Best Alternative to Cisco ACS

Best Alternative to Cisco ACS

Jul 10, 2022 / Kron

A set of protocols, called AAA or Triple-A, covering authentication, authorization, and accounting services, offers you a detailed access management system over IT networks. Frequently used AAA solutions for different network components, such as corporate LAN and WAN networks, ISPs, cellular networks, firewalls, routers, and switches, can be managed by policy-based security servers such as Cisco ACS. However, the end-of-life of Cisco ACS and also the end of the software support have led to the search for an alternative solution to Cisco ACS.

Before examining the best AAA server in detail, which would be an alternative to Cisco ACS regarding data and access security, it would be useful to detail the working principle of Cisco ACS and the areas in which it is used and how. Understanding the importance of Cisco ACS regarding the security and sustainability of access management systems is very important in terms of examining the way the replacing system works and its advantages.

So, What is Cisco ACS?

Cisco ACS can basically be referred to as a policy-based security server that provides Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting services that comply with international cybersecurity standards in the IT network of the user. Facilitating access to Cisco and non-Cisco network devices, ACS acts as an integration tool for network access control and identity management. Different versions of ACS, which can be described as a corporate network access control platform, can perform different tasks.

For example, ACS 5.x allows you to control the network access regarding dynamic conditions within the IT network. ACS 5.x, a rule-based policy model, meets the complex access policy requirements. The system lays out basic work areas regarding access security under the two main AAA protocols (TACACS+ and RADIUS).

Under the TACACS+ protocol, ACS plays a role in managing IT devices such as switches, routers, wireless access points, and gateways. In addition to facilitating processes in the management of Cisco and non-Cisco assets, it also provides the management of services such as ACS, Virtual Private Network (VPN), and firewall.

Within the scope of the RADIUS protocol, ACS controls the wired and wireless network accesses of the main devices to the IT network. ACS supports RADIUS-based authentication method such as RAP, CHAP, MSCHAPv1, and MSCHAPv2, which manages the accounting of network resources.

Apart from the two basic AAA protocol frameworks, the working principle of ACS itself can be regarded as a control mechanism for the system in question to identify users and devices trying to connect to the network. ACS, which uses ACS internal identity storage during local user authentication or performs direct authentication with the help of external identity pools, provides advanced monitoring, reporting, and troubleshooting tools in order to ensure the management of the deployments. In addition to offering access policies for VPN and wireless users, ACS can also use Active Directory as an external identity store to enable a user to access the network and perform the authentication process as well.

Cisco ACS Support Ends

On different dates in 2014, 2015, and 2016, the sale of different versions of Cisco ACS completely stopped. Upon the announcement that the Cisco ACS system and service support would come to an end, the manufacturer directed users to ISE, the alternative to ACS within Cisco. However, since Cisco ISE is a more expensive alternative in terms of fee and service details, the transition to Cisco ISE was slow. Therefore, users have started to look for AAA solutions as an alternative to Cisco ACS.

Later, it was announced that the last support date of Cisco ACS would be August 31, 2022. This means that as of September 1, 2022, Cisco ACS cannot be used to provide access management security in IT networks. At this point, it is useful to explain in detail the best AAA server as an alternative to Cisco ACS.

Best Alternative to Cisco ACS

Companies today have countless network devices that need to be managed by their IT departments. To manage devices securely, some policies need to be set and enforced to control many processes, such as who can log in and what actions they can perform and log. While these policies are implemented separately for each device, negative consequences such as loss of service and network interruption may occur. In centralizing authentication of compliance requirements, security standards, and administrative management, many IT departments prefer AAA protocols, TACACS+ and RADIUS Access Management (Unified Access Manager) protocols, which can control all network devices of the organization with a single network.

Unified Access Manager protocols, especially TACACS+ (Terminal Access Controller Access-Control System Plus) and RADIUS (Remote Access Dial In User Service) offer effective network security to companies that have been adapted to digital transformation through security policies such as authentication, single sign-on, and configuration of Active Directory.

  • TACACS+ and RADIUS Access Management protocols can be replaced with Cisco ACS servers without the need for an additional platform.
  • Provides full visibility thanks to detailed audit logs. All successful or failed commands are logged as they are, and a record is kept of which user tried to run which command on which device and when. All user sessions and commands are displayed in a centralized way and in a viewable and readable format.
  • Regardless of the role and profile capacity of the network device, there are best practices of "segregation of duties" and "principle of least privilege".
  • The TACACS+ Access Manager enables any custom policy to be defined and applied to any user group, ensuring that only a "set of commands" is executed by a user, and no other commands are allowed to be executed.
  • Extends Active Directory group policies to network infrastructure and supports regulatory compliances, including examples such as GDPR, ISO 27001, SOX, HIPAA, PCI.
  • Eliminates weak passwords and/or non-expiring passwords.
  • Enables the identification of time-based access restrictions for the time interval to be maintained on the IT network.
  • Disables inactive privileged accounts.
  • In a single TACACS+ Access Manager, limited privileges can be granted for each corporate department/region in the management of its own devices, isolated from the larger network, while the entire network management remains constant.
  • It enables users to easily log in to network devices using an Active Directory (AD) username and password, without any need for additional infrastructure or password synchronization.
  • When an employee is dismissed, the user account is automatically locked out.
  • It offers an open protocol-based structure that supports all the devices on the network, regardless of the vendor.
  • Single Connect TACACS+ and RADIUS Access Manager support configuration of the privileged Attribute Value Pair.

Considered the best alternative to Cisco ACS, TACACS+ and RADIUS Access Manager provide centralization of Network Access Control operations. Thanks to TACACS+ and RADIUS Access Management, which combines AAA and Active Directory over network infrastructures, you can both manage the devices that will provide remote access to your network and control the access of the current devices on the network.

With the end-of-service of Cisco ACS, you can contact us for more detailed information about TACACS+ and RADIUS Access Management, which can be regarded as the most effective solution to ensure the security of your IT network's access management.

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