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Device administration with Cisco WLC

My experience with a deep dive into device administration AAA with Cisco Wireless LAN controllers and the SourceFire/Cisco FirePower Manager software.

I recently had to dive very deeply into doing device administration AAA with Cisco Wireless LAN controllers and the SourceFire/Cisco FirePower Manager software. Given the interest that others have shown, I decided to write this Blog entry to share my experience.

How Device Admin AAA works on the Cisco WLC

Device Administration with a Cisco Catalyst switch is capable of command-level authorizations. With the WLC, however, it is based on the sections of the menu system. It does not prevent access to those sections of the GUI, but instead prevents changes from being saved when inside a menu section that is not authorized. 

Figure 1 shows the different menus in the orange box, with three of the individual menus highlighted with a yellow box.  

WLC Menus Aaron Woland

Figure 1 - WLC Menus

The authorization results from the TACACS+ Server will need to list out the menus that the user is authorized to make changes within. Each of these menu sections should be called out with the text "role." For example, to allow a user to make changes only within the WLANs, Wireless and Security menus, the TACACS+ authorization result should include the following text: role1=WLANS role2=SECURITY role3=WIRELESS. Order does not matter. 

Here is the list of roles that exist for the Cisco WLC:

  • WLAN

There are some special roles that cannot be mixed with any other roles:

  • LOBBY - Permits access to the Lobby Ambassador functions.
  • ALL - Just like it sounds. All Menus.

Adding ISE to the WLC TACACS+ Servers

ISE will need to be added to the WLC as a TACACS+ Authentication Server, Authorization Server, and an Accounting server. The TACACS+ servers are listed under Security > AAA > TACACS+.

Navigate to Security > AAA > TACACS+ > Authentication and click New.

Fill in the Server IP Address and the Shared Secret as seen in Figure 2, and click Apply

WLC TACACS+ Authentication Server Aaron Woland

Figure 2 - WLC TACACS+ Authentication Server 

Navigate to Security > AAA > TACACS+ > Accounting and click New.

Fill in the Server IP Address and the Shared Secret as seen in Figure 3, and click Apply

WLC TACACS+ Accounting server Aaron Woland

Figure 3 - WLC TACACS+ Accounting server

Navigate to Security > AAA > TACACS+ > Authorization and click New.

Fill in the Server IP Address and the Shared Secret as seen in Figure 4, and click Apply

WLC TACACS+ Authorization Server Aaron Woland

Figure 4 - WLC TACACS+ Authorization Server

Now the ISE Node has been added to the WLC for use with TACACS+, but the WLC is not authenticating users for login yet. You will do that later. At this point, you need to add the WLC as a TACACS+ NAD on ISE. 

Within the ISE GUI, Navigate to Work Centers > Device Administration > Network Device Groups. If you've been following my guidance all these years, then you will already have a detailed set of hierarchical Network Device Groups (NDGs), such as those displayed in Figure 5.  

NDGs Aaron Woland

Figure 5 - Network Device Groups 

The point is - let's ensure that these Cisco WLCs have their own group for a device type. With that group, we can ensure that a device administration policy set is built just for these devices and their unique way of doing Device Administration. 

Next, you should ensure your Cisco WLC itself is added to ISE and has the TACACS+ shared secret configured. 

Navigate to Work Centers > Device Administration > Network Resources > Network Devices. Click on the WLC or Click Add to create a new one.

Ensure the Network Device Groups are assigned properly and the TACACS+ Shared Secret is configured correctly. Figure 6 shows the NAD settings. 

NAD Settings Aaron Woland

Figure 6 - Network Device Settings

If you haven't already, ensure that device administration is enabled on the ISE policy services node under Administration > System > Deployment, select your ISE PSN, as seen in Figure 7. Enable the device admin service (it is off by default). 

Deployment Screen Aaron Woland

Figure 7 - Deployment Screen

Prepare the Authorization Results

Device Administration AAA is ready on ISE, but you have no policies and no Authorizations to send down to the WLC yet. Now you're going to add one TACACS Profile for each role that you plan to use with the WLC.

Navigate to Work Centers > Device Administration > Policy Results > TACACS Profiles. Click Add. Name the profile and add good description. I find it is always best to name the profile based on the device that will use it. Such as WLC-LobbyAmbassador.

Under Custom Attributes, click Add. Create a MANDATORY attribute, name it "role1", and the Value should be set to whichever role you are configuring, as seen in Figure 8, which has role1 set to LOBBY. Click Save.

Lobby Ambassador Role Aaron Woland

Figure 8 - Lobby Ambassador Role

At any time, you can edit the Raw View, which is just text, as seen in Figure 9.

Lobby Ambassador Role Raw Aaron Woland

Figure 9 - Lobby Ambassador Raw Attributes

Add another TACACS Profile for each of the role types for your organization. For example: create a new TACACS Profile named WLC-NetAdmin-Full, that sends role1=ALL.  

Net Admin Full Control Aaron Woland

Figure 10 - Net Admin Full Control

I created another example named "WLC-NetOps", and assigned three roles: WLAN, WIRELESS and CONTROLLER, as shown in Figure 11. Notice how each role number must increment (role1, role2, role3).  

NetOps Aaron Woland

Figure 11 - WLC-NetOps

I chose to also create another result named "WLC-HelpDesk" that has "Role1=MONITOR" to use for helpdesk access.

Once you have all the role types that you need, it's time to create the Device Administration Policy Set for the WLC's. Navigate to Work Centers > Device Administration > Device Admin Policy Sets.  

Create a new Policy Set above the default. Name the set "Wireless LAN Controllers", and provide a description. The Conditions for the Policy Set should leverage the Network Device Group (NDG) for Cisco Wireless Controllers, like what is shown in Figure 12.  

WLC Dev Admin Set Aaron Woland

12 - WLC Dev Admin Set

Now we'll go ahead with building authorization rules. One rule each, for: Helpdesk, NetOps, NetAdmin, and Lobby.  

Figure 13 shows the screen shot of the Device Admin Policy Set for Cisco Wireless Controllers that was created for these policy results and this blog post.  

WLC Authorization Policy Aaron Woland

Figure 13 - WLC Authorization Policy 

Configure the WLC to use the TACACS+ Server

Now that the AuthZ policy has been built and the T+ servers are defined in the WLC, the next step is to configure the WLC to use the T+ server for administrative access. This is done under Security > Priority Order > Management User. Ensure TACACS+ is at the top of the list titled "Order Used for Authentication" and then Click Apply. Figure 14 shows the WLC setting.

TACACS+ Management Login Order Aaron Woland

Figure 14 - Management Login Order

That's it..  You are setup now.  

A very Interesting Troubleshooting Capability

As I was going through this, I decided to watch the controller console through a debug aaa tacacs enable session. What I noticed was that an assigned role 'number' was given at the end. This made me curious and so I looked into it. Example 1 shows a debug output.  

Example 1 - Debug aaa tacacs enable output

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.409: Conecting to tacacs server on port=49

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.417: Received tplus auth response: type=1 seq_no=2 session_id=10c15fcb length=15 encrypted=0

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.417: TPLUS_AUTHEN_STATUS_GETPASS

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.417: auth_cont get_pass reply: pkt_length=25

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.417: processTplusAuthResponse: Continue auth transaction
*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.752: Received tplus auth response: type=1 seq_no=4 session_id=10c15fcb length=6 encrypted=0

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.752: Created tacacs author request payload(rc=0)

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.752: TPLUS_AUTHEN_STATUS_PASS: username=[NetOps1]

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.752: Conecting to tacacs server on port=49

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.827: author response body: status=1 arg_cnt=3 msg_len=0 data_len=0

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.827: arg[0] = [10][role1=WLAN]

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.827: arg[1] = [14][role2=WIRELESS]

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.827: arg[2] = [16][role3=CONTROLLER]

*tplusTransportThread: Dec 14 17:40:43.827:
User has the following mgmtRole 38

So I wondered to myself, what does mgmtRole 38 signify, and how does it calculate that role number.  

Each role type, i.e.: menu item has an assigned hex value, which is added together to achieve the final mgmtRole value. The list below shows the roles and their individual values:

  • LOBBY = 2
  • WLAN = 8
  • WIRELESS = 20
  • SECURITY = 40
  • COMMANDS = 100

Comparing the role and value list above to the debug output in Example 1, we see that Role1=WLAN (value is 8) + Role2=WIRELESS (value is 20) + Role3=CONTROLLER (Value is 10). That translates to 8 + 20 + 10 = 38. The debug shows that mgmtRole is 38.  

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