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IPsec Policy Tool: An alternative to MMC's IPsec snap-in

Does your organization have a fairly complicated IPsec security policy? If you're using IPsec to secure your Internet Information Server (IIS) Web server

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, chances are that you do. You're probably currently using the Microsoft Management Console's (MMC) IPsec snap-in with its graphical user interface.

You might not be aware that there's an alternative to the MMC snap-in, Microsoft's IPsec Policy Tool (ipsecpol.exe). This tool allows you to modify IPsec policies from the command line using a scriptable syntax. There are several benefits to using this tool as opposed to the snap-in:

  • The tool's command-line interface allows you to create batch files that modify your IPsec policy. These scripts provide a method for easily backing up your policy, making frequently-used modifications and replicating policies to other machines.

  • The tool allows you to rapidly change IPsec policies, either on a permanent or temporary basis.

  • Some of us DOS junkies simply prefer command line tools to fancy interfaces!

You can download Ipsecpol.exe from the Microsoft Web site. When you run it, you'll be able to work in two different modes:

  • Dynamic mode allows you to make instant updates to the system's IPsec policies. These changes take effect immediately but are temporary. They are undone whenever the IPsec Policy Agent service is restarted (either manually or through a reboot). Dynamic mode is the tool's default state of operation.

  • Static mode makes changes in the same manner as the MMC snap-in. These changes are permanent and will be preserved even if the service is restarted. Static mode must be invoked manually by using the –w flag to ipsecpol.exe.

If you'd like more information on using ipsecpol.exe, you might want to consult this IPsec Policy Tool syntax reference.

About the author
Mike Chapple, CISSP, currently serves as Chief Information Officer of the Brand Institute, a Miami-based marketing consultancy. He previously worked as an information security researcher for the U.S. National Security Agency. His publishing credits include the TICSA Training Guide from Que Publishing, the CISSP Study Guide from Sybex and the upcoming SANS GSEC Prep Guide from John Wiley. He's also the About.com Guide to Databases.


This was first published in October 2003

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