Friday, April 10, 2009

Microsoft Challenge-Handshake Authentication Protocol (MS-CHAP) and Challenge-Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP)

The Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) authenticates a user or network host to an authenticating entity.

RFC 1994: PPP Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) defines the protocol.

CHAP is an authentication scheme used by Point to Point Protocol (PPP) servers to validate the identity of remote clients. CHAP periodically verifies the identity of the client by using a three-way handshake. This happens at the time of establishing the initial link, and may happen again at any time afterwards. The verification is based on a shared secret (such as the client user's password).

After the completion of the link establishment phase, the authenticator sends a "challenge" message to the peer.
The peer responds with a value calculated using a one-way hash function, such as an MD5 checksum hash.
The authenticator checks the response against its own calculation of the expected hash value. If the values match, the authenticator acknowledges the authentication; otherwise it should terminate the connection.
At random intervals the authenticator sends a new challenge to the peer and repeats steps 1 through 3.
CHAP provides protection against playback attack by the peer through the use of an incrementally changing identifier and of a variable challenge-value. CHAP requires that both the client and server know the plaintext of the secret, although it is never sent over the network.

Microsoft has implemented a variant of the Challenge-handshake authentication protocol, called MS-CHAP, which does not require either peer to know the plaintext.

MS-CHAP is the Microsoft version of the Challenge-handshake authentication protocol, CHAP. The protocol exists in two versions, MS-CHAPv1 (defined in RFC 2433) and MS-CHAPv2 (defined in RFC 2759). MS-CHAPv2 was introduced with Windows 2000 and was added to Windows 98 in the "Windows 98 Dial-Up Networking Security Upgrade Release" and Windows 95 in the "Dial Up Networking 1.3 Performance & Security Update for MS Windows 95" upgrade. Windows Vista drops support for MS-CHAPv1.

Compared with CHAP, MS-CHAP:

is enabled by negotiating CHAP Algorithm 0x80 (0x81 for MS-CHAPv2) in LCP option 3, Authentication Protocol
provides an authenticator-controlled password change mechanism
provides an authenticator-controlled authentication retry mechanism
defines failure codes returned in the Failure packet message field
MS-CHAPv2 provides mutual authentication between peers by piggybacking a peer challenge on the Response packet and an authenticator response on the Success packet.

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