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Various add-on packages enable RADIUS users to log in to Cumulus Linux switches in a transparent way with minimal configuration. There is no need to create accounts or directories on the switch. Authentication uses PAM and includes login, ssh, sudo and su.

Install the RADIUS Packages

You can install the RADIUS packages even if the switch is not connected to the internet, as they are in the cumulus-local-apt-archive repository, which is embedded in the Cumulus Linux image.

To install the RADIUS packages:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo apt-get update
cumulus@switch:~$ sudo apt-get install libnss-mapuser libpam-radius-auth

After installation is complete, either reboot the switch or run the sudo systemctl restart nvued command.

The libpam-radius-auth package supplied with the Cumulus Linux RADIUS client is a newer version than the one in Debian Buster. This package contains support for IPv6, the src_ip option described below, as well as bug fixes and minor features. The package also includes VRF support, provides man pages describing the PAM and RADIUS configuration, and sets the SUDO_PROMPT environment variable to the login name for RADIUS mapping support.

The libnss-mapuser package is specific to Cumulus Linux and supports the getgrent, getgrnam and getgrgid library interfaces. These interfaces add logged in RADIUS users to the group member list for groups that contain the mapped_user (radius_user) if the RADIUS account does not have privileges, and add privileged RADIUS users to the group member list for groups that contain the mapped_priv_user (radius_priv_user) during the group lookups.

During package installation:

  • The PAM configuration updates automatically using pam-auth-update (8), and the NSS configuration file /etc/nsswitch.conf adds the mapuser and mapuid plugins. If you remove or purge the packages, these files remove the configuration for these plugins.
  • The radius_shell package installs the /sbin/radius_shell and setcap cap_setuid program for the login shell for RADIUS accounts. The package adjusts the UID when needed, then runs the bash shell with the same arguments. When installed, the package changes the shell of the RADIUS accounts to /sbin//radius_shell, and to /bin/shell if you remove the package. You need this package to enable privileged RADIUS users. You do not need this package for regular RADIUS clients.
  • The nvshow group includes the radius_user account, the nvset and nvapply groups and sudo groups include the radius_priv_user account. This change enables all RADUS logins to run NVUE nv show commands and all privileged RADIUS users to also run nv set, nv unset, and nv apply commands, and to use sudo.

Configure the RADIUS Client

To configure the RADIUS client, edit the /etc/pam_radius_auth.conf file.

After editing the /etc/pam_radius_auth.conf file, you must restart both nvued.service and nginx.service:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo systemctl restart nvued.service
cumulus@switch:~$ sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

  1. Add the hostname or IP address of at least one RADIUS server (such as a freeradius server on Linux), and the shared secret used to authenticate and encrypt communication with each server.

    You must be able to resolve the hostname of the switch to an IP address. If for some reason you cannot find the hostname in DNS, you can add the hostname to the /etc/hosts file manually. However, this can cause problems because DHCP assigns the IP address, which can change at any time.

    Multiple server configuration lines are verified in the order listed. Other than memory, there is no limit to the number of RADIUS servers you can use.

    The server port number or name is optional. The system looks up the port in the /etc/services file. However, you can override the ports in the /etc/pam_radius_auth.conf file.

  2. If the server is slow or latencies are high, change the timeout setting. The setting defaults to 3 seconds.

  3. If you want to use a specific interface to reach the RADIUS server, specify the src_ip option. You can specify the hostname of the interface, an IPv4, or an IPv6 address. If you specify the src_ip option, you must also specify the timeout option.

  4. Set the vrf-name field. This is typically set to mgmt if you are using a management VRF. You cannot specify more than one VRF.

The configuration file includes the mapped_priv_user field that sets the account used for privileged RADIUS users and the priv-lvl field that sets the minimum value for the privilege level to be a privileged login (the default value is 15). If you edit these fields, make sure the values match those set in the /etc/nss_mapuser.conf file.

The following example provides a sample /etc/pam_radius_auth.conf file configuration:

mapped_priv_user   radius_priv_user
# server[:port]    shared_secret   timeout (secs)  src_ip      secretkey
other-server       othersecret     3     
# when mgmt vrf is in use
vrf-name mgmt

If this is the first time you are configuring the RADIUS client, uncomment the debug line for troubleshooting. The debugging messages write to /var/log/syslog. When the RADIUS client is working correctly, comment out the debug line.

As an optional step, you can set PAM configuration keywords by editing the /usr/share/pam-configs/radius file. After you edit the file, you must run the pam-auth-update --package command. The pam_radius_auth (8) man page describes the PAM configuration keywords.

The value of the VSA (Vendor Specific Attribute) shell:priv-lvl determines the privilege level for the user on the switch. If the attribute does not return, the user does not have privileges. The following shows an example using the freeradius server for a fully privileged user.

Service-Type = Administrative-User,
Cisco-AVPair = "shell:roles=network-administrator",
Cisco-AVPair += "shell:priv-lvl=15"

The VSA vendor name (Cisco-AVPair in the example above) can have any content. The RADIUS client only checks for the string shell:priv-lvl.

Enable Login without Local Accounts

LDAP is not commonly used with switches and adding accounts locally is cumbersome, Cumulus Linux includes a mapping capability with the libnss-mapuser package.

Mapping uses two NSS (Name Service Switch) plugins, one for account name, and one for UID lookup. The installation process configures these accounts automatically in the /etc/nsswitch.conf file and removes them when you delete the package. See the nss_mapuser (8) man page for the full description of this plugin.

A username is mapped at login to a fixed account specified in the configuration file, with the fields of the fixed account used as a template for the user that is logging in.

For example, if you look up the name dave and the fixed account in the configuration file is radius\_user, and that entry in /etc/passwd is:

radius_user:x:1017:1002:radius user:/home/radius_user:/bin/bash

then the matching line that returns when you run getent passwd dave is:

cumulus@switch:~$ getent passwd dave
dave:x:1017:1002:dave mapped user:/home/dave:/bin/bash

The login process creates the home directory /home/dave if it does not already exist and populates it with the standard skeleton files by the mkhomedir_helper command.

The configuration file /etc/nss_mapuser.conf configures the plugins. The file includes the mapped account name, which is radius_user by default. You can change the mapped account name by editing the file. The nss_mapuser (5) man page describes the configuration file.

A flat file mapping derives from the session number assigned during login, which persists across su and sudo. Cumulus Linux removes the mapping at logout.

Local Fallback Authentication

If a site wants to allow local fallback authentication for a user when none of the RADIUS servers are reachable, you can add a privileged user account as a local account on the switch. The local account must have the same unique identifier as the privileged user and the shell must be the same.

To configure local fallback authentication:

  1. Add a local privileged user account. For example, if the radius_priv_user account in the /etc/passwd file is radius_priv_user:x:1002:1001::/home/radius_priv_user:/sbin/radius_shell, run the following command to add a local privileged user account named johnadmin:

    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo useradd -u 1002 -g 1001 -o -s /sbin/radius_shell johnadmin
  2. To enable the local privileged user to run sudo and NVUE commands, run the following commands:

    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo adduser johnadmin nvset
    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo adduser johnadmin nvapply
    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo adduser johnadmin sudo
    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo systemctl restart nvued
  3. Edit the /etc/passwd file to move the local user line before to the radius_priv_user line:

    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo vi /etc/passwd
  4. To set the local password for the local user, run the following command:

    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo passwd johnadmin

Verify RADIUS Client Configuration

To verify that you configured the RADIUS client correctly, log in as a non-privileged user and run a nv set interface command.

In this example, the ops user is not a privileged RADIUS user so the ops user cannot add an interface.

ops@leaf01:~$ nv set interface swp1
ERROR: User ops does not have permission to make networking changes.

In this example, the admin user is a privileged RADIUS user (with privilege level 15) so is able to add interface swp1.

admin@leaf01:~$ nv set interface swp1
admin@leaf01:~$ nv apply

Remove RADIUS Client Packages

Remove the RADIUS packages with the following command:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo apt-get remove libnss-mapuser libpam-radius-auth

When you remove the packages, Cumulus Linux deletes the plugins from the /etc/nsswitch.conf file and from the PAM files.

To remove all configuration files for these packages, run:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo apt-get purge libnss-mapuser libpam-radius-auth

The RADIUS fixed account is not removed from the /etc/passwd or /etc/group file and the home directories are not removed. They remain in case there are modifications to the account or files in the home directories.

To remove the home directories of the RADIUS users, first get the list by running:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo ls -l /home | grep radius

For all users listed, except the radius_user, run this command to remove the home directories:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo deluser --remove-home USERNAME

where USERNAME is the account name (the home directory relative portion). This command gives the following warning because the user is not listed in the /etc/passwd file.

userdel: cannot remove entry 'USERNAME' from /etc/passwd
/usr/sbin/deluser: `/usr/sbin/userdel USERNAME' returned error code 1. Exiting.

After you remove all the RADIUS users, run the command to remove the fixed account. If there are changes to the account in the /etc/nss_mapuser.conf file, use that account name instead of radius_user.

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo deluser --remove-home radius_user
cumulus@switch:~$ sudo deluser --remove-home radius_priv_user
cumulus@switch:~$ sudo delgroup radius_users


  • If two or more RADIUS users log in simultaneously, a UID lookup only returns the user that logs in first. Any process that either user runs applies to both, and all files that either user creates apply to the first name matched. This process is similar to adding two local users to the password file with the same UID and GID, and is an inherent limitation of using the UID for the fixed user from the password file. The current algorithm returns the first name matching the UID from the mapping file, which is either the first or second user that logs in.

  • When you install both the TACACS+ and the RADIUS AAA client, Cumulus Linux does not attempt the RADIUS login. As a workaround, do not install both the TACACS+ and the RADIUS AAA client on the same switch.

  • When the RADIUS server is reachable outside of the management VRF, such as in the default VRF, you might see the following error message when you try to run sudo:

    2008-10-31T07:06:36.191359+00:00 SW01 sudo: pam_radius_auth(sudo:auth): Bind for server failed: Cannot assign requested address
    2008-10-31T07:06:36.192307+00:00 sw01 sudo: pam_radius_auth(sudo:auth): No valid server found in configuration file /etc/pam_radius_auth.conf

    The error occurs because sudo tries to authenticate to the RADIUS server through the management VRF. Before you run sudo, you must set the shell to the correct VRF:

    cumulus@switch:~$ vrf exec default bash
    cumulus@switch:~$ sudo