In general, Ethernet supports both multicast and broadcast. However, once you start encrypting the payload, you need a key management. I am wondering if IEEE 802.1AE supports multicast and broadcast? In that case how does MACsec handle the key management?

This webpage states that "MACsec provides point-to-point security". Does this mean only unicast is supported?

1 Answer 1


MACsec provides security on the point-to-point link level. MACsec and 802.1X sit (more or less) in between the physical layer (L1) and the data link layer (L2). The key management is between the layer-1 (point-to-point) link partners, usually a host and its uplink switch port, not between (possibly more distant) layer-2 nodes.

MACsec doesn't impact layer-2 functionality which broadcast & multicast are part of - these still work, of course.

  • In other words, multicast and broadcast are still possible. Okay, each link is secured. If a switch receives a MACsec secured multicast Ethernet frame, does it replicate it for all node in the group? I suppose each node has its own link to the switch and therefore uses an individual key.
    – null
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:53
  • 2
    Yes. Multicast forwarding takes place regardless of port security. And yes, each link is individually encrypted between switch and host.
    – Zac67
    Nov 19, 2018 at 18:58

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