Plugin Load Options

Many strongSwan components have a modular design. Features can be added or removed using a growing list of plugins. This allows us to keep the footprint small while adding new functionality.

Currently Loaded Plugins

The list of loaded plugins is logged by the IKE daemon and can also be seen in the output of swanctl --stats. Other tools often list the plugins they load in the output of the --help option like e.g. pki or swanctl itself.

Compile Time Plugin Configuration

The recommended way to enable or disable plugins is during compile time. The ./configure script has many --enable/--disable options to enable or disable specific plugins. The daemon and other tools automatically load the plugins enabled with ./configure. There is no need to manually specify the plugins to use during runtime.

Using this compile-time generated plugin has some advantages, including:

  • Proper load order of all plugin (since version 5.1.0 this it not so important anymore as the order only indicates the preference if two plugins provide the same feature)

  • Gets updated automatically with new strongSwan releases: This is very important, as we might move core functionality you rely on to plugins.

Runtime Plugin Configuration

The plugins to load can be specified in strongswan.conf. There are two options to do so:

Modular Configuration

Since version 5.1.2 the charon.load_modular option enables the dynamic construction of the list of plugins to load.

If the option is enabled, the plugin loader uses the individual load setting for each plugin


to decide whether to load it or not. Besides simply enabling/disabling plugins the load setting accepts,a numeric priority value, which the plugin loader uses to decide in which order,plugins are loaded. Plugins with the same priority are loaded according to the default load order. Unknown plugins with the same priority are loaded first and in alphabetical order. The default priority is 1 and can also be negative to simplify move a plugin to the end of the list.

The load_modular option can also be enabled for other components, but only for charon the default configuration snippets are installed in strongswan.d/charon and included in the default strongswan.conf file. Additionally the default snippets are also installed in the ${prefix}/share/strongswan/templates directory for reference.

Since version 5.5.0 charon.plugins.<plugin>.load may also be used to modify the default plugin list when charon.load_modular is disabled:

  • Setting load = no will disable that plugin and configuring a numeric priority allows reordering of the plugin loading sequence.

  • However plugins with no load statement are still loaded when they are on the default compile-time plugin load list.

  • Plugins that are not on the default compile-time plugin load list will not be loaded even with a load = yes setting.

Thus only with charon.load_modular = yes, the plugin list is constructed completely dynamically based on the explicitly enabled plugins.

Static Load List

Most components can read the plugin list from strongswan.conf. For example the IKE charon daemon reads the charon.load key to load plugins but only if the charon.load_modular option is disabled (see above).

It is not recommended to specify the plugin list manually unless you exactly know the implications!

The load directive is helpful for developers or for testing frameworks. While you might get your scenario running with a manually specified plugin list, it might not work anymore after a strongSwan update. Use the generated plugin list instead.

For example, you see a lot of load statements in the strongswan.conf files of the example scenarios of our testing environment because we enable all strongSwan plugins during compile time but use only a small subset of them while running an individual test scenario.

Strict Plugins

In the static load directive, you can mark specific plugins as critical. If loading a critical plugin fails, the daemon does not start. To mark a plugin as critical, append a `! character (exclamation mark) to its name.

Static Plugin Features

Plugin features, which are usually loaded dynamically from a plugin via the


callback (see src/libstrongswan/plugins/plugin.h#L41) may also be added statically from a (modified) library or executable by using the