IPsec VPN overview

IPsec VPN overview

This section provides a brief overview of IPsec technology and includes general information about how to configure IPsec VPNs using this guide.

The following topics are included in this section:

Types of VPNs

Planning your VPN

General preparation steps

How to use this guide to configure an IPsec VPN

VPN configurations interact with the firewall component of the FortiGate unit. There must be a security policy in place to permit traffic to pass between the private network and the VPN tunnel.

Security policies for VPNs specify:

  • The FortiGate interface that provides the physical connection to the remote VPN gateway, usually an interface connected to the Internet
  • The FortiGate interface that connects to the private network l IP addresses associated with data that has to be encrypted and decrypted l Optionally, a schedule that restricts when the VPN can operate l Optionally, the services (types of data) that can be sent

When the first packet of data that meets all of the conditions of the security policy arrives at the FortiGate unit, a VPN tunnel may be initiated and the encryption or decryption of data is performed automatically afterward. For more information, see Defining VPN security policies on page 1.

Where possible, you should create route-based VPNs. Generally, route-based VPNs are more flexible and easier to configure than policy-based VPNs — by default they are treated as interfaces. However, these two VPN types have different requirements that limit where they can be used.

Types of VPNs

FortiGate unit VPNs can be policy-based or route-based. There is little difference between the two types. In both cases, you specify Phase 1 and Phase 2 settings. However there is a difference in implementation. A route-based VPN creates a virtual IPsec network interface that applies encryption or decryption as needed to any traffic that it carries. That is why route-based VPNs are also known as interface-based VPNs. A policy-based VPN is implemented through a special security policy that applies the encryption you specified in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 settings.

Route-based VPNs

For a route-based VPN, you create two security policies between the virtual IPsec interface and the interface that connects to the private network. In one policy, the virtual interface is the source. In the other policy, the virtual interface is the destination. This creates bidirectional policies that ensure traffic will flow in both directions over the VPN.

A route-based VPN is also known as an interface-based VPN.

Each route-based IPsec VPN tunnel requires a virtual IPsec interface. As such, the amount of possible route-based IPsec VPNs is limited by the system.interface table size. The system.interface table size for most devices is 8192.

For a complete list of table sizes for all devices, refer to the Maximum Values table.

Policy-based VPNs

For a policy-based VPN, one security policy enables communication in both directions. You enable inbound and outbound traffic as needed within that policy, or create multiple policies of this type to handle different types of traffic differently. For example HTTPS traffic may not require the same level of scanning as FTP traffic.

A policy-based VPN is also known as a tunnel-mode VPN.

Comparing policy-based or route-based VPNs

For both VPN types you create Phase 1 and Phase 2 configurations. Both types are handled in the stateful inspection security layer, assuming there is no IPS or AV. For more information on the three security layers, see the FortiOS Troubleshooting guide.

The main difference is in the security policy.

You create a policy-based VPN by defining an IPSEC security policy between two network interfaces and associating it with the VPN tunnel (Phase 1) configuration.

You create a route-based VPN by creating a virtual IPsec interface. You then define a regular ACCEPT security policy to permit traffic to flow between the virtual IPsec interface and another network interface. And lastly, configure a static route to allow traffic over the VPN.

Where possible, you should create route-based VPNs. Generally, route-based VPNs are more flexible and easier to configure than policy-based VPNs — by default they are treated as interfaces. However, these two VPN types have different requirements that limit where they can be used.

Comparison of policy-based and route-based VPNs

Features Policy-based Route-based
Both NAT and transparent modes available Yes NAT mode only
L2TP-over-IPsec supported Yes Yes
GRE-over-IPsec supported No Yes
security policy requirements Requires a security policy with

IPSEC action that specifies the

VPN tunnel

Requires only a simple security policy with ACCEPT action
Number of policies per VPN One policy controls connections in both directions A separate policy is required for connections in each direction

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