Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is a suite of protocols usually used by VPNs to create a secure connection over the internet.
The IPSec suite offers features such as tunneling and cryptography for security purposes. This is why VPNs mostly use IPSec to create secure tunnels.
IPSec VPN is also widely known as ‘VPN over IPSec.’
IPSec is usually implemented on the IP layer of a network. IPSec uses two modes of operation; tunnel mode and transport mode.
Most VPN providers use the tunnel mode to secure and encapsulate the entire IP packets. Transport mode only secures the payload and not the entire IP packet.
The IPSec VPN protocol suite generally offers advanced authentication, compression, and encryption services to VPN connections.
IPSec offers the freedom of selecting algorithms, security protocols, and the mode of exchanging security keys between communication hosts.
IPSec suite of VPN protocols includes Authentication Header (AH), Encapsulated Security Payload (ESP), Internet Security Association and Key Management Protocol (ISAKMP), and IP Payload Compression (IPComp).
Let’s look at how the two IPSec VPN modes compare:
IPSec Tunnel Mode
VPN encryption in tunnel mode encapsulates every outgoing packet with new IPSec packets using ESP. Tunnel mode also uses AH to authenticate the server-side.
Hence, IPSec uses tunnel mode on secure gateways like a firewall that links the two communicating parties.
Transport mode encrypts and authenticates the IP packets sent between two communicating parties.
As such, transport mode is often reserved for end-to-end communications between parties, considering it doesn’t change the IP header of the outgoing packets.
IPSec relies on secure algorithms that conform to confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity.
Below is a general step-by-step outline of how IPSec works.
Usually, the process starts with hosts (communicating parties) establishing that incoming or outgoing packets need to use IPSec.
If the packets trigger IPSec policies, then the process continues as follows:
Besides IPSec VPN, many of the best VPN providers can also use SSL VPN to secure your connection over the internet. Depending on the level of security needed, VPN providers can implement both or choose one over the other.
SSL VPNs rely on the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. Unlike IPSec, which works on the IP layer, TLS works on the transport layer. Thus, the security and applications of IPSec VPN and SSL VPN vary.
With IPSec VPN, your traffic is secure as it moves to and from private networks and hosts; in a nutshell, you can protect your entire network. Thus, IPSec VPN is reliable for IP-based uses and applications.
SSL VPN protects the traffic between remote users. In most cases, SSL VPNs work with hosts that support browser-based applications.
Some people found answers to these questions helpful
What network port does IPSec often use?
IPSec often uses UDP port 500 for ISAKMP and UDP port 4500 to pass through firewalls, NAT is allowed.
Which one is better, SSL VPN or IPSec VPN?
The applications of each protocol set them apart. For instance, IPSec VPN lets users remotely access the entire network and its apps. However, SSL VPN allows users remote tunnel access to particular apps on the network.
Can IPSec be hacked?
Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is widely regarded as secure. However, according to Snowden leaks, NSA targeted the IPSec encryptions by inserting various vulnerabilities. According to other reports, hackers can break some of IPSec’s encryption. It all depends on the implementation used.
What are the uses of IPSec?
Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is a protocol suite that secures packet-level traffic over a network. You can use IPSec to secure information between two parties. Furthermore, IPSec is responsible for data integrity, originality, authentication, and confidentiality.
Is IPSec the same as VPN?
Simply put, Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is like a traditional VPN technology. The protocol suite was first launched in 1990 and has received significant upgrades since, making it a widely used protocol in the VPN industry.