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IPsec stands for Internet protocol security. It is a compilation of standards created by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to help a user filter and encrypt data packets. Data packets sent over networks can also be called network packets, and are essentially blocks of data packaged for easy travel. The IPsec protocol usually refers directly to the group of standards that define IPsec. A protocol collection like IPsec is often called a network security framework.
Usually used by network administrators who manage networks at businesses and government entities that require upgraded security, IPsec protocol increases network data security when exchanging data packets. It does this by authenticating communicating computers and hosts at both ends of the communication chain. This means that all hosts and computers sending and receiving information must be verified by the IPsec protocol. Once the computers' and hosts' security clearance to access the network is verified, the IPsec protocol encrypts the communications sent to and from the hosts and computers authenticated on the network.
Protocol usually denotes a set of rules and format guidelines. Internet protocol is protocol that standardizes communication within a network. A network is a series of computers connected for the purpose of sharing and exchanging data. A network usually has two or more computers and a network hub or router to connect the networked computers. Networks that are connected to the Internet often connect via a modem that connects to the router.
Types of networks include public networks and private networks. A private network might include a home or business network where security requires authentication or encryption. Usually, a public network is the Internet, but some open private networks, like a coffeehouse wireless network, can also be called public networks. Some networks use a shared server to connect multiple computers to a stored database.
IPsec can be used in conjunction with a firewall or security gateway to construct a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a means of transmitting data over the Internet or other public network. This feature uses a process called tunneling to create a secure, encrypted connection used to pass private data through the Internet, usually between computers or networks at different geographical locations.
Though IPsec protocol allows the user to take advantage of a wider range of encryption levels, it can prove too complicated for beginning users. The controls in IPsec protocol give the network administrator more control over when and how IPsec encrypts communications. It can also be considerably more difficult and complicated to set up. Most administrators with with limited network security experience or programming patience often opt for transport layer security (TSL) or the related secure socket layer (SSL) for less flexible, but simpler security.