Additional ipsec.conf documentation

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Introduction

the most up to date source of the ipsec.conf options is always the manual page, which you can see on the system that has libreswan. The following commands show the most important manual pages:

man ipsec.conf
man ipsec.secrets
man pluto

Although the man pages describe the options very well, it is not always the best place to explain things in great detail. These pages go into some more details for some of the options from ipsec.conf.


XAUTH configurations

IPsec VPNs can by authenticated using various different methods:

- PreShared Key with IDs (or IPs as ID) - Raw RSA public keys - X.509 Certificates

These three authentication methods authenticate the device, or technically speaking in the PSK case, a group of devices. Sometimes administrators also want to authenticate the user, for instance to ensure the device cannot be used if the legitimate owner lost their device. Or the administrator wants to automatically assign an IP address to the connecting device. To accomplish both the user authentication and the IP assignment, you can use one of these two methods:

- XAUTH (IKEv1) or CP (IKEv2) - IPsec + L2TP

XAUTH on the server

The following ipsec.conf shows a server-side example using X.509 certificate and XAUTH taken from our test case xauth-pluto-15. The server is the "right" side, it is called "east".

conn xauth-rsa
   left=%any
   leftaddresspool=192.0.2.100-192.0.2.200
   leftxauthclient=yes
   leftrsasigkey=%cert
   leftmodecfgclient=yes
   #
   right=192.1.2.23
   rightsubnet=0.0.0.0/0
   rightid=%fromcert
   rightrsasigkey=%cert
   rightcert=east
   rightxauthserver=yes
   rightmodecfgserver=yes
   #
   modecfgpull=yes
   modecfgdns=8.8.8.8,8.8.4.4
   # Versions up to 3.22 used modecfgdns1 and modecfgdns2
   #modecfgdns1=8.8.8.8
   #modecfgdns2=8.8.4.4
   rekey=no
   #
   #xauthby=alwaysok
   xauthby=pam
   #xauthby=file
   #xauthfail=soft

With this configuration, the device that connects will have to present its X.509 certificate. It will also need to provide a username and password, because that is part of the XAUTH protocol. In this example, the username and password are looked up using the /etc/pam.d/pluto PAM module. If you only have a handful of users, you can also use the xauthby=file option to use a htpasswd stile password file in /etc/ipsec.d/passwd. But if you only care about the IP address assignment, and do not want to maintain a separate username/password database, you can specify xauthby=alwaysok. This will satisfy the client's requirement of needing to specify a username and password for XAUTH, but the server side will just accept whatever username or password.

XAUTH on the client

On the client side, there is another issue. Especially on phones that frequently connect and reconnect, you do not wish to input your username and password all the time. Of course, the whole point of XAUTH is that you do so. But often people use XAUTH more to get the automatic IP address and DNS servers, and they don't really care about the username and password because they can revoke the X.509 certificate when the phone is lost. So there are ways to store both the username and the password. On the client, you can add the username and password to your configuration files:

# /etc/ipsec.conf
conn client
    left=%defaultroute
    leftxauthusername=paul
    leftxauthclient=yes
    leftrsasigkey=%cert
    leftmodecfgclient=yes
    [...]

# /etc/ipsec.secrets
@paul : XAUTH "secretpassword"

Handling XAUTH login failures

The keyword xauthfail=soft can be used to allow the IPsec connection to establish even if the XAUTH username/password authentication failed. The _updown script is passed the XAUTH_FAILED environment variable. The script can be modified to check for this and add firewall or NAT rules. For instance, the user could be blocked from everything and all HTTP requests could be redirected to a special server that informs the user that their account is no longer working or that they need to pay for continued VPN services. Note that if X.509 certificates become invalid due to revocation or expiry, the XAUTH phase is never reached and the user cannot be redirected to such a portal server.