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> Chapter 16 - IPsec VPN > IPsec VPN concepts > Authentication


To protect data via encryption, a VPN must ensure that only authorized users can access the private network. You must use either a preshared key on both VPN gateways or RSA X.509 security certificates. The examples in this guide use only preshared key authentication. Refer to the Fortinet Knowledge Base for articles on RSA X.509 security certificates.

Preshared keys

A preshared key contains at least six random alphanumeric characters. Users of the VPN must obtain the preshared key from the person who manages the VPN server and add the preshared key to their VPN client configuration.

Although it looks like a password, the preshared key, also known as a shared secret, is never sent by either gateway. The preshared key is used in the calculations at each end that generate the encryption keys. As soon as the VPN peers attempt to exchange encrypted data, preshared keys that do not match will cause the process to fail.

Additional authentication

To increase security, you can require additional means of authentication from users, such as:

  • An identifier, called a peer ID or a local ID.
  • Extended authentication (XAUTH) which imposes an additional user name/password requirement.

A Local ID is an alphanumeric value assigned in the Phase 1 configuration. The Local ID of a peer is called a Peer ID.

In FortiOS 5.2, new authentication methods have been implemented for IKE: ECDSA-256, ECDSA-384, and ECDSA-521. However, AES-XCBC is not supported.