This section lists many of the options available when configuring a
Linux kernel, and explains how they should be set on a FreeS/WAN IPsec
Note that in many cases you do not need to mess with these.
You may have a Linux distribution which comes with FreeS/WAN
installed (see this list). In that
case, you need not do a FreeS/WAN installation or a kernel
configuration. Of course, you might still want to configure and
rebuild your kernel to improve performance or security. This can be
done with standard tools described in the
If you need to install FreeS/WAN, then you do need to configure a
kernel. However, you may choose to do that using the simplest
- Configure, build and test a kernel for your system before adding
FreeS/WAN. See the
Kernel HowTo for details. This step cannot be skipped
. FreeS/WAN needs the results of your configuration.
- Then use FreeS/WAN's make oldgo command. This sets
everything FreeS/WAN needs and retains your values everywhere else.
This document is for those who choose to configure their FreeS/WAN
Help text for most kernel options is included with the kernel
files, and is accessible from within the configuration utilities. We
assume you will refer to that, and to the
Kernel HowTo, as necessary. This document covers only the
FreeS/WAN-specific aspects of the problem.
To avoid duplication, this document section does not cover settings
for the additional IPsec-related kernel options which become available
after you have patched your kernel with FreeS/WAN patches. There is
help text for those available from within the configuration utility.
We assume a common configuration in which the FreeS/WAN IPsec
gateway is also doing ipchains(8) firewalling for a local network, and
possibly masquerading as well.
Some suggestions below are labelled as appropriate for "a true
paranoid". By this we mean they may cause inconvenience and it is not
entirely clear they are necessary, but they appear to be the safest
choice. Not using them might entail some risk. Of course one suggested
mantra for security administrators is: "I know I'm paranoid. I wonder
if I'm paranoid enough."
Six labels are used to indicate how options should be set. We mark
the labels with [square brackets]. For two of these labels, you have no
- essential for FreeS/WAN operation.
- incompatible with FreeS/WAN.
those must be set correctly or FreeS/WAN will not work
FreeS/WAN should work with any settings of the others, though of
course not all combinations have been tested. We do label these in
various ways, but these labels are only suggestions.
- useful on most FreeS/WAN gateways
- an unwelcome complication on a FreeS/WAN gateway.
- Your choice. We outline issues you might consider.
- This option has no direct effect on FreeS/WAN and related tools, so
you should be able to set it as you please.
Of course complexity is an enemy in any effort to build secure
systems. For maximum security, any feature that can reasonably
be turned off should be. "If in doubt, leave it out."
Indentation is based on the nesting shown by 'make menuconfig' with
a 2.2.16 kernel for the i386 architecture.
We list here only the options that matter for FreeS/WAN.
- Code maturity and level options
- Prompt for development ... code/drivers
- [optional] If this is no, experimental drivers are not
shown in later menus.
For most FreeS/WAN work, no is the preferred setting.
Using new or untested components is too risky for a security gateway.
However, for some hardware (such as the author's network cards) the
only drivers available are marked new/experimental. In such
cases, you must enable this option or your cards will not appear under
"network device support". A true paranoid would leave this option off
and replace the cards.
- Processor type and features
- Loadable module support
- Enable loadable module support
- [optional] A true paranoid would disable this. An attacker who has
root access to your machine can fairly easily install a bogus module
that does awful things, provided modules are enabled. A common tool
for attackers is a "rootkit", a set of tools the attacker uses once he
or she has become root on your system. The kit introduces assorted
additional compromises so that the attacker will continue to "own"
your system despite most things you might do to recovery the
situation. For Linux, there is a tool called
knark which is basically a rootkit packaged as a kernel module.
With modules disabled, an attacker cannot install a bogus module.
The only way he can achieve the same effects is to install a new
kernel and reboot. This is considerably more likely to be noticed.
Many FreeS/WAN gateways run with modules enabled. This simplifies
some administrative tasks and some ipchains features are available
only as modules. Once an enemy has root on your machine your security
is nil, so arguably defenses which come into play only in that
situation are pointless.
- Set version information ....
- [optional] This provides a check to prevent loading modules
compiled for a different kernel.
- Kernel module loader
- [disable] It gives little benefit on a typical FreeS/WAN gate and
entails some risk.
Plug and Play support
- Networking support
- Sysctl interface
- [optional] If this option is turned on and the /proc
filesystem installed, then you can control various system behaviours
by writing to files under /proc/sys. For example:
echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ipforward
turns IP forwarding on.
Disabling this option breaks many firewall scripts. A true paranoid
would disable it anyway since it might conceivably be of use to an
[disable] This enables an older filtering interface. We suggest
using ipchains(8) instead. To do that, set the "Network firewalls"
option just above, and not this one.
Unix domain sockets
[required] These sockets are used for communication between the
ipsec(8) commands and the
- Packet socket
- [optional] This kernel feature supports tools such as tcpdump(8)
which communicate directly with network hardware, bypassing kernel
protocols. This is very much a two-edged sword:
We recommend disabling this option on production gateways.
- such tools can be very useful to the firewall admin, especially
during initial testing
- should an evildoer breach your firewall, such tools could give him
or her a great deal of information about the rest of your network
- Kernel/User netlink socket
- [optional] Required if you want to use advanced
- Routing messages
- Netlink device emulation
- Network firewalls
- [recommended] You need this if the IPsec gateway also functions as
Even if the IPsec gateway is not your primary firewall, we suggest
setting this so that you can protect the gateway with at least basic
local packet filters.
[optional] FreeS/WAN does not currently support IPv6, though work
on integrating FreeS/WAN with the Linux IPv6 stack has begun.
- IP: multicasting
- IP: advanced router
- [optional] This gives you policy routing, which some people have
used to good advantage in their scripts for FreeS/WAN gateway
management. It is not used in our distributed scripts, so not required
unless you want it for custom scripts. It requires the
netlink interface between kernel code and the iproute2(8) command.
- IP: kernel level autoconfiguration
- [disable] It gives little benefit on a typical FreeS/WAN gate and
entails some risk.
- IP: firewall packet netlink device
- IP: transparent proxy support
- [optional] This is required in some firewall configurations, but
should be disabled unless you have a definite need for it.
- IP: masquerading
- [optional] Required if you want to use
non-routable private IP addresses for your local network.
- IP: Optimize as router not host
- IP: tunneling
- IP: GRE tunnels over IP
- IP: aliasing support
- IP: ARP daemon support (EXPERIMENTAL)
- Not required on most systems, but might prove useful on
- IP: TCP syncookie support
- [recommended] It provides a defense against a
denial of service attack which uses bogus TCP connection requests
to waste resources on the victim machine.
- IP: Reverse ARP
- IP: large window support
- [recommended] unless you have less than 16 meg RAM
It should be possible to use IPv4 FreeS/WAN on a machine which also
does IPv6. This combination is not yet well tested. We would be quite
interested in hearing results from anyone expermenting with it, via
the mailing list.
We do not recommend using IPv6 on production FreeS/WAN gateways
until more testing has been done.
[disable] Quite a few Linux installations use IP but also have
some other protocol, such as Appletalk or IPX, for communication with
local desktop machines. In theory it should be possible to configure
IPsec for the IP side of things without interfering with the second
We do not recommend this. Keep the software on your gateway as
simple as possible. If you need a Linux-based Appletalk or IPX server,
use a separate machine.
I2O device support
Network device support
[anything] should work, but there are some points to note.
The development team test almost entirely on 10 or 100 megabit
Ethernet and modems. In principle, any device that can do IP should be
just fine for IPsec, but in the real world any device that has not
been well-tested is somewhat risky. By all means try it, but don't bet
your project on it until you have solid test results.
If you disabled experimental drivers in the Code
maturity section above, then those drivers will not be shown here.
Check that option before going off to hunt for missing drivers.
If you want Linux to automatically find more than one ethernet
interface at boot time, you need to:
- compile the appropriate driver(s) into your kernel. Modules will
not work for this
- add a line such as
to your /etc/lilo.conf file. In some cases you may need to specify
parameters such as IRQ or base address. The example uses "0,0" for
these, which tells the system to search. If the search does not
succeed on your hardware, then you should retry with explicit
parameters. See the lilo.conf(5) man page for details.
Having Linux find the cards this way is not necessary, but is usually
more convenient than loading modules in your boot scripts.
Amateur radio support
IrDA (infrared) support
Old CDROM drivers
The only required character device is:
[anything] should work, but we suggest limiting a gateway machine
to the standard Linux ext2 filesystem in most cases.
[disable] These systems are an unnecessary risk on an IPsec
[anything] should work, but we suggest enabling sound only if you
plan to use audible alarms for firewall problems.
[disable] This might be enabled on test machines, but should not
be on production gateways.
- [required] This is a source of random
numbers which are required for many cryptographic protocols,
including several used in IPsec.
If you are comfortable with C source code, it is likely a good idea
to go in and adjust the #define lines in
/usr/src/linux/drivers/char/random.c to ensure that all sources
of randomness are enabled. Relying solely on keyboard and mouse
randomness is dubious procedure for a gateway machine. You could also
increase the randomness pool size from the default 512 bytes (128