Home > Articles > Cisco > CCNA Security

Securing the Management Plane of a Cisco Network Device

When people think about the security of networking devices, they tend to think about the different types of attacks that can occur through these devices or what types of attack could be used to take down a networking device. A simpler idea, however, is to just take control of the device by attempting access using easy password or simply exploit lax management access policies. This article takes a look at a couple of the different features that can be used to secure the management plane of a Cisco network device (or devices) and reviews the basic configuration of these features.
Like this article? We recommend

When people think about the security of networking devices, they tend to think about the different types of attack that can occur through these devices or what types of attack could be used to take down a networking device. A simpler idea, however, is to just take control of the device by attempting access using easy passwords or simply exploiting lax management access policy. This article takes a look at a couple of the different features that can be used to secure the management plane of a Cisco network device(s) and reviews the basic configuration of these features.

Device Password and Command Security

Some of the easiest ways to protect a network device involve the implementation of a password and/or command configuration.

Device Passwords

One of the simplest methods to secure a device is by configuring a complex password (or passwords) that is used to access the device through the various login methods. There are a number of different passwords that are able to be configured on a Cisco device:

  • Enable password
  • Console password
  • VTY password
  • AUX password (on some devices)

Note, however, that Cisco devices, by default, store many passwords in the configuration in plaintext, which provides absolutely no password protection should the configuration file be accessed. This lack of protection can be prevented by issuing a single configuration command. The command required to prevent this issue is shown in the next section.

Device Password Configuration

The configuration of device passwords is rather simple and each is covered in the tables below:

Table 1

Step 1

Enter privileged mode.


Step 2

Enter global configuration mode.

router#configure terminal

Step 3

Enable service password encryption.

router(config)#service password-encryption

Step 4

Configure a secure privileged mode access password.

router(config)#enable secret password

Step 5

Enter console configuration mode.

router(config)#line con 0

Step 6

Configure a console password.

router(config-line)#password password

Step 7

Enter VTY configuration mode (on most devices the beginning line is 0 and the ending line is 4).

router(config-line)#line vty beginning-line ending-line

Step 8

Configure a VTY password.

router(config-line)#password password

Step 9

Enter AUX configuration mode (if available).

router(config-line)#line aux 0

Step 10

Configure a AUX password.

router(config-line)#password password

Step 11

Exit configuration mode.


Privilege Levels

By default, users that log in to a Cisco device use one of two different privilege levels: 1 for user EXEC mode, and 15 for privileged EXEC mode. However, it is possible to configure the levels between 1 and 15 with access to a subset of commands. The configuration of different passwords and/or users within each configured privilege level can be either done on the device itself or via a Remote Authentication Dial In User Service (RADIUS) or Terminal Access Controller Access-Control System Plus (TACACS+) server.

Privilege Levels Configuration

There are two different methods of configuring the use of privilege levels on a Cisco device (not using RADIUS or TACACS+): using different enable passwords per privilege level, or configuring usernames that are set up with specific privilege levels. Both can be configured independently or together, and both utilize the same commands to setup the specific commands permitted within each level configured; Table 2 below shows the configuration commands required.

Table 2

Step 1

Enter privileged mode.


Step 2

Enter global configuration mode.

router#configure terminal

Step 3

Configure the privilege levels and the commands that are permitted (this command can be entered multiple times).

There are a number of different modes supported; the easiest way to look up these is to go here.

router(config)#privilege mode [all] {level level | reset} command-string

Step 4

Configure a secure privileged mode access password using privilege levels.

router(config)#enable secret level level password

Step 5

Configure a username and password using privilege levels AND enable the used of the local database for login (this can be enabled on multiple line types).

router(config)#username username privilege level secret password


router(config)#line line-type begin-line end-line


router(config-line)#login local

Step 6

Exit configuration mode.



Another method to secure a Cisco networking device is to take advantage of the AutoSecure feature. The AutoSecure feature is used to automate a process that secures the access of a device. AutoSecure focuses on the security of the management plane and the forwarding plane, and allows them to be configured separately. Keep in mind that the AutoSecure feature uses the information that is in the existing configuration, which is entered in during configuration to make changes; if these configuration items are changed after the AutoSecure feature is run, a device can become insecure again.

AutoSecure Management Plane Security

The management plane security provided by the AutoSecure feature will automatically disable any unneeded or insecure services on the device, while at the same time enabling certain features to increase the security of the device. The different features that are affected are further classified into a number of sub-groups:

  • Enabling Global Services
    • Passwords are prevented from being displayed in cleartext within the configuration (Using the service password-encryption)
    • Abnormally closed or terminated TCP sessions are removed (Using the service tcp-keepalives-in and tcp-keepalives-out)
  • Disabling Global Services—The following services are disabled:
    • Finger
    • PAD
    • Small Servers
    • Bootp Server
    • HTTP Server (May break management access)
    • Identification Service
    • Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) (May affect troubleshooting)
    • Network Time Protocol (NTP)
    • Source Routing
  • Disabling Per Interface Services—following services are disabled:
    • ICMP redirects are disabled on all interfaces.
    • ICMP unreachable are disabled on all interfaces.
    • ICMP mask reply messages are disabled on all interfaces.
    • Proxy-ARP is disabled on all interfaces.
    • Directed broadcasts are disabled on all interfaces.
    • Maintenance Operations Protocol (MOP) service is disabled on all interfaces.
  • Securing Access to the Router—The following features are configured:
    • Device Text Banner is configured.
    • Passwords are configured on the console, AUX, vty and tty lines.
    • SSH and secure copy (SCP) are enabled if the devices is loaded with a crypto image.
    • Simple Network Management Protocol is disabled if not required by the device.
    • A local Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting username and password are configured.
  • Security Logging—The following features are configured:
    • Sequence numbers and time stamps are enabled for all debugging and log messages.
    • Logging messages are enabled for login-related events.
    • Login attack security is enabled; this enabled the use of a “quiet mode” that disables login ability for an amount of time.
    • System logging (syslog) is configured to send all messages to all available TTY lines and limits these messages to debugging severity.
    • Internal message logging is enabled and is configured to limit messages based on the severity level.

AutoSecure Forwarding Plane Security

The forwarding plane security provided by the AutoSecure feature will configure features that are specific to potential attacks to the forwarding (data) plane:

  • Cisco Express Forwarding is enabled.
  • The TCP intercept feature is available to be configured.
  • Strict Unicast Reverse Path Forwarding (uRPF) feature is available to be configured.
  • The Context Based Access Control firewall is available to be configured.

AutoSecure Configuration

The steps required to configure the AutoSecure feature are shown in Table 2.

Table 3

Step 1

Enter privileged mode


Step 2

Enter the AutoSecure configuration command

router#auto secure [management | forwarding] [no-interact | full] [ntp | login | ssh | firewall]


There are certainly a number of different methods of exploiting network devices; the best advice to any network engineer is to try to protect for everything and to keep an eye on all attack attempts. Hopefully the information in this article will give a head start to those looking to secure the network device against management plane attacks.

Pearson IT Certification Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Pearson IT Certification and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Pearson IT Certification products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.pearsonitcertification.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020