IT Simplified: IPsec

What is IPsec?

IPsec is a group of protocols that are used together to set up encrypted connections between devices. It helps keep data sent over public networks secure. IPsec is often used to set up VPNs, and it works by encrypting IP packets, along with authenticating the source where the packets come from.

Within the term “IPsec,” “IP” stands for “Internet Protocol” and “sec” for “secure.” The Internet Protocol is the main routing protocol used on the Internet; it designates where data will go using IP addresses. IPsec is secure because it adds encryption* and authentication to this process.

*Encryption is the process of concealing information by mathematically altering data so that it appears random. In simpler terms, encryption is the use of a “secret code” that only authorized parties can interpret.

What is a VPN? What is an IPsec VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) is an encrypted connection between two or more computers. VPN connections take place over public networks, but the data exchanged over the VPN is still private because it is encrypted.

VPNs make it possible to securely access and exchange confidential data over shared network infrastructure, such as the public Internet. For instance, when employees are working remotely instead of in the office, they often use VPNs to access corporate files and applications.

Many VPNs use the IPsec protocol suite to establish and run these encrypted connections. However, not all VPNs use IPsec. Another protocol for VPNs is SSL/TLS, which operates at a different layer in the OSI model than IPsec. (The OSI model is an abstract representation of the processes that make the Internet work.)

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