The Linux FreeS/WAN Project

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Dear FreeS/WAN Community,  

   After more than five years of active development, the FreeS/WAN project will be coming to an end.

   The initial goal of the project was ambitious -- to secure the Internet using opportunisitically negotiated encryption, invisible and convenient to the user. For more, see our history page. A secondary goal was to challenge then-current US export regulations, which prohibited the export of strong cryptography (such as triple DES encryption) of US origin or authorship.

   Since the project's inception, there has been limited success on the political front. After the watershed Bernstein case, US export regulations were relaxed. Since then, many US companies have exported strong cryptography, without seeming restriction other than having to notify the Bureau of Export Administration for tracking purposes.

   This comfortable situation has perhaps created a false sense of security. The catch? Export regulations are not laws. The US government still reserves the right to change its export regulations on short notice, and there is no facility to challenge them directly in a court of law. This leaves the US crypto community and US Linux distributions in a position which seems safe, but is not legally protected -- where the US government might at any time *retroactively* regulate previously released code, by prohibiting its future export. This is why FreeS/WAN has always been developed outside the US (in Canada and in Greece), and why it has never (to the best of our knowledge) accepted US patches.

   If FreeS/WAN has neither secured the Internet, nor secured the right of US citizens to export software that could do so, it has still had positive benefit.

   With version 1.x, the FreeS/WAN team created a mature, well-tested IPsec VPN (Virtual Private Network) product for Linux. The Linux community has relied on it for some time, and it (or a patched variant) has shipped with several Linux distributions.

   With version 2.x, FreeS/WAN development efforts focussed on increasing the usability of Opportunistic Encryption (OE), IPSec encryption without prearrangement. Configuration was simplified, FreeS/WAN's cryptographic offerings were streamlined, and the team promoted OE through talks and outreach.

   However, nine months after the release of FreeS/WAN 2.00, OE has not caught on as we'd hoped. The Linux user community demands feature-rich VPNs for corporate clients, and while folks genuinely enjoy FreeS/WAN and its derivatives, the ways they use FreeS/WAN don't seem to be getting us any closer to the project's goal: widespread deployment of OE. For its part, OE requires more testing and community feedback before it is ready to be used without second thought. The project's funders have therefore chosen to withdraw their funding.

   Anywhere you stop, a little of the road ahead is visible. FreeS/WAN 2.x might have developed further, for example to include ipv6 support.

   Before the project stops, the team plans to do at least one more release. Release 2.06 will see FreeS/WAN making a late step toward its goal of being a simple, secure OE product with the removal of Transport Mode. This in keeping with one of Neils Fergusson's and Bruce Schneier's security recommendations, in A Cryptographic Evaluation of IPsec. 2.06 will also feature KLIPS (FreeS/WAN's Kernel Layer IPsec machinery) changes to faciliate use with the 2.6 kernel series.

   After Release 2.06, FreeS/WAN code will continue to be available for public use and tinkering. Our website will stay up, and our mailing lists at will continue to provide a forum for users to support one another. We expect that FreeS/WAN and its derivatives will be widely deployed for some time to come.

   It is our hope that the public will one day be ready for, and demand, transparent, opportunistic encryption. Perhaps then some adventurous folks pick up FreeS/WAN 2.x and continue its development, making the project's original goal a reality.

   Many thanks to the wonderful folks who've been part of the community over the last few years. Thanks to the developers who've created patches and written HOWTOs. Thanks to the volunteers who've donated Web space and time as system administrators. Thanks to the distributors who've puzzled out the fine points of integrating our software with others'. Finally, thanks to the users who've tested our software, shared interoperation success stories, and given others a helping hand. We couldn't have done it without you.

Best Regards,

Claudia Schmeing
for the Linux FreeS/WAN Project