NET0813 - NTP messages are not authenticated - 'ntp authentication-key NTP_SERVER_2'


Since NTP is used to ensure accurate log file time stamp information, NTP could pose a security risk if a malicious user were able to falsify NTP information. To launch an attack on the NTP infrastructure, a hacker could inject time that would be accepted by NTP clients by spoofing the IP address of a valid NTP server. To mitigate this risk, the time messages must be authenticated by the client before accepting them as a time source.

Two NTP-enabled devices can communicate in either client-server mode or peer-to-peer mode (aka "symmetric mode"). The peering mode is configured manually on the device and indicated in the outgoing NTP packets. The fundamental difference is the synchronization behavior: an NTP server can synchronize to a peer with better stratum, whereas it will never synchronize to its client regardless of the client's stratum. From a protocol perspective, NTP clients are no different from the NTP servers. The NTP client can synchronize to multiple NTP servers, select the best server and synchronize with it, or synchronize to the averaged value returned by the servers.

A hierarchical model can be used to improve scalability. With this implementation, an NTP client can also become an NTP server providing time to downstream clients at a higher stratum level and of decreasing accuracy than that of its upstream server. To increase availability, NTP peering can be used between NTP servers. In the event the device loses connectivity to its upstream NTP server, it will be able to choose time from one of its peers.

The NTP authentication model is opposite of the typical client-server authentication model. NTP authentication enables an NTP client or peer to authenticate time received from their servers and peers. It is not used to authenticate NTP clients because NTP servers do not care about the authenticity of their clients, as they never accept any time from them.


Configure the device to authenticate all received NTP messages using a FIPS-approved message authentication code algorithm.

See Also

Item Details


References: 800-53|AU-8(2), CAT|II, Rule-ID|SV-15327r6_rule, STIG-ID|NET0813, Vuln-ID|V-14671

Plugin: Cisco

Control ID: 0799a5919cbc53d1e25c64cf0b076abd8eabf28f4ad906eda231953b16bd4375