What is the IKEv2/IPsec VPN Protocol?

Last Updated: June 2, 2021

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become necessary tools for most people online to maintain their privacy, stay safe, and avoid annoying geo-restrictions. A couple of years ago, they were not as popular as they are now, but due to rising security threats, censorship, and privacy laws, it only makes sense that you have one on your devices.

VPNs facilitate a secure and private connection through secure servers that encrypt your traffic data and change your IP address. There is almost no way for your data to get compromised or your identity leaked with a secure VPN.

To provide all of these incredible services for you, VPNs use several protocols. These protocols select the best way to route the traffic between your devices and the internet. Not all protocols serve the same purpose. All VPN protocols have been programmed to focus on different aspects of your connection, such as speed, security, or privacy.

There are several VPN protocols out there, but for now, let’s take a look at the IKEv2/IPSec VPN protocol.

What is the IKEv2/IPsec VPN Protocol?

Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is an IPSec-based VPN tunneling protocol created by Microsoft and Cisco. IKEv1 was first launched in 1998, and later in 2005, IKEv2 was released as an update. 

The IKEv2 on its own is not usually considered a VPN protocol. It was developed to use the IPSec authentication suite. Together, IKEv2/IPSec provides very secure communication for you. IKEv2 also uses a Diffie-Hellman key algorithm to facilitate secure encryption key exchange.

Internet Protocol Security, IPsec, is a combination of protocols that secures your data traffic online. Once you’re connected, it authenticates and encrypts all data being transmitted to create a secure connection.

IKEv2/IPSec protocol is perfect for 3G, and 4G LTE enabled mobile devices because it reconnects really quickly if your VPN connection is suddenly interrupted for any reason like switching your network or poor reception.

IKEv2 is a built-in feature on iOS and Windows devices. An open-source implementation is available on Linux, while Android users can use the protocol through third-party apps. Setting it up is relatively easy, depending on the platform you’re running it on. IKEv2 is not yet available on some platforms though, so check if your devices support it if you’d like to use it.

IKEv2/IPSec is a high-speed protocol. It is actually one of the fastest protocols you could find, and its quick reconnection makes that quite evident.

Although this protocol is very secure, many users and tech experts often express their worry that the NSA could take advantage of the protocol’s flaws to compromise IPsec traffic. Because of this, many people prefer the open-source implementation option.

How Does The IKEv2/IPsec Protocol Work?

It’s totally normal if you don’t know precisely how VPNs or their protocols work. Computers and mobile phones do so much that we don’t even question how exactly they do a lot of the stuff they do. If you’re wondering about how the IKEv2/IPSec protocol works, keep on reading.

As mentioned earlier, the IKEv2 protocol uses a Diffie Hellman key exchange algorithm to establish a secure communication tunnel between your device and a VPN server. It then checks whether both ends are using the same type of encryption keys and algorithms for the connection. This is called a security association. After this, IPsec then creates a tunnel to route your data traffic to the secure VPN server. This system doesn’t have any known weaknesses, and it enables Perfect Forward Secrecy.

This protocol supports AES-128, AES-192, and AES-256 encryption. It also uses several other ciphers like 3DES, Camellia, and ChaCha20. In addition, IKEv2 uses server certificate authentication to ensure that no action occurs until it validates the requestor’s identity. By doing so, it eliminates the chances of the man-in-the-middle and DDoS/DoS attacks.

Additionally, IKEv2 uses the UDP port 500 to reduce latency, as well as its MOBIKE feature. The MOBIKE feature ensures that your connection speed stays stable. And even if your network is interrupted, it quickly reconnects you back to the VPN server.

This may seem like a lot of jargon to the average VPN user, but all that we’ve explained describes how IKEv2/IPSec works effectively. It is one of the most used VPN protocols by VPN providers today. There have not been any major complaints about how it works so far, so you should expect a great experience yourself.

Advantages of the IKEv2/IPSec Protocol

The IKEv2/IPSec protocol is widely used because it offers so many benefits and advantages. While its advantages are numerous, we will focus on just a few key factors. Let’s take a quick look at some of these advantages:

High-Grade Encryption

IKEv2/IPSec is a very sophisticated VPN protocol. It uses various highly secure security ciphers to protect your data traffic. That way, you can rest easy knowing that no malicious actors can snoop in on your data or intercept your traffic.

Auto-reconnection and Stability

Thanks to its MOBIKE feature, IKEv2 can go through network changes without any devastating consequences. This is because MOBIKE provides enhanced stability. It also quickly reconnects to the server when your network connection is interrupted.

Speed

Apart from having a stable network connection and quick reconnection ability,  IKEv2/IPSec also provides fast data transfers.  A VPN with this protocol will give you a faster browsing experience than many others you may encounter. You don’t have to compromise on speed to get IKEv2’s other features.

Multiple Devices Support

By default, IKEv2 is available on BlackBerry devices. However, it is also supported by several other mobile and computer platforms such as Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux, as well as routers, homeware, and other smartphones that were previously unsupported.

Easy Setup

Regardless of what platform you’re using IKEv2/IPSec VPN protocols, setting it up is a straightforward process. In some cases, it comes built into the system. IKEv2 also supports manual set-up, which isn’t quite as complicated as other protocols. 

Disadvantages of the IKEv2/IPSec Protocol

When it comes to the disadvantages of the IKEv2/IPSec protocol, you can find only very few flaws with this VPN protocol. Furthermore, these are not so much of a big deal to most users. These disadvantages include:

Port Connection

IKEv2 does not support various port options like other VPN protocols. It uses only UDP port 500. This is a good port, but a firewall can easily detect and block it if there are restrictions in place.

Platform Compatibility

Another way IKEv2 falls short is in terms of cross-platform compatibility. It is supported only on a few platforms at the moment, which limits its usage. Meanwhile, other protocols such as L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, OpenVPN, and SoftEther are supported on almost every mainstream platform.

IKEv2/IPSec Versus Other Popular VPN Protocols

It is not a surprise to see IKEv2 compared with other VPN protocols. Many users want to know which is better on different levels, such as speed, security, and privacy. Let’s discuss some of these comparisons briefly:

IKEv1 vs. IKEv2

This is arguably the most common comparison out there. People like to know if version 2 is better than version 1. The IKEv2 is better than the IKEv1 because it is an improved version of the VPN protocol, so several features of the earlier version would definitely be improved upon with the successor.

IKEv2 uses EAP authentication, which provides support for remote access. It also takes up less bandwidth than IKEv1. IKEv1 is also far less secure than IKEv2 because it doesn’t use encryption keys for both ends of a connection.

The IKEv2 has a more stable network connection thanks to its MOBIKE feature, and it also has the ability to reconnect fast when the network is interrupted. IKEv2 also has a built-in NAT traversal which you wouldn’t find on IKEv1.

IKEv2 is far more secure than IKEv1 because it validates the requester’s identity before taking any action. This validation makes it difficult for DDoS attacks to happen.

IKEv2/IPSec vs. OpenVPN

OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol by default, but you also get the open-source implementation of IKEv2 on Linux.

IKEv2 has a faster connection speed than OpenVPN. OpenVPN uses the standard internet traffic HTTPS port 443. Meanwhile, unlike IKEv2’s UDP port 500, OpenVPN connection is hardly detected as a VPN connection and blocked.

Although OpenVPN is a stable protocol, it doesn’t have the same ability as IKEv2 to withstand network changes. IKEv2 also has a faster automatic reconnection than OpenVPN. Both protocols perform almost on the same level when it comes to security, using highly secure encryption keys.

OpenVPN is supported on more platforms than IKEv2/IPSec is. However, more VPN providers use the IKEv2 protocol for their services. Also, OpenVPN can be a little bit difficult to set up, but IKEv2 is much easier because most platforms already have the protocol built into their system.

Conclusion

There are many VPN protocols available today, and the IKEv2/IPsec protocol is one of the most popular and widely used. It offers secure connections, encrypts your traffic with trusted encryption keys. It is also very fast and reconnects quicker than many other protocols. The IKEv2/IPSec protocol is an excellent choice for mobile devices because of its MOBIKE support, which enhances the stability of your network connection.