iOS and macOS

IKEv2 on iOS 9 and macOS 10.11

With the release of iOS 9 and macOS 10.11 ("El Capitan"), IKEv2 is now supported by three different methods:

  • Manually through the Settings app on iOS or System Preferences on macOS

  • With a custom configuration profile

  • Through an app that has the NetworkExtension entitlement

The Windows IKEv2 configurations can be used with some small changes.

  • When configuring clients manually without profile, strongSwan’s default proposals should work fine with recent iOS/macOS versions. If you like to manually specify proposals (e.g. to use PFS, see below), note that modp2048 and sha2 are supported at least since iOS 14. So the following proposals may be configured (if necessary, combined with further algorithms/proposals for other clients):


    If you want to use PFS for CHILD_SAs, be aware that only iOS sends a proposal with DH group (and a second one without), by default, macOS only sends one without. So to support PFS with iOS clients without failing to rekey with macOS clients, configure something like this to make the DH group optional:


    Also note that only iOS sends a proposal with ecp256, by default. And while it also sends one with modp1536, that might not work due to an unfixed bug, so using modp2048 or ecp256 should be preferred. Refer to the following proposal lists for details.

    Default IKE/ESP proposals sent by iOS/macOS

    iOS (as of 16.5)


    When rekeying IPsec SAs (the DH group in the first proposal is presumably the one selected for IKE):


    macOS (as of 13.4)


    When rekeying IPsec SAs:

  • The client does not send a certificate request (CERTREQ) unless ServerCertificateIssuerCommonName is configured in a configuration profile whereas strongSwan does not send certificates without it with the default value of connections.<conn>.send_cert = ifasked. Therefore explictly set connections.<conn>.send_cert = always.

  • At least macOS clients require that the IKEv2 ID of the server is contained in the CN field of the server certificate’s DN, as well as a subjectAltName (SAN) value. Since iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 a SAN is required. The CN field is not relevant anymore. Additionally, the TLS Server Authentication flag has to be set in the server certificate (use --flag serverAuth with pki --issue).

  • If an IPv6 pool is specified in connections.<conn>.pools, local_ts must include a default IPv6 route (::/0) or no routes will be correctly added.

  • Under certain hibernation-related conditions, macOS clients may forget a CHILD_SA without closing it. Setting a short dpd_delay can clear these SAs before the waking client builds another CHILD_SA and thus aid in retaining the same virtual IP address.

  • Split-DNS can be implemented for iOS 10.3.1 and newer with the INTERNAL_DNS_DOMAIN attribute and the INTERNAL_IP4_DNS or INTERNAL_IP6_DNS attributes. Support for macOS isn’t known at the moment. For older versions, all traffic has to be tunneled (full-tunnel). However, the latter doesn’t work for any application because none honor scoped DNS servers. A magic number for the INTERNAL_DNS_DOMAIN has been assigned by IANA and is supported by iOS 10.3.1 and newer. Alternatively the DNS domains can be supplied in the client configuration.

  • Assigning DNS servers without full-tunnel can only be achieved by sending an INTERNAL_DNS_DOMAIN to the responder (for iOS 10.3.1 and newer) or by supplying it in the client configuration.

  • iOS and MacOS support EAP-MSCHAPv2, EAP-TLS, but not EAP-GTC

IKEv2 on iOS 8

Since iOS 8 (but not macOS 10.10) IKEv2 is natively supported on Apple clients. For such devices the IKEv2 configuration examples for roadwarrior responders or the Windows IKEv2 configurations can be used.

Unfortunately Apple has not yet updated the GUI, so IKEv2 connections have to be installed with a custom configuration profile.

Certificate Requirements

The domain name or IP address of the server (strongSwan VPN gateway) MUST be contained either in the subjectDistinguishedName (DN) of the server certificate

C=CH, O=strongSwan,

or in a subjectAltName extension that can be added with the OpenSSL option

subjectAltName =

where in the above cases must exactly match the value entered in the Server field of the iOS client configuration. If the certificate contains any subjectAltNames at all, one of them must match that value (a matching DN is not enough in this case).

macOS appears to require the hostname/address as a subjectAltName. To support versions before 10.7.4, the certificate must contain the iKEIntermediate Extended Key Usage (EKU) flag.

Refer to the certificate quickstart as a tutorial on how to create certificates using the pki tools.

Client Configuration

When using IKEv2 with EAP authentication (username/password) the CA certificate is required on the clients to verify the server certificate. If a certificate issued by CA that the clients already trust is used, e.g. one by Let’s Encrypt, nothing has to be installed on the clients.

When using certificates to authenticate the clients, with either IKE version, the clientsneed a certificate and a private key packaged in a PKCS#12 container in addition to the CA certificate.

These files can either be placed on a web server for download to a client device using Safari or sent to it via email. Although the PKCS#12 file may also include the CA certificate, not all Apple clients will use it so it must usually be installed separately. On iOS devices the installed certificates will reside under Settings > General > Profiles.

For macOS open and import the PKCS#12 (or CA certificate) file into the System keychain (not login), then mark as Always Trusted. If you’re running into trouble with the negotiation, make sure that in the Access Control tab of the private key, all applications are allowed to access it.

IKEv1 Reauthentication Issues

At least on macOS 10.10 this seems not to be a problem anymore.

Both iOS and macOS trigger an ISAKMP reauthentication after a tunnel is up for about 45 minutes. When using XAuth, strongSwan requests username/password during ISAKMP reauthentication. The native client in some versions of macOS and iOS does not expect that and deletes the ISAKMP SA upon that request. In some versions it was caused by the client’s inability to access the password originally used for XAuth authentication when reauthenticating the SA.

strongSwan insists on redoing XAuth during ISAKMP reauth. There is no cryptographic binding between the old and the new ISAKMP SA, so an attacker can take over a tunnel easily without knowledge of the XAuth password. One could argue that the client RSA private key is sufficient to validate the client, but it then makes no sense to use an additional username/password to authenticate the client in the first place. Additionally, some scenarios consider the client private key as public knowledge, and rely solely on the XAuth exchange, which is encrypted under a session securely authenticated by the server certificate.

One feasible solution is to use the xauth-noauth plugin. It uses a fake XAuth exchange by sending just a success message which the client also accepts during ISAKMP reauthentication. This implies that no password is required during the initial setup but only the client RSA private key is used for authentication. The preferred solution is to use IKEv2.

IKEv2 Reauthentication Issues

macOS seems to be unable to deal with responder initiated IKEv2 reauthentications if certificate authentication is used. If the responder tries to reauthenticate the IKE_SA, the initiator (macOS) will fail to reauthenticate itself, finally leading to the IKE_SA being deleted when it expires according to its lifetime. In order to work around the issue, reauthentication has to be turned off on the responder (it is disabled by default):

connections.<conn>.reauth_time = 0

Troubleshooting IKEv2 on macOS

To collect IKEv2 logs on macOS, use the process:NEIKEv2Provider search filter in Console.

Logs can also be viewed or followed in Terminal with the following commands:

log show --predicate 'process == "NEIKEv2Provider"'
log stream --predicate 'process == "NEIKEv2Provider"'

Troubleshooting IKEv1 on macOS

sudo vi /etc/racoon/racoon.conf

Add the following entry in the top section

log debug;
path logfile "/var/log/racoon.log";

and then trace the logs

tail -f /var/log/racoon.log