Which is Best to Use? IPsec VPN or SSL VPN?

author

By Ann M.

8/6/2022

Help

Choosing between an SSL VPN and an IPsec VPN is key to finding the best VPN for your needs since each has different security advantages and disadvantages. Your business must consider the relative benefits of network performance, configuration, and upkeep about the security concerns before deciding.

The network levels at which encryption and authentication are carried out are the public that remains unique between an IPsec VPN and SSL VPN. IPsec is a network layer protocol that may encrypt data transferred between any computers with IP addresses. The Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, which took the place of the now-deprecated SSL protocol, operates at the transport layer and encrypts data sent between any two processes that are identified by port numbers on network-connected hosts.

Let’s examine both in further detail.

IPsec VPN

An IPsec VPN is a VPN that creates secure connections between devices using IPsec as its protocol. L2TP and SSL/TLS are two more protocols utilized by VPNs.

By utilizing encryption between two endpoints, the IPsec suite of protocols protects data sent over the internet or any other public network. IPsec is frequently used to negotiate cryptographic keys during a session and to establish mutual authentication between computers at the start of a session. It can safeguard data transfers between two hosts, networks, or networks and hosts.

There are two operational modes for IPsec:

  • Encrypts the whole data packet in tunneling mode.
  • Only the data packet message is encrypted in transport mode.

Using an IPsec VPN offers many levels of security since it encrypts the payloads inside each packet and enables authentication to safeguard any alteration to data packets. This ensures the integrity and security of the data traveling over the encrypted tunnel. As a result, data in transit can remain intact without intercepting or changing.

In IPsec VPN, there are two modes:

  • IPsec Tunnel Mode VPN encrypts each outgoing packet in this mode. Typically, a firewall or router port is used on a secure gateway. For instance, using secure gateways, staff members from an enterprise branch can safely access the main office’s systems. Two gateway hosts build the IPsec tunnel between them.
  • IPsec Transport Mode VPN – Only the IP payload and the ESP trailer are encrypted in this mode. This doesn’t change the outgoing packet’s IP header and is typically used for end-to-end communication. For instance, using this mode lets a remote IT support team to access a server and do maintenance. When two hosts must communicate, the transport method is employed.

SSL VPN

Individual users can access a company’s network, client-server applications, internal network utilities, and directories without requiring specialist software by using a secure sockets layer VPN (SSL VPN). No matter whether a device connects to the network over the public internet or another private network, SSL VPNs offer safe, secure communication via an encrypted connection.

All information exchanged between a web browser and an SSL VPN device is encrypted using transport layer security (TLS) or SSL protocols. The SSL VPN does not require individual users to choose a particular protocol to function. Instead, the user’s browser is preconfigured to utilize the most recent, most updated cryptographic protocol by the SSL VPN. Users do not have to bother about upgrading their browser’s protocol. The most current version of the protocol is updated each time a browser or an operating system (OS) is updated.

Types of SSL VPN

Let’s examine the two main categories of SSL VPNs.

1. VPN SSL Portal

A user logs into a website using their credentials to start a secure connection in this kind of SSL VPN. One SSL connection to a website can be made using the SSL portal VPN. The user can also access a number of certain apps or private network services that are specified by the enterprise.

By providing the username and password given by the VPN gateway provider, users may normally access the gateway, or the hardware on a network that permits data to flow from one network to another, using any current web browser.

2. SSL Tunnel VPN

Through a tunnel that is encrypted with SSL, an SSL tunnel VPN enables a web browser to safely access numerous network services that are not merely web-based. These services may consist of exclusive company software or private networks that cannot be accessed directly over the internet. To show active content using this VPN tunneling technique, a browser may need to have extra plugins like JavaScript or Flash loaded.
If a business prefers an SSL tunnel VPN, the IT team must inform staff members of any downloads or extra software required for the system to function effectively.

SSL VPNs vs. IPsec VPNs

  • Performance: With today’s technology, IPsec and SSL VPNs’ usage of encryption seldom results in performance concerns, but businesses should test VPN options using benchmarks. IPsec VPNs build a tunnel between client and server using client-side software, which may require a rather difficult setup procedure; SSL VPNs, which work through web browsers, can typically establish connections considerably more quickly.
  • Security: In some situations, one form of VPN may not be more secure than another. The threat model, the company, is basing its VPN requirements on is the most crucial component in determining which sort of VPN will be safer. The sort of assaults the company is protecting against should be considered while evaluating each VPN type. The security of the employed encryption techniques is crucial, but so is the security of the other implementation-related elements.
  • Data authentication: While VPNs can encrypt all data being transmitted, they can also add data authentication to help prevent data tampering. This is done by using reliable cryptographic authentication algorithms to confirm that no data has been altered while being transferred between VPN clients and servers. To enable authentication, they do need a secure key exchange method, though. Unlike IPsec, which uses an external protocol called Internet Key Exchange, the SSL/TLS protocol integrates negotiation of key exchange techniques.
  • Attack-defense: The underlying VPN protocol, implementation, and additional features will all affect how IPsec and SSL VPNs are attacked and defended against. The endpoints for each protocol make IPsec and SSL VPNs differ. Remote access to a whole network, including all of its devices and services, is often made possible using an IPsec VPN. Attackers could be able to access anything on the private network if they manage to get into the guarded tunnel. Connections between a device, particular systems, and apps are made possible via SSL, which reduces the attack surface.
  • Client security: Despite being a component of the TCP/IP suite, the IPsec protocol is not often pre-installed on operating systems that support TCP/IP.SSL VPNs, in contrast, rely on TLS, which is built into web browsers by default, as well as several other application layer protocols. As a result, while comparing IPsec and SSL VPNs, it is important to consider both the security of each choice and how users connect to and utilize the VPN. The attack surface of clients that support VPNs, the VPN user profiles, and client connection methods should all be taken into account by implementers.
  • VPN gateway: An SSL VPN gateway should make it possible to deny access to particular systems or services on the protected network with much more precise configuration choices. There is a good chance that IPsec VPN gateways will be much less configurable. Care should be taken to avoid introducing extra complexity and security concerns that come with software add-ons, even though they may have added packet filtering features that enable policies or settings to limit access to certain IP addresses or subsets of the protected network. In either scenario, take into account setting up a VPN in addition to a network access control system, which can improve general security by limiting access to network resources based on expressly stated regulations.
  • End-to-end networking: The transport layer, also known as the network layer, is where processes interact with one another and is where TLS is employed. When communication takes place between network nodes with IP addresses, IPsec functions at the network layer in contrast. When either end of the protected VPN circuit is on a network that employs Network Address Translation (NAT) to virtualize IP addresses, it becomes more challenging to secure end-to-end encryption. Enabling secure communication over NAT gates with an IPsec VPN necessitates additional configuration and maintenance.

SSL or IPsec VPN: which is better?

  • Business needs. Businesses must select the VPN technology that best suits their needs. Both the user base and the size of your business should be taken into account. SSL is a fantastic solution if your main applications are web-based, but if you need to go beyond online apps, you should consider using IPsec.
  • Security requirements. Every firm should care about protecting data while it is in transit, but the needed level of security differs. While IPsec’s comprehensive data encryption and user authentication may be necessary for physicians or financial staff who need access to sensitive data, SSL VPNs may be adequate for employees wanting to access workplace communications.
  • Available resources. Consider the available cash and in-house experience before deploying and administering a remote access VPN because it may be an expensive and time-consuming operation. IPsec VPN deployment takes substantially longer than SSL deployment due to the requirement to supply specialized IPsec client software.

VPN Home Router Vs. VPN App?

The upsides and downsides of utilizing a VPN on a router vs using a VPN’s software or app if you’re not sure which is best for you are listed here.

Conclusion

Upon reviewing the SSL VPN is more suited to the site because of the protocols designed between sites. Installing the client software is unnecessary in this and provides users access to a certain program instead of a whole network. If the program has an IP address, then the best option is an IPSec VPN, which has an IPSec gateway placed at your company.