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As part of my efforts to expand and strengthen our wireless infrastructure on campus, I swapped out one of our aging Cisco Aironet 1200s for an Aironet 1250 last week.  In theory, this was fine and a great thing to do.  In practice, I got a call just as I was walking to work saying that classrooms in that area were reporting problems with their WiFi.

I checked the usual suspects, made sure that DHCP was running fine, made sure that the RADIUS server was up and running, and tried several times, in vain, to correct the presenting problem from the web-end.  At a loss, I went back and switched out the new AP for the old one just as a hold-over until I could figure out what was up.

Then, while doing the initial configuration for a new Meraki access point that I’m going to be testing out as soon as it shows up in the office, I realized what the missing piece of the puzzle was: the shared secret.

If you’re using a RADIUS server for wireless authentication, each client (access point) needs to have a shared secret that both it and the server know in order for any authentication to happen.  If the Aironet 1250 I had put in had been totally new to us, then I wouldn’t have run into this problem because I would have entered the shared secret during the course of my initial configuration, but this AP was formerly located elsewhere on campus, so all I had done was to change the IP address for its ethernet interface to prevent conflicts.

Now the AP had the correct Shared secret, and everything is as it should be again, but let this be a lesson to all of you: share your secrets.

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