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The evolution of technology has led to a rapid increase in data transmission over Ethernet networks. With this growth comes the need for robust security measures to protect sensitive information. In this blog post, we will delve into MACsec, a security protocol designed to enhance the security of Ethernet communications.
MacSec (IEEE 802.1AE standard), short for Media Access Control Security, is a security protocol to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data transmitted over Ethernet networks. It operates at the data link layer, providing security features for protecting against various network threats.
MACsec operates at the OSI model's data link layer (Layer 2). Its primary goal is to provide encryption and integrity protection for Ethernet frames, securing data on the local area network (LAN). Here's an in-depth look at its essential components and operation:
Secure Key Exchange: MACsec establishes encryption keys between two devices connected over an Ethernet link. This key exchange can be manual, pre-shared keys, or automatic, with protocols like MKA (MACsec Key Agreement). MKA simplifies key management by automating key exchange, ensuring that both parties share a common encryption key.
Encryption: Once the keys are established, MACsec encrypts the Ethernet frames using industry-standard cipher suites AES-GCM-128/256 and AES-GCM-XPN-128/256, a symmetric encryption algorithm. AES-GCM provides confidentiality, ensuring that even if an attacker captures the frames, they cannot decipher the data without the encryption key.
Message Authentication Code (MAC): MACsec calculates a MAC for each frame using AES-GCM. This MAC is used for data integrity verification upon receipt. If any modifications occur during transit, the MAC check will fail, and the frame will be discarded to prevent tampering.
Securing Point-to-Point and Multi-Point Links: MACsec can secure point-to-point and multi-point Ethernet links. It's commonly used in scenarios like data center interconnections, WAN links, and VPNs. It ensures that data remains secure as it travels between these endpoints.
Replay Attack Protection: MACsec also includes protection against replay attacks. Frames have sequence numbers, and devices drop frames with duplicate or out-of-sequence numbers.
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