What You Need To Know About SSL and IPsec VPN



If you want to protect our privacy while browsing the Internet, you can make use of a virtual private network (commonly known as VPN). This technology will provide you your desired security by creating an encrypted connection over a public network, like the Internet. By using a VPN, you can make sure that all your sensitive data is protected from snoopers, among other benefits like accessing geo-restricted content, peer-to-peer file sharing, and accessing resources from remote areas.

There are two forms of VPN security that are being used today: the SSL VPN and the IPsec VPN. In this article, we will thoroughly discuss its functions and how both technologies work to provide you with maximum security.

SSL and IPsec VPN

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN

Websites that make use of customer’s sensitive data, such as emails, passwords, bank accounts, and other transactions need an extra layer of protection to safeguard these information. The Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL) is an industry standard security technology that is widely used by websites like these.

SSL works by establishing an encrypted link between the web server and a browser – this means that the data exchanged between your computer and the website you are visiting is converted into a code to prevent unauthorized access. To be able to do this, the website must have an SSL Certificate which contains its domain name, company name, and complete address and location.

A website with an SSL Certificate is a secure site, which means that you are guaranteed safe with the SSL encryption as long as you stay on their site, and it is very easy to distinguish: just look for the padlock icon in the address bar, next to the website’s domain name. The domain should also be preceded with ‘https’ instead of just ‘http’.

A SSL VPN can be used with a standard web browser and does not require the installation of a client software. Through the web browser, the user can connect two or more VPN devices which are encrypted with the SSL protocol. This is used to access resources from remote locations, and works excellently for browser-based applications, but only to an extent, because some applications might not work without Java plug-ins.

There are two types of SSL VPN, and the first one

is the SSL tunnel VPN. This type lets a browser access applications and protocols through a SSL-encrypted tunnel, hence the name. A SSL tunnel VPN requires Java, JavaScript, Flash, or ActiveX to handle interactive and dynamic web content (called active content).

The second one is the SSL portal VPN, which lets the user access multiple network sites through a single SSL connection – a single-page ‘portal’ that leads to many resources. To be able to go to the Web page ‘portal’, the user will have to access the SSL VPN gateway with an authentication method.

Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) VPN

Data authentication, confidentiality, and integrity are what the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) can provide. IPsec works through authenticating and encrypting each IP packet (small blocks of data) which are exchanged by your computer and the website, and contains protocols which are used to establish a mutual authentication and the use of cryptographic keys between the two hosts.

IPsec is widely used for VPN services because of its flexibility and its ability to protect data flows. However, it is also as complex as it is secure – both hosts must agree on the same security policies which will be configured on both ends. The sending host can encrypt the packets before transmitting them across the network; the receiving host can authenticate the packets to make sure that there have been no alterations as it was being transmitted; and the receiver can detect and reject replayed packets (data which are maliciously repeated or delayed).

There are two modes in which IPsec operates. The first one is the host-to-host transport mode, where both parties must perform all cryptographic operations to create an end-to-end security. The receiving host creates the encrypted data, which is sent through a single Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) tunnel, then retrieved by the receiving host.

The second one is the tunneling mode, where, aside from the hosts, special gateways also perform cryptographic operations. Contrary to transport mode, the tunneling mode creates multiple tunnels between gateways to create a gateway-to-gateway security. The entire IP packet is encrypted and authenticated, then encapsulated into a new IP packet with a new IP header.

IPsec also has two types of data packet encoding: authentication header (AH) and encapsulating security payload (ESP). AH provides authentication and integrity to the data by applying a one-way hash function to detect any alterations made in the data. This way, the receiver will know if the data is authentic or not. ESP provides confidentiality by encrypting the IP packet layer through symmetric key encryption.


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