed) et. al., "Clarifications on the Routing of

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     Diameter Requests Based on the Username and the Realm", RFC 5729,
     December 2009

     Thaler, D., et al, "IAB Thoughts on Encodings for Internationalized
     Domain Names", RFC 6055, February 2011.

     V. Fajardo, Ed., et al, "Diameter Base Protocol", RFC 6733, October

     Sullivan, A., et al, "Principles for Unicode Code Point Inclusion
     in Labels in the DNS", RFC 6912, April 2013.

[EDUROAM], "eduroam (EDUcational ROAMing)"

     3GPP, "TS 23.003 Numbering, addressing, and Identification (Release
     12)", July 2014,


   The initial text for this document was [RFC4282], which was then
   heavily edited.  The original authors of [RFC4282] were Bernard
   Aboba, Mark A. Beadles, Jari Arkko, and Pasi Eronen.

   The ABNF validator at was used to
   verify the syntactic correctness of the ABNF in Section 2.

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Appendix A - Changes from RFC4282

   This document contains the following updates with respect to the
   previous NAI definition in RFC 4282 [RFC4282]:

   *  The formal syntax in Section 2.1 has been updated to forbid
      non-UTF8 characters.  e.g. characters with the "high bit" set.

   *  The formal syntax in Section 2.1 has been updated to allow
      UTF-8 in the "realm" portion of the NAI.

   *  The formal syntax in [RFC4282] Section 2.1 applied to the
      NAI after it was "internationalized" via the ToAscii function.
      The contents of the NAI before it was "internationalized" were
      left indeterminate.  This document updates the formal syntax to
      define an internationalized form of the NAI, and forbids the use
      of the ToAscii function for NAI "internationalization".

   * The grammar for the user and realm portion is based on a
      of the "nai" defined in [RFC4282] Section 2.1, and the "utf8-addr-
      spec" defined in [RFC5335] Section 4.4.

   *  All use of the ToAscii function has been moved to normal
      requirements on DNS implementations when realms are used as the
      basis for DNS lookups.  This involves no changes to the existing
      DNS infrastructure.

   *  The discussions on internationalized character sets in Section 2.4
      have been updated.  The suggestion to use the ToAscii function for
      realm comparisons has been removed.  No AAA system has implemented
      these suggestions, so this change should have no operational

   * The section "Routing inside of AAA Systems" section is new in this
      document.  The concept of a "local AAA routing table" is also new,
      although it accurately describes the functionality of wide-spread

   *  The "Compatibility with EMail Usernames" and "Compatibility
      with DNS" sections have been revised and updated.  We now note
      that the ToAscii function is suggested to be used only when a
      realm name is used for DNS lookups, and even then the function is
      only used by a resolving API on the local system, and even then we
      recommend that only the home network perform this conversion.

   * The "Realm Construction" section has been updated to note
      that editing of the NAI is NOT RECOMMENDED.

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   * The "Examples" section has been updated to remove the instance
      of the IDN being converted to ASCII.  This behavior is now

Authors' Addresses

   Alan DeKok
   The FreeRADIUS Server Project


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