Always On VPN Clients Prompted for Authentication when Accessing Internal Resources

Always On VPN Clients Prompted for Authentication when Accessing Internal ResourcesWhen deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN using Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) with client authentication certificates, the administrator may encounter a scenario in which the user can establish a VPN connection without issue, but when accessing internal resources they are prompted for credentials and receive the following error message.

“The system cannot contact a domain controller to service the authentication request. Please try again later.”

Always On VPN Clients Prompted for Authentication when Accessing Internal Resources

Resolution

This can occur if one or more domain controllers in the enterprise have expired or missing domain controller authentication certificates. To ensure seamless single sign-on to internal resources, ensure that all domain controllers have a certificate issued by the internal certification authority (CA) that includes the Server Authentication (1.3.6.1.5.5.7.3.1), Client Authentication (1.3.6.1.5.5.7.3.2), KDC Authentication (1.3.6.1.5.2.3.5), and Smart Card Logon (1.3.6.1.4.1.311.20.2.2) Enhanced Key Usage (EKU). Administrators can duplicate the Kerberos Authentication template for this purpose.

Always On VPN Clients Prompted for Authentication when Accessing Internal Resources

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Windows 10 Always On VPN Hands-On Training

 

Always On VPN and Azure MFA ESTS Token Error

Always On VPN and Azure MFA ESTS Token ErrorConfiguring Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is an excellent way to ensure the highest level of assurance for Always On VPN users. Azure MFA is widely deployed and commonly integrated with Windows Server Network Policy Server (NPS) using the NPS Extension for Azure MFA. Azure MFA has a unique advantage over many other MFA providers in that it supports MFA when using Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP). This makes Azure MFA the solution of choice for integrating with Windows 10 Always On VPN deployments using client certificate authentication, a recommended security configuration best practice.

NPS Configuration

Installing and configuring the NPS extension for Azure MFA is straightforward. Configuration guidance from Microsoft can be found here.

Connection Issues

After installing the NPS extension for Azure MFA, administrators may find that Always On VPN connections fail and the user is never challenged for authentication. The connection eventually times out and returns the following error message.

“A connection to the remote computer could not be established, so the port used for this connection was closed.”

Always On VPN and Azure MFA ESTS Token Error

In addition, the Application event log on the Windows 10 client contains an Event ID 20221 from the RasClient source that includes the following error message.

“The user [username] dialed a connection named [connection] which has failed. The error code returned on failure is 0.”

Always On VPN and Azure MFA ESTS Token Error

NPS Event Log

Reviewing the event logs on the NPS server reveals more information. The Security event log contains an Event ID 6274 from the Microsoft Windows security auditing source that includes the following error message.

“Network Policy Server discarded the request for a user. Contact the Network Policy Administrator for more information.”

Always On VPN and Azure MFA ESTS Token Error

ESTS Token Error

Digging deeper in the operational event log on the NPS server, the AuthZAdminCh log (Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > AzureMfa > AuthZ) contains an Event ID 3 from the AuthZ source indicating an ESTS_TOKEN_ERROR message.

Always On VPN and Azure MFA ESTS Token Error

Troubleshooting ESTS Token Error

Follow the steps below to troubleshoot the ESTS_TOKEN_ERROR.

Prerequisites

Ensure that all prerequisites are met. Validate the user is being synced to Azure Active Directory and that it is properly licensed for Azure MFA.

Certificates

As part of the NPS extension configuration, a certificate is created on the NPS server that is uploaded to Azure Active Directory. To validate the certificate was created and uploaded correctly, follow the troubleshooting guidance found here.

Enterprise Applications

The Azure Multi-Factor Auth Client and the Azure Multi-Factor Auth Connector enterprise applications must be enabled to support the NPS extension for Azure MFA. To confirm they are enabled, open an elevated PowerShell command window on the server where the Azure AD Connector is installed and run the following PowerShell commands.

Import-Module MSOnline
Connect-MsolService

Get-MsolServicePrincipal -AppPrincipalId “981f26a1-7f43-403b-a875-f8b09b8cd720” | Select-Object DisplayName, AccountEnabled

Get-MsolServicePrincipal -AppPrincipalId “1f5530b3-261a-47a9-b357-ded261e17918” | Select-Object DisplayName, AccountEnabled

Always On VPN and Azure MFA ESTS Token Error

If either or both enterprise applications are not enabled, enable them using the following PowerShell commands.

Set-MsolServicePrincipal -AppPrincipalId “981f26a1-7f43-403b-a875-f8b09b8cd720” -AccountEnabled $True

Set-MsolServicePrincipal -AppPrincipalId “1f5530b3-261a-47a9-b357-ded261e17918” -AccountEnabled $True

Once complete, restart the IAS service on the NPS server using the following PowerShell command.

Restart-Service IAS -PassThru

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Network Policy Server (NPS) Load Balancing Strategies

Deploy Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Intune

Windows 10 Always On VPN Hands-On Training Classes Now Available

Always On VPN IKEv2 Features and Limitations

Always On VPN IKEv2 Features and LimitationsThe Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) VPN protocol is a popular choice for Windows 10 Always On VPN deployments. IKEv2 is a standards-based IPsec VPN protocol with customizable security parameters that allows administrators to provide the highest level of protection for remote clients. In addition, it provides important interoperability with a variety of VPN devices, including Microsoft Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) and non-Microsoft platforms such as Cisco, Checkpoint, Palo Alto, and others.

IKEv2 Limitations

IKEv2 is clearly the protocol of choice in terms of security. It supports modern cryptography and is highly resistant to interception. It’s not without some operational challenges, however. Consider the following.

Firewalls

IKEv2 uses UDP ports 500 and 4500 for communication. Unfortunately, these ports are not always open. Often, they are blocked by network administrators to prevent users from bypassing security controls or attackers from exfiltrating data.

Fragmentation

IKEv2 packets can become quite large at times, especially when using client certificate authentication with the Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP). This can result in fragmentation occurring at the network layer. Unfortunately, many firewalls and network devices are configured to block IP fragments by default. This can result in failed connection attempts from some locations but not others.

Load Balancing

Load balancing IKEv2 connections is not entirely straightforward. Without special configuration, load balancers can cause intermittent connectivity issues for Always On VPN connections. Guidance for configuring IKEv2 load balancing on the Kemp LoadMaster and the F5 BIG-IP can be found here:

IKEv2 Fragmentation

IKEv2 fragmentation can be enabled to avoid IP fragmentation and restore reliable connectivity. IKEv2 fragmentation is supported in Windows 10 and Windows Server beginning with v1803. Guidance for enabling IKEv2 fragmentation on Windows Server RRAS can be found here. Support for IKEv2 fragmentation on non-Microsoft firewall/VPN devices is vendor-specific. Consult with your device manufacturer for more information.

IKEv2 Security and RRAS

Be advised that the default security settings for IKEv2 on Windows Server RRAS are very poor. The minimum recommended security settings and guidelines for implementing them can be found here.

IKEv2 or TLS?

IKEv2 is recommend for deployments where the highest level of security and protection is required for remote connections. In these scenarios, the sacrifice of ubiquitous availability in favor of ultimate security might be desired.

SSTP or another TLS-based VPN protocol is recommended if reliable operation and connectivity are desired. SSTP and TLS VPNs can be configured to provide very good security by following the security and implementation guidelines found here.

IKEv2 with TLS Fallback

In theory, preferring IKEv2 and falling back to the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) or another TLS-based VPN protocol when IKEv2 is unavailable would seem like a logical choice. This would ensure the highest level of protection, while still providing reliable connectivity. Unfortunately, the Windows VPN client doesn’t work this way in practice. Details here.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Fragmentation

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 and SSTP Fallback

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Windows 10 Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Windows 10 Always On VPN Protocol Recommendations for Windows Server RRAS

Always On VPN LockDown Mode

Always On VPN LockDown ModeWhen an Always On VPN connection is provisioned to a Windows 10 client, there’s nothing to prevent a user from disconnecting or even deleting the connection. Some administrators have expressed concern about this, fearful that users may disable the VPN to improve performance or circumvent access controls when force tunneling is enabled. Also, administrators may wish to prevent users from accidentally or purposefully making changes to the configuration, or even deleting the connection entirely.

LockDown Mode

To address these concerns, Microsoft included a feature called LockDown mode for Always On VPN. Once enabled, the following conditions apply.

  • The LockDown VPN connection is always on.
  • The LockDown VPN connection cannot be disabled.
  • The user can’t make changes to or delete the LockDown connection.
  • No other VPN connections can exist on the client.
  • Force tunneling is enabled by default (split tunneling in LockDown mode is not supported).

Challenges with LockDown Mode

Always On VPN LockDown mode brings with it some unique challenges, however. Consider the following.

Limited Protocol Support

LockDown mode only supports IKEv2 and the native (built-in) VPN client. Third-party plug-in provider clients are not supported. IKEv2 is an excellent VPN protocol in terms of security, but operationally speaking it has some serious drawbacks.

Force Tunneling Only

LockDown mode uses force tunneling exclusively. All network traffic must go over the VPN connection. However, if the VPN connection is not available, the client will be unable to access any network resources at all, local or remote.

Captive Portal Issues

LockDown mode prevents clients from connecting to network resources from a network with a captive portal.

On-premises Connectivity

In LockDown mode all network traffic must flow over the VPN tunnel even if the client is on the internal network. This also means that if the VPN server is not reachable internally (unable to resolve public hostname, protocols/ports blocked by internal firewall, unable to route to VPN server, etc.) the client will not be able to access any internal or external network resources at all.

Deleting a LockDown VPN Connection

Deleting a LockDown VPN connection is also challenging. Administrators will find that trying to delete it using the UI or PowerShell often fails. To delete a LockDown Always On VPN connection, use psexec.exe to open an elevated PowerShell command window running in the system context using the following command.

.\psexec.exe -i -s C:\windows\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe

In the new elevated PowerShell window run the following commands to delete the LockDown VPN connection.

$Namespace = “root\cimv2\mdm\dmmap”
$ClassName = “MDM_VPNv2_01”

$obj = Get-CimInstance -Namespace $Namespace -ClassName $ClassName
Remove-CimInstance -CimInstance $obj

Optionally, download and run Remove-LockDownVPN.ps1 here.

Summary

While Always On VPN LockDown mode might seem like a good idea initially, its implementation is heavy-handed and practically speaking ends up causing more problems than it solves. For administrators that plan to enable this feature, carefully consider the drawbacks and limitations outlined above and their impact on supportability and the user experience.

Additional Information

Windows Always On VPN Device Tunnel Config using Microsoft Intune

Windows 10 Always On VPN Security Configuration 

Windows 10 Always On VPN Hands-On Training

 

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using Intune

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using IntuneA while back I described in detail how to configure a Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel connection using PowerShell. While using PowerShell is fine for local testing, it obviously doesn’t scale well. In theory you could deploy the PowerShell script and XML file using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), but using Microsoft Intune is the recommended and preferred deployment method. However, as of this writing Intune does not support device tunnel configuration natively. The administrator must create a ProfileXML manually and use Intune to deploy it.

Device Tunnel Prerequisites

I outlined the Always On VPN device tunnel prerequisites in my previous post here. To summarize, the client must be running Windows 10 Enterprise edition and be domain-joined. It must also have a certificate issued by the internal PKI with the Client Authentication EKU in the local computer certificate store.

ProfileXML

To begin, create a ProfileXML for the device tunnel that includes the required configuration settings and parameters for your deployment. You can find a sample Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel ProfileXML here.

Note: Be sure to define a custom IPsec policy in ProfileXML for the device tunnel. The default security settings for the IKEv2 protocol (required for the device tunnel) are quite poor. Details here.

Intune Deployment

Open the Intune management console and follow the steps below to deploy an Always On VPN device tunnel using Microsoft Intune.

Create Profile

1. Navigate to the Intune portal.
2. Click Device configuration.
3. Click Profiles.
4. Click Create profile.

Define Profile Settings

1. Enter a name for the VPN connection in the Name field.
2. Enter a description for the VPN connection in the Description field (optional).
3. Select Windows 10 and later from the Platform drop-down list.
4. Select Custom from the Profile type drop-down list.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using Intune

Define Custom OMA-URI Settings

1. On the Custom OMA-URI Settings blade click Add.
2. Enter a name for the device tunnel in the Name field.
3. Enter a description for the VPN connection in the Description field (optional).
4. Enter the URI for the device tunnel in the OMA-URI field using the following syntax. If the profile name includes spaces they must be escaped, as shown here.

./Device/Vendor/MSFT/VPNv2/Example%20Profile%Name/ProfileXML

5. Select String (XML file) from the Data Type drop-down list.
6. Click the folder next to the Select a file field and chose the ProfileXML file created previously.
7. Click Ok twice and then click Create.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using Intune

Assign Profile

Follow the steps below to assign the Always On VPN device tunnel profile to the appropriate device group.

1. Click Assignments.
2. Click Select groups to include.
3. Select the group that includes the Windows 10 client devices.
4. Click Select.
5. Click Save.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using Intune

Demonstration Video

A video demonstration of the steps outlined above can be viewed here.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using PowerShell

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Deleting a Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel

Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel Missing in the UI

Video: Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN User Tunnel with Microsoft Intune

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Does Not Connect Automatically

When configuring a Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel, the administrator may encounter a scenario in which the device tunnel does not connect automatically. This can occur even when ProfileXML is configured with the AlwaysOn element set to “true”.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Does Not Connect Automatically

Manual Connection

An administrator can establish a device tunnel connection manually using rasdial.exe however, indicating no issues with connectivity or authentication that would prevent a successful automatic connection.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Does Not Connect Automatically

Root Cause

This scenario will occur when the device tunnel configuration is applied to a Windows 10 Professional edition client.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Does Not Connect Automatically

Device Tunnel Support

The Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel is supported only on Windows 10 1709 or later Enterprise edition clients that are domain-joined. To ensure the device tunnel connects automatically, upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise 1709 or later and join it to a domain.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Does Not Connect Automatically

Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/remote/remote-access/vpn/vpn-device-tunnel-config#device-tunnel-requirements-and-features

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using PowerShell

Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel Missing in the Windows UI

Deleting a Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IPThe Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is the protocol of choice for Always On VPN deployments where the highest level of security is required. Implementing Always On VPN at scale often requires multiple VPN servers to provide sufficient capacity and to provide redundancy. Commonly an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) or load balancer is configured in front of the VPN servers to provide scalability and high availability for Always On VPN.

Load Balancing IKEv2

In a recent post I described some of the unique challenges load balancing IKEv2 poses, and I demonstrated how to configure the Kemp LoadMaster load balancer to properly load balance IKEv2 VPN connections. In this post I’ll outline how to configure IKEv2 VPN load balancing on the F5 BIG-IP load balancer.

Note: This article assumes the administrator is familiar with basic F5 BIG-IP load balancer configuration, such as creating nodes, pools, virtual servers, etc.

Initial Configuration

Follow the steps below to create a virtual server on the F5 BIG-IP to load balance IKEv2 VPN connections.

Pool Configuration

To begin, create two pools on the load balancer. The first pool will be configured to use UDP port 500, and the second pool will be configured to use UDP port 4500. Each pool is configured with the VPN servers defined as the individual nodes.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Virtual Server Configuration

Next create two virtual servers, the first configured to use UDP port 500 and the second to use UDP port 4500.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Persistence Profile

To ensure that both IKEv2 UDP 500 and 4500 packets are delivered to the same node, follow the steps below to create and assign a Persistence Profile.

1. Expand Local Traffic > Profiles and click Persistence.
2. Click Create.
3. Enter a descriptive name for the profile in the Name field.
4. Select Source Address Affinity from the Persistence Type drop-down list.
5. Click the Custom check box.
6. Select the option to Match Across Services.
7. Click Finished.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Assign the new persistence profile to both UDP 500 and 4500 virtual servers. Navigate to the Resources tab on each virtual server and select the new persistence profile from the Default Persistence Profile drop-down list. Be sure to do this for both virtual servers.

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with F5 BIG-IP

Additional Resources

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer 

Windows 10 Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Windows 10 Always On VPN and IKEv2 Fragmentation

Windows 10 Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Video: Windows 10 Always On VPN Load Balancing with the Kemp LoadMaster Load Balancer

Always On VPN and Network Policy Server (NPS) Load Balancing

Always On VPN and Network Policy Server (NPS) Load BalancingLoad balancing Windows Server Network Policy Servers (NPS) is straightforward in most deployment scenarios. Most VPN servers, including Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) servers allow the administrator to configure multiple NPS servers for redundancy and scalability. In addition, most solutions support weighted distribution, allowing administrators to distribute requests evenly between multiple NPS servers (round robin load balancing) or to distribute them in order of priority (active/passive failover).

The Case for NPS Load Balancing

Placing NPS servers behind a dedicated network load balancing appliance is not typically required. However, there are some deployment scenarios where doing so can provide important advantages.

Deployment Flexibility

Having NPS servers fronted by a network load balancer allows the administrator to configure a single, virtual IP address and hostname for the NPS service. This provides deployment flexibility by allowing administrators to add or remove NPS servers without having to reconfigure VPN servers, network firewalls, or VPN clients. This can be beneficial when deploying Windows updates, migrating NPS servers to different subnets, adding more NPS servers to increase capacity, or performing rolling upgrades of NPS servers.

Traffic Shaping

Dedicated network load balancers allow for more granular control and of NPS traffic. For example, NPS routing decisions can be based on real server availability, ensuring that authentication requests are never sent to an NPS server that is offline or unavailable for any reason. In addition, NPS traffic can be distributed based on server load, ensuring the most efficient use of NPS resources. Finally, most load balancers also support fixed or weighted distribution, enabling active/passive failover scenarios if required.

Traffic Visibility

Using a network load balancer for NPS also provides better visibility for NPS authentication traffic. Most load balancers feature robust graphical displays of network utilization for the virtual server/service as well as backend servers. This information can be used to ensure enough capacity is provided and to monitor and plan for additional resources when network traffic increases.

Configuration

Before placing NPS servers behind a network load balancer, the NPS server certificate must be specially prepared to support this unique deployment scenario. Specifically, the NPS server certificate must be configured with the Subject name of the cluster, and the Subject Alternative Name field must include both the cluster name and the individual server’s hostname.

Always On VPN and Network Policy Server (NPS) Load Balancing

Always On VPN and Network Policy Server (NPS) Load Balancing

Create Certificate Template

Perform the following steps to create a certificate template in AD CS to support NPS load balancing.

  1. Open the Certificate Templates management console (certtmpl.msc) on the certification authority (CA) server or a management workstation with remote administration tool installed.
  2. Right-click the RAS and IAS Servers default certificate template and choose Duplicate.
  3. Select the Compatibility tab.
    1. Select Windows Server 2008 or a later version from the Certification Authority drop-down list.
    2. Select Windows Vista/Server 2008 or a later version from the Certificate recipient drop-down list.
  4. Select the General tab.
    1. Enter a descriptive name in the Template display name field.
    2. Choose an appropriate Validity period and Renewal period.
    3. Do NOT select the option to Publish certificate in Active Directory.
  5. Select the Cryptography tab.
    1. Chose Key Storage Provider from the Provider Category drop-down list.
    2. Enter 2048 in the Minimum key size field.
    3. Select SHA256 from the Request hash drop-down list.
  6. Select the Subject Name tab.
    1. Select the option to Supply in the request.
  7. Select the Security tab.
    1. Highlight RAS and IAS Servers and click Remove.
    2. Click Add.
    3. Enter the security group name containing all NPS servers.
    4. Check the Read and Enroll boxes in the Allow column in the Permissions for [group name] field.
  8. Click Ok.

Perform the steps below to publish the new certificate template in AD CS.

  1. Open the Certification Authority management console (certsrv.msc) on the certification authority (CA) server or a management workstation with remote administration tool installed.
  2. Expand Certification Authority (hostname).
  3. Right-click Certificate Templates and choose New and Certificate Template to Issue.
  4. Select the certificate template created previously.
  5. Click Ok.

Request Certificate on NPS Server

Perform the following steps to request a certificate for the NPS server.

  1. Open the Certificates management console (certlm.msc) on the NPS server.
  2. Expand the Personal folder.
  3. Right-click Certificates and choose All Tasks and Request New Certificate.
  4. Click Next.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Select the NPS server certificate template and click More information is required to enroll for this certificate link.
  7. Select the Subject tab.
    1.  Select Common name from the Type drop-down list in the Subject name section.
    2. Enter the cluster fully-qualified hostname (FQDN) in the Value field.
    3. Click Add.
    4. Select DNS from the Type drop-down list in the Alternative name section.
    5. Enter the cluster FQDN in the Value field.
    6. Click Add.
    7. Enter the NPS server’s FQDN in the Value field.
    8. Click Add.
      Always On VPN and Network Policy Server (NPS) Load Balancing
  8. Select the General tab.
    1. Enter a descriptive name in the Friendly name field.
  9. Click Ok.
  10. Click Enroll.

Load Balancer Configuration

Configure the load balancer to load balance UDP ports 1812 (authentication) and 1813 (accounting). Optionally, to ensure that authentication and accounting requests go to the same NPS server, enable source IP persistence according to the vendor’s guidance. For the KEMP LoadMaster load balancer, the feature is called “port following”. On the F5 BIG-IP it is called a “persistence profile”, and on the Citrix NetScaler it is called a “persistency group”.

Additional Information

Always On VPN IKEv2 Load Balancing with KEMP LoadMaster

Always On VPN Hands-On Training Classes in U.S. and Europe

Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio Code

Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio CodeWindows 10 Always On VPN is designed to be implemented and managed using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform such as Microsoft Intune. With Intune specifically, there is an option to configure an Always On VPN profile in the UI. However, it provides only limited support and does not include all settings and options required for many deployments. Crucially, IKEv2 advanced security settings cannot be configured using the Intune portal. Also, there is currently no option for configuring a device tunnel with Intune. In these scenarios the administrator must manually create a ProfileXML file and provision it using Intune, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), or PowerShell.

ProfileXML

ProfileXML includes all settings that define the Always On VPN connection. The options and settings available are documented in the VPNv2 Configuration Service Provider (CSP) reference on Microsoft’s web site. ProfileXML is formatted using elements and settings within those elements. The formatting and syntax are critical to ensuring proper operation. Any error in syntax or formatting can result in an error, such as those described here.

XML Readability

Formatting is also important for readability, which is often helpful when reviewing configuration settings or troubleshooting syntax errors. For example, an element may be defined correctly but may be nested wrong. Often XML files are created with all text being left-justified, or with everything on a single line, making the content difficult to read. Using a file editor that recognizes XML files can be beneficial.

Visual Studio Code

To create, edit, and review ProfileXML it is recommended that a proper editing tool be used. I recommend using Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code. It is free, and it is especially helpful when editing XML files. Visual Studio Code can be downloaded here.

XML Tools VS Code Plug-In

To further enhance Visual Studio Code’s XML editing and formatting capabilities I recommend installing the XML Tools plug-in. This tool extends the native features of VS code for handling XML files. One important thing it adds is a formatting feature that will make your ProfileXML much easier to manage. The XML Tools plug-in for VS Code can be downloaded here.

XML Formatting

Once the XML Tools plug-in for VS code has been installed, formatting XML for readability is straightforward. Simply right-click anywhere in the document and choose Format Document.

Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio CodeOnce complete, the XML document will be formatted with proper indenting and nesting of elements, as shown here.

Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio CodeSummary

Formatting and syntax must be strictly adhered to when creating a ProfileXML file for Windows 10 Always On VPN. Using Visual Studio Code with the XML Tools plug-in allow the administrator to create and edit XML with proper formatting, which greatly improves readability and allows for streamlined configuration review and troubleshooting.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Colin, an avid reader of the articles on this web site for this tip. Thanks, Colin! 🙂

Additional Information

Always On VPN and DirectAccess Scripts and Sample Files on GitHub

Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Step-by-Step Configuration using PowerShell

Always On VPN Hands-On Training Classes in 2019

Always On VPN and Third Party VPN Devices

Always On VPN and Third Party VPN DevicesOne of the most important advantages Windows 10 Always On VPN has over DirectAccess is infrastructure independence. That is, Always On VPN does not rely exclusively on a Windows Server infrastructure to support Always On VPN connections. Always On VPN will work with many third-party firewalls and VPN devices, as long as they meet some basic requirements.

Advantages

Third-party firewalls or VPN devices offer some important advantages over Windows Servers running the Routing and Remote Access Services (RRAS), both in terms of security and performance.

Security

Dedicated security devices (physical or virtual) provide better security than a common Windows server. They commonly run specialized, security-hardened operating systems that are highly secure and resistant to attack. In addition, these solutions typically allow the administrator to define policy to restrict access to internal resources and do so in a centralized way. This is often easier to implement and manage than using traffic filters on the client side. They often include advanced security features such as URL filtering and malware inspection to better protect remote clients. Some solutions include Hardware Security Module (HSM) integration to further enhance security.

Performance

Purpose-built solutions often provide better throughput and performance than do Windows Servers by virtue of their proprietary operating systems. This allows for better network throughput and the ability to support many more connections per device.

Disadvantages

The main drawbacks for using a third-party device are cost and administrative overhead. Third-party solutions must be acquired, for which there is typically a non-trivial cost associated. They often need additional per-user licensing. In addition, many of these solutions require specialized skill sets to implement, manage, and support which could further increase the overall cost of the solution.

Interoperability Requirements

Any firewall or VPN device can be used for Always On VPN as long as they support the Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) VPN protocol for remote access connections. Most modern firewalls today support IKEv2, but some (such as the Sophos XG firewall) do not. Check with your vendor to validate support.

Native Client

If the firewall or VPN device supports IKEv2 for remote access connections, the native Windows VPN provider can be used to establish an Always On VPN connection. The native provider is used when the Always On VPN ProfileXML is configured using the NativeProfile element.

Plug-In VPN Client

One crucial drawback to using IKEv2 is that it is commonly blocked by firewalls. Many third-party VPN vendors offer a plug-in client that enables support for TLS-based transport, which is more firewall friendly than IKEv2. Plug-in VPN providers are available in the Microsoft store.

Below is a current list of available third-party VPN plug-in providers for Windows 10. (Updated April 5 to now include Cisco AnyConnect!)

  • Check Point Capsule
  • Cisco AnyConnect
  • F5 Access
  • Fortinet Forticlient
  • Palo Alto GlobalProtect
  • Pulse Secure
  • SonicWall Mobile Connect

Always On VPN and Third-Party VPN Devices

Note: Win32 VPN client applications from third-party vendors are not supported with Windows 10 Always On VPN.

Additional Information

What is the Difference Between DirectAccess and Always On VPN?

5 Things DirectAccess Administrators Should Know about Always On VPN

3 Important Advantages of Always On VPN over DirectAccess

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