Implement IPSec on Windows Server 2003 - Page 2

With IPSec, you can encrypt network traffic and protect it from malicious users. With the first of our two part series, we tell you how to implement it on Windows Server 2003.

 By Drew Bird
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Default IPSec Policies

Because the configuration of the IPSec rules can be somewhat complex, and because many environments will have the same level of need for their IPSec implementations, Microsoft includes three IPSec policies with Windows Server 2003. These policies are worth looking at before going to the effort of creating your own brand new policies. The three policies are Client (Respond Only), Server (Request Security) and Secure Server (Require Security). Each contains certain rules that define exactly how that policy affects IPSec traffic, but they can be summarized quite simply as follows:

When Client (Respond Only) is used, a Windows Server 2003 system will allow and provide for an IPSec connection if a client system requests it. All other connections will be allowed without IPSec. When Server (Request Security) is used, the Windows Server 2003 system will ask all incoming client connections to use IPSec. If the client is able to use IPSec, then it does precisely that.

If the client is not able to use IPSec, for example if the connection originates from an operating system that does not have an IPSec client, then the connection is till permitted to continue, though obviously without the security provided by IPSec. As the name suggests, when the Secure Server (Require Security) policy is used, all incoming requests to the server must be able to use IPSec encryption. If they cannot, then that connection is refused. The only exception in the rules that make up the Secure Server (Require Security) policy is that ICMP traffic is allowed to connect without encryption.

For the purposes of our discussion, we'll be using the Client (Respond Only) policy, but in a real-world scenario, you might find that you need to consider creating your own IPSec policies from scratch. As discussed, this is quite an involved process, and beyond the scope of this article. However, there are numerous excellent sources of information on this process, including Microsoft knowledgebase articles.

In Part Two of this article we continue our look at the practical side of IPSec implementation, including the assignment of an IPSec policy, and the process of configuring client systems to use encrypted communications. We'll also show you how you can determine whether or not your network traffic is being encrypted with IPSec. Until then!

This article was originally published on Sep 5, 2007
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