IEEE 802.1X is an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standard for port-based network access control. Its main purpose is to provide an authentication mechanism for devices and users attempting to connect to wired and wireless LANs so that only authorized connections are allowed.
Network Access Control (NAC) is a term that has been widely adopted for solutions that provide both authentication of users and devices – much like 802.1X – as well as validation of the security posture of devices attempting to connect to a network.
There is often confusion between the functions and benefits of 802.1X and those of commercially available NAC solutions, leading one to wonder which approach is best for securing access to a particular network environment. This paper explores the fundamentals of 802.1X and NAC technologies, and explains why a combination of both is often required to provide the level of security, control and visibility needed in today’s networks.