What is IKEv2/IPSec?


Written by: Per-Erik Eriksson

VPNs use various protocols in order to establish a secure connection between the user and the server. These protocols are also referred to as tunneling protocols as they allow to formation of a tunnel by negotiating a secure connection with the dedicated server.

Among these tunneling protocols, IKEv2 and IPSec are used together. IKEv2 stands for Internet key exchange version two while IPSec stands for Internet protocol security suite. These two protocols are used collectively as a standard to establish secure connections.

Let’s explore everything else about these protocols and why their existence is necessary.

What is a VPN Protocol?

A VPN protocol is a type of protocol that is used to provide data protection. VPN protocols are most often used in combination with other types of security protocols such as the SSL/TLS protocol. There are many VPN protocols available, but two notable examples are IPsec and OpenVPN.

What are IKEv2 and IPSec?

IKEv2/IPSec is a protocol designed to protect VPN data as it is transmitted across a public network. IKEv2 specifies the process of authenticating the identity of a user, establishing a secure communication channel, and negotiating cryptographic keys to encrypt subsequent traffic. IPSec provides a framework for securing data-in-transit for both IPv4 and IPv6 networks.

IKEv2 — Explained

The Internet Key Exchange protocol is a VPN protocol that was originally developed by Microsoft. Because IKEv2 had some security issues, it was not widely adapted for use with SSL/TLS protocols until later revisions of the protocol were released to resolve those initial problems. It has since become one of many options available for creating secure communication channels between VPN clients and servers.

IPsec — Explained

IPsec is a popular VPN protocol that can be used with SSL/TLS protocols to create secure communication channels. IPsec provides many potential security features, including strong authentication methods, data encryption, packet integrity checking, antireplay protection, and an optional Diffie-Hellman key exchange. It also provides provisions for both Internet Key Exchange and Oakley protocol variations.

How does IKEv2/IPSec Work Collectively?

IKEv2 specifies the process of authenticating the identity of a user, establishing a secure communication channel, and negotiating cryptographic keys to encrypt subsequent traffic. A VPN client or server uses IKEv2 during Phase 1 negotiations (also called ISAKMP).

Once authentication is complete, IKEv2 negotiates Security Associations (SA) that will be used during Phase 2 negotiations. These SAs are used to specify the encryption algorithm and other parameters for encrypting data as it is transmitted into VPN traffic using IPsec protocols.

IKEv2/IPSec Benefits

IKEv2 and IPSec offer a number of benefits to both the user and the providers:

  • The IKEv2 protocol is able to work on networks that don’t support IPSec. It also allows for interoperability with other tunneling protocols, such as PPTP, so it may be able to be used as a replacement for that protocol if needed.
  • The IKEv2 protocol offers tunnel-mode encryption. This is beneficial because it encrypts data over the entire data path from source to destination, including within the tunnel-inducing device itself.
  • IPSec provides protection against attacks when data is in transit, which means that it protects against attacks on network protocols. Additionally, IKEv2 packets are automatically protected by IPSec when they are transmitted over an IPsec-enabled network.
  • IKEv2 has the ability to rekey cryptographic sessions without requiring manual intervention. This enables clients with limited processing power to maintain cryptographic sessions without having to support complicated public key cryptography or other cryptographic techniques.

For example, IKEv2 can automatically negotiate QoS parameters that are appropriate for specific types of traffic. This is helpful in busy organizations that have many different kinds of applications running at once because it will help determine the best way to deliver data packets based on the application that is using it. This will help reduce the risk that packets will be dropped and increase the speed and quality of network communication.

  • The use of IKEv2 avoids performance overhead introduced by additional protocol headers used in other IPSec-based protocols such as L2TP and PPTP. The use of IKEv2 also allows for improved latency.

IKEv2/IPSec Risks

As with other security technologies, it is important to understand the risks associated with IKEv2/IPSec in order to balance the benefits against the potential downside. While they are strong encryption algorithms that have been well-tested for many years, there are ways that adversaries can attempt to circumvent their protection. IKEv2/IPSec is often used in conjunction with other security measures, such as endpoint protection, for this reason.

As the public becomes more aware of how data is being monitored by nation-states and private organizations, there will be increased pressure on companies to move toward stronger encryption. Both IKEv2 and IPSec offer encryption that will meet these needs while still allowing for the interoperability that organizations need in order to improve business processes.

Bottom Line

The benefits of these security measures include encryption that will meet increased demand in an increasingly digital world while still allowing organizations interoperability through tunneling over IPsec-enabled networks or other protocols such as L2TP or PPTP. Therefore, VPN providers also widely use it for stronger encryption.

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