In computing, Internet Key Exchange (IKE, sometimes IKEv1 or IKEv2, depending on version) is the protocol used to set up a security association (SA) in the IPsec protocol suite. IKE builds upon the Oakley protocol and ISAKMP.
IKE uses X.509 certificates for authentication ‒ either pre-shared or distributed using DNS (preferably with DNSSEC) ‒ and a Diffie–Hellman key exchange to set up a shared session secret from which cryptographic keys are derived. In addition, a security policy for every peer which will connect must be manually maintained.
Most IPsec implementations consist of an IKE daemon that runs in user space and an IPsec stack in the kernel that processes the actual IP packets.
User-space daemons have easy access to mass storage containing configuration information, such as the IPsec endpoint addresses, keys and certificates, as required. Kernel modules, on the other hand, can process packets efficiently and with minimum overhead—which is important for performance reasons.
The IKE protocol uses UDP packets, usually on port 500, and generally requires 4–6 packets with 2–3 round trips to create an SA (security association) on both sides. The negotiated key material is then given to the IPsec stack.
For instance, this could be an AES key, information identifying the IP endpoints and ports that are to be protected, as well as what type of IPsec tunnel has been created. The IPsec stack, in turn, intercepts the relevant IP packets if and where appropriate and performs encryption/decryption as required. Implementations vary on how the interception of the packets is done—for example, some use virtual devices, others take a slice out of the firewall, etc.
IKEv1 consists of two phases: phase 1 and phase 2.