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> Chapter 22 - SSL VPN > Introduction to SSL VPN

Introduction to SSL VPN

As organizations have grown and become more complex, secure remote access to network resources has become critical for day-to-day operations. In addition, businesses are expected to provide clients with efficient, convenient services including knowledge bases and customer portals. Employees traveling across the country or around the world require timely and comprehensive access to network resources. As a result of the growing need for providing remote/mobile clients with easy, cost-effective and secure access to a multitude of resources, the concept of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) was developed.

SSL VPNs establish connectivity using SSL, which functions at Levels 4 - 5 (Transport and Session layers). Information is encapsulated at Levels 6 - 7 (Presentation and Application layers), and SSL VPNs communicate at the highest levels in the OSI model. SSL is not strictly a Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology that allows clients to connect to remote networks in a secure way. A VPN is a secure logical network created from physically separate networks. VPNs use encryption and other security methods to ensure that only authorized users can access the network. VPNs also ensure that the data transmitted between computers cannot be intercepted by unauthorized users. When data is encoded and transmitted over the Internet, the data is said to be sent through a “VPN tunnel”. A VPN tunnel is a non‑application oriented tunnel that allows the users and networks to exchange a wide range of traffic regardless of application or protocol.

The advantages of a VPN over an actual physical private network are two-fold. Rather than utilizing expensive leased lines or other infrastructure, you use the relatively inexpensive, high-bandwidth Internet. Perhaps more important though is the universal availability of the Internet. In most areas, access to the Internet is readily obtainable without any special arrangements or long wait times.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) as HTTPS is supported by most web browsers for exchanging sensitive information securely between a web server and a client. SSL establishes an encrypted link, ensuring that all data passed between the web server and the browser remains private and secure. SSL protection is initiated automatically when a user (client) connects to a web server that is SSL-enabled. Once the successful connection is established, the browser encrypts all the information before it leaves the computer. When the information reaches its destination, it is decrypted using a secret (private) key. Any data sent back is first encrypted, and is decrypted when it reaches the client.

FortiOS supports the SSL and TLS versions defined below:

SSL and TLS version support table

Version RFC
SSL 2.0 RFC 6176
SSL 3.0 RFC 6101
TLS 1.0 RFC 2246
TLS 1.1 RFC 4346
TLS 1.2 RFC 5246