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VPN Write For Us – We will break down all the details of the IPSec protocol to see what it consists of, its characteristics, and why it is one of the favorite protocols of VPN services.

What is IPSec?

IPSec (Internet Protocol Security) is a suite of Internet security protocols designed to protect data packets sent over an IP network. However, IPSec uses encryption to guarantee the privacy of the data sent and to verify that they are only read by their legitimate recipients, preventing their access to third parties.

IPSec one of the preferred protocols to protect data sent over the Internet because it has several advantages over other protocols. On the one hand, IPSec operates at the network level instead of at the application layer, like many other protocols –for example, SSL-. And on the other hand, its two different modes make it one of the most secure ways to encrypt data, which is why IPSec one of the most used procedures for VPNs.

How does IPSec work?

The IPSec VPN protocol combines two fundamental mechanisms, AH and ESP, and two modes of transmission: tunnel mode and transport mode.

IPSec combines two fundamental mechanisms articulated to guarantee the complete privacy of the information sent. These mechanisms are the Authentication Header (AH) and the Encapsulating Security Layer (ESP). Let’s see what they consist of.

Authentication header (AH)

The IPSec authentication header, better known simply as AH, adds a digital signature to each data packet sent. The HA makes it possible to verify that only the data recipient can receive it, preventing the data from being modified before reaching its destination and avoiding, for example, man-in-the-middle attacks.

Encapsulating Security Layer (ESP)

Complementary to the AH, the encapsulated security layer –ESP– ensures the encryption of the information found within the packet, preventing the data from being accessible by third parties that could intercept a transmission. It uses three fundamental parts to operate: an ESP header, a trailer, and a verification block.

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IPSec modes: tunnel and transport

The AH and ESP mechanisms combination allows IPSec to have two main modes of use: tunnel mode and transport mode. Let’s see what each one consists of.

tunnel mode

IPSec tunnel mode is its default mode. IPSec creates a VPN tunnel to securely exchange information with the server when this mode enabled. Moreover, iPSec encrypts this tunnel, and the IP address is masked to finish protecting the data sent and received.

In tunnel mode, an IPSec header (AH or ESP) is inserted between the IP header and the upper layer of the protocol.

mode of transport

The IPSec transport mode is used for end-to-end communications, such as between a client and a server. It uses a TCP/UDP header over an AH or ESP header. This type of encryption can be used to perform remote desktop sessions.

It is typically used when another tunnelling protocol encapsulates the IP data packet, which is protected by the IPSec protocol.

Articulation of IPSec with other protocols: IKEv2 and L2TP

When operating in the context of a VPN, IPSec  often used in combination with other protocols to ensure data security and connection speed. The most common are IKEv2 and L2TP.

IPSec con IKEv2 (IKEv2/IPSec)

IKEv2 (Internet Key Argument version 2) is a protocol developed by Microsoft and Cisco. It a tunnelling protocol with the main advantage of being particularly flexible to changes in the network and being compatible with various operating systems.  Moreover,using IPSec with IKEv2 VPN ensures a robust connection with great speed and stability.

IPSec con L2TP (L2TP/IPSec)

The L2TP protocol (Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol) is an excavating protocol that lacks encryption by itself. Hence it is necessary to use it with a protocol that does, such as IPSec. Moreover, the main advantage of L2TP is its speed, which is why many VPNs choose the L2TP/IPSec combination to guarantee their users a fast and secure connection.

What are the compensations and disadvantages of IPSec?

IPSec has several advantages and some disadvantages when it comes to operating with VPN ports. Moreover, the main ones are:

Advantages of IPSec. How does IPSec ensure VPN security?

  • IPSec is virtually undetectable, which is why so many VPNs choose it as their primary protocol.
  • IPSec operates at the network layer rather than the application layer, which means that it can managed entirely from the operating system without the need to do it individually from each program.

Disadvantages of IPSec. How could this protocol be improved?

  • IPSec wraps a large amount of information around each packet to slow the transmission of small data packets.
  • IPSec a much more complicated protocol than similar protocols, making it challenging to maintain.

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