Internet Key Exchange in Network Security

08.06.2020 Read
Internet Key Exchange in Network Security

Internet Key Exchange (also known as IKE, IKEv1 or IKEv2) is a protocol that is used to generate a security association within the Internet Protocol Security protocol suite. In this article, we will discuss Internet Key Exchange in detail and explain why it is important for network security.

If your job title requires a certain degree of knowledge regarding cyber security and/or internet security, you must have at least heard of the Internet Key Exchange. Abbreviated as IKE, Internet Key Exchange is a specific protocol that aims to offer an additional layer of security to the virtual private networks (also known as VPNs). In this article we will explain how Internet Key Exchange works and how it can be beneficial for the cyber security posture of your organization.

What is the Internet Key Exchange?

Simply put, the Internet Key Exchange is a hybrid protocol that is often used for key management purposes in IPSec networks. It is often used as a method of exchanging encryption keys and/or authentication keys through an unsecured medium like the Internet. In other words, the Internet Key Exchange aims to provide safe and secure encryption for unsecure or vulnerable environments.

The Internet Key Exchange dates back to the late 90s. It was defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (also known as the IETF) in November 1998. In IETF’s publications titled Request for Comments, the purpose and scope of the Internet Key Exchange was thoroughly explained (see RFC 2407, RFC 2408 and RFC 2409 for details). Later in December 2005, October 2006 and October 2014, these descriptions for the Internet Key Exchange were updated and edited in accordance with the needs posed by new technologies.

The Internet Key Exchange protocol has its roots in the Oakley Protocol, SKEME and ISAKMP, as a result it is often referred to as a hybrid protocol. The Oakley Protocol strictly defines the mechanism for key exchange over a session of Internet Key Exchange Protocol and sets the default key exchange algorithm as Diffie Hellman algorithm.

Internet Key Exchange offers numerous additional features and a certain degree of flexibility. That is why it is often opted for enhancing the IPsec.

What are the benefits of the Internet Key Exchange?

The Internet Key Exchange offers numerous additional benefits including flexibility. Below you can find some of these benefits:

  • Internet Key Exchange offers the change to change encryption during IPsec sessions.
  • Through the use of Internet Key Exchange, the need for manual specification of all the IPSec security parameters is eliminated.
  • Internet Key Exchange allows certification authority, as a result it offers an additional layer of security.
  • A specific lifetime can be set for IPsec security association when the Internet Key Exchange is used.
  • Internet Key Exchange permits the dynamic authentication of peers.

What are the different methods for peer authentication in IKE?

Internet Key Exchange employs three different methods to ensure the peer authentication:

  • Authentication using RSA signatures
  • Authentication using a specific, pre-shared secret
  • Authentication using encrypted RSA nonces

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