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Early Access Feature

TACACS+ is an early access feature in Cumulus Linux 3.1. Before you can install TACACS+, you must enable the Early Access repository. For more information about the Cumulus Linux repository, read this knowledge base article.

Cumulus Linux 3.1 has implemented TACACS+ client authentication (including login, su, sudo, and ssh) and command accounting. These package enable TACACS+ users in a transparent manner, similar to LDAP or local accounts.

Command accounting occurs in addition to session accounting, at the start and stop of the server, via the exec() system call family.

By default, TACACS+ privilege 15 users are allowed to run any command with sudo via the /etc/sudoers.d/tacplus file that is installed by the libtacplus-map1 package.

All sudo commands generate accounting records against the original login.

TACACS+ users at privilege levels other than 15 are not allowed to run sudo commands by default, and are limited to commands that can be run with standard Linux user permissions.

Cumulus Linux 3.x provides a new library to map TACACS+ users by their privilege level to the tacacs* users in the local password file, and from those local users to the TACACS+ users. These users are created with the adduser command after the libtacplus-map1 package is installed.

Package Dependencies

TACACS+ requires the following packages to be installed on Cumulus Linux:

Package NameDescription
audisp-tacplus_1.0.0-1_amd64.debThis package uses auditing data from auditd to send accounting records to the TACACS+ server.
libtac2_1.3.9-1_amd64.debBasic TACACS+ server utility and communications routines.
libnss-tacplus_1.0.1-1_amd64.debProvides an interface between libc username lookups, the mapping functions, and the TACACS+ server.
libtac2-bin_1.3.9-1_amd64.debProvides the “tacc " testing program and TACACS+ man page.
libpam-tacplus_1.4.0-1_amd64.debA modified version of the standard Debian package.
libtacplus-map1_1.0.0-1_amd64.debThe mapping functionality between local and TACACS+ users on the server. Sets the immutable sessionid and auditing UID to ensure the original user can be tracked through multiple processes and privilege changes. Sets the auditing loginuid as immutable if supported. Creates and maintains a status database in /run/tacacs_client_map to manage and lookup mappings.
libsimple-tacacct1_1.0.0-1_amd64.debProvides an interface for programs to send accounting records to the TACACS+ server. Used by audisp-tacplus.
sudo_1.8.10p3-cl3u1_amd64.debA modified version of the standard Debian package, adding TACACS+ authenticated user/password lookup functionality. This package is installed by default.

Installing and Removing the TACACS+ Client Packages

To install the tacplus-client package, on a switch, follow the instructions in the Cumulus Linux 3.1 release notes.

To remove all of the TACACS+ client packages, use the following commands:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo apt-get remove tacplus-client
cumulus@switch:~$ sudo apt-get autoremove

To remove the TACACS+ client configuration files as well as the packages (recommended), use this command:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo apt-get autoremove --purge

TACACS+ Authentication

The initial authentication configuration is done through the PAM modules, and an updated version of the libpam-tacplus package. When the package is installed, the PAM configuration is updated in /etc/pam.d with the pam-auth-update command.

NSS Plugin

When used with pam_tacplus, TACACS+ authenticated users can log in without a local account on the system by using the NSS plugin that comes with the tacpluss_nss package. The plugin uses the mapped tacplus information if the user is not found in the local password file, provides the getpwnam() entry point, and uses the TACACS+ authentication and accounting functions.

The plugin asks the TACACS+ server if the user is known, and then for relevant attributes to determine the user’s privilege level. When the libnss_tacplus package is installed, nsswitch.conf can be modified to set tacplus as the first lookup method for passwd, though it works in any position.

If the user is not found, a mapped lookup is performed using the exported functions. The privilege level is appended to “tacacs “, and the lookup searches for the name in the local password file. For example, privilege level 15 will search for the tacacs15 user. If the user is found, the password structure is filled in with the user’s information.

If it is not found, the privilege level is decremented and checked again, until tacacs0 is reached.

The pw_name attribute is not filled in with the user information; rather, with the original login name.

This allows for a configuration setup containing only two tacacs users: tacacs0 and tacacs15.

TACACS+ Accounting

TACACS+ accounting is implemented with the audisp module, with an additional plugin for auditd/audisp. The plugin maps the auid in the accounting record to a tacacs login, based on the auid and sessionid. The audisp module requires libnss_tacplus, and uses the library interfaces as part of the modified lipam_tacplus package.

Communication with the TACACS+ servers is done via the libsimple-tacact1 library, via dlopen(). A maximum of 240 bytes of command name and arguments will be sent in the accounting record, due to the TACACS+ field length limitation of 255 bytes.

The IP address and encryption key of the server should be configured in the /etc/tacplus_servers file. Minimal configuration to auditd and audisp is necessary to enable the audit records necessary for accounting. These records are installed as part of the package.

Audisp-tacplus installs the audit rules for command accounting. Modifying the configuration files is not usually necessary.

Below are the configuration files for auditd/audisp:

/etc/audisp/plugins.d/audisp-tacplus.confaudisp plugin configuration file. In general, no modifications are required.
/etc/audisp/audisp-tac_plus.confTACACS+ server configuration file. In general, no modifications are required.
/etc/audit/rules.d/audisp-tacplus.rulesThe auditd rules file.
/etc/audit/audit.rulesAudit rules file generated during auditd installation.

Filenames can be altered in the /etc/audisp/audisp-tacplus.conf file.

TACACS+ Configuration

Post-installation TACACS+ configuration is done in the following configuration files:

/etc/tacplus_serversThis is the primary file that requires configuration post-installation.
/etc/nsswitch.confWhen the libnss_tacplus package is installed, this file is configured to enable tacplus lookups via libnss_tacplus.
/etc/tacplus_nss.confThis file sets the basic parameters for libnss_tacplus. It includes a debug variable for debugging NSS lookups.
/usr/share/pam-configs/tacplusConfiguration file for pam-auth-update.
/etc/pam.d/common-*Most of the /etc/pam.d/common-* files are updated for tacplus authentication. The files are updated with pam-auth-update, when libpam-tacplus is installed.
/etc/sudoers.d/tacplusThis file allows TACACS+ privilege level 15 users to run commands with sudo.

The minimum required configuration involves setting the IP address of the TACACS+ server and the shared encryption key, in the /etc/tacplus_servers file. The TACACS shared encryption key is an ASCII phrase that is used to encrypt TACACS messages between the client and TACACS server. Below is an example of the configuration file:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo cat /etc/tacplus_servers 
# This is a common file used by audisp-tacplus, libpam_tacplus, and
# libtacplus_map config files as shipped.
# Any tac_plus client config can go here that is common to all users of this
# file, but typically it's just the TACACS+ server IP address(es) and shared
# secret(s)
# This file should normally be mode 600, if you care about the security 
# of your secret key.   When set to mode 600 NSS lookups for TACACS users
# will only work for tacacs users that are logged in, via the local mapping.
# For root, lookups will work for any tacacs users, logged in or not.

Additional TACACS servers can be configured in /etc/tacplus_nss.conf:

cumulus@switch:~$ cat /etc/tacplus_nss.conf
# Install this file as /etc/tacplus_nss.conf
# Edit /etc/nsswitch.conf to add tacplus to the passwd lookup, similar to this
# where tacplus precede compat (or files), and depending on local policy can
# follow or precede ldap, nis, etc.
#    passwd: tacplus compat 
# The server keyword should follow the secret keyword, and may be
# given fewer times than the server keyword, if all servers have the same
# shared secret.
# is matched up with first secret line, etc.  You can use any of the
# following orders, or most other orders you can think of.  There must be at
# least as many secret lines as there are server lines.  This file should be
# kept as permisions 644, owned by root, since it must be readable by arbitrary
# processes, even though the secret for the TACACS+ server is present as clear
# text.
#  Servers are tried in the order listed, and once a server
#  replies, no other servers are attempted in a given process instantiation
#  This configuration is similar to the libpam_tacplus configuration, but
#  is maintained as a configuration file, since nsswitch.conf doesn't
#  support passing parameters.  Parameters must start in the first
#  column, and parsing stops at the first whitespace
# if set, errors and other issues are logged with syslog
# debug=1
# The include keyword allows centralizing the tacacs+ server information
# including the IP address and shared secret
#  The server IP address can be optionally followed by a ':' and a port
#  number (server=

Once the tacplus_client package is installed, the tacplus option is added the passwd function in the nsswitch config. Below is the default example:

cumulus@switch:~$ cat /etc/nsswitch.conf
# /etc/nsswitch.conf
# Example configuration of GNU Name Service Switch functionality.
# If you have the `glibc-doc-reference' and `info' packages installed, try:
# `info libc "Name Service Switch"' for information about this file.
passwd:         tacplus compat
group:          compat
shadow:         compat
gshadow:        files
hosts:          files dns
networks:       files
protocols:      db files
services:       db files
ethers:         db files
rpc:            db files
netgroup:       nis

At this point, the Cumulus Linux switch should be able to query the TACACS server.

The /etc/tacplus_servers file permissions should be set to mode 600 to keep the shared key secure. When editing this file, auditing must be restarted before accounting will see the changes. To restart auditd:

cumulus@switch:~$ sudo systemctl restart auditd

If you overwrite the /etc/nsswitch.conf file, tacplus must be added to the passwd line, preceding compat.

The /etc/pam.d/common-* files can be edited manually. However, if pam-auth-update is run again after the changes are made, the update will fail. Configuration should be done in /usr/share/pam-configs/tacplus instead, followed by running pam-auth-update.

The recognized configuration options are the same as the libpam_tacplus command line arguments; not all pam_tacplus options are supported, however. The table below describes the configuration options available:

Configuration Option

Management Group




Output debugging information via syslog(3).

Debugging is heavy, including passwords.



Secret key used to encrypt/decrypt packets sent to/received from the server. Can be specified more than once.



auth, session

Adds a TACACS+ server to the servers list. Servers will be queried in turn until a match is found, or no servers remain in the list. Can be specified more than once.

When sending accounting records, the record is sent to all servers in the list.


TACACS+ server(s) communication timeout. The default value is 5 seconds.


TACACS+ authentication service (pap, chap, or login). The default value is pap.


Configuration option for audisp_tacplus and pam_tacplus sending accounting records to all supplied servers (1), or the first server to respond (0). The default value is 1.


TACACS+ accounting and authorization service. Examples include shell, pap, raccess, ppp, and slip.

The default value is shell.


TACACS+ protocol field. This option is use dependent.

PAM uses the SSH protocol.

For more information, refer to the audisp.8 and auditd.8 man pages.

Troubleshooting TACACS+

The getent command can be used to determine whether TACACS+ is configured correctly, and the local password is stored in the configuration files. In the example commands below, the cumulus user represents the local user, while cumulusTAC represents the TACACS user.

To look up the username within all NSS methods:

cumulus@switch:~# getent password cumulusTAC
cumulusTAC:x:1016:1001:TACACS+ mapped user at privilege level 15,,,:/home/tacacs15:/bin/bash

To look up the user within the local database only:

cumulus@switch:~# getent -s compat passwd cumulus

Running this command with the cumulusTAC user should return nothing.

To look up the user within the TACACS+ database only:

cumulus@switch:~# getent -s tacplus passwd cumulusTAC
cumulusTAC:x:1016:1001:TACACS+ mapped user at privilege level 15,,,:/home/tacacs15:/bin/bash

Running this command with the cumulus user should return nothing.

If TACACS does not appear to be working correctly, the following configuration files should be debugged with debug=1:

  • /etc/tacplus_servers

  • /etc/tacplus_nss.conf

debug=1 can also be added to individual pam_tacplus lines in /etc/pam.d/common*.

All logs are stored in /var/log/syslog.


If two or more TACACS+ users are logged in simultaneously, with the same privilege level, while the accounting records are maintained correctly, a lookup on either name will match both users, while a UID lookup will only return the user that logged in first.

This means that any processes run by either user will be attributed to both, and all files created by either user will be attributed to the first name matched. This 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 base user from the password file.

The current algorithm returns the first name matching the UID from the mapping file; this could be the first or second user that logged in.

To workaround this issue, the switch’s audit log or the TACACS server accounting logs can be used to determine which processes and files were created by each user.

  • For commands that do not execute other commands (for example, changes to configurations in an editor, or actions with tools like clagctl and vtysh), no additional accounting is done.

  • Per-command authorization is not implemented in this release except at the most basic level (commands are permitted or denied based on the standard Linux user permissions for the local TACACS users, and only privilege level 15 users can run sudo commands by default).

The Linux auditd system does not generate audit events for processes when terminated with a signal (via the kill system call or internal errors such as SIGSEGV). As a result, processes that exit on a signal that isn’t caught and handled may not generate a STOP accounting record.