IKEv2 VPN on Ubuntu – IKE authentication credentials are unacceptable

I used these straightforward strongswan IKEv2 VPN setup instructions to set up a IKEv2 VPN on my Ubuntu server.

However, instead of self-generating my own certificate authority and having to deal with manually trusting this untrusted CA on every device I have to use VPN on, I decided that since I had letsencrypt in standalone mode set up on my server already (and the vpn subdomain properly covered under the certificate), I might as well use that certificate instead. I’m sure I’m committing half a dozen security sins, but it saves me time that I used to spend googling “how to trust certificate authority on [device name]”.

Setting up letsencrypt certificates with strongswan-based VPN is out of scope for this post, but in short, the difference is minimal. Instead of using the fake CA’s .pem, just symlink the letsencrypt certificate and key to /etc/ipsec.d/certs and /etc/ipsec.d/private. Remember to add a post_hook to /etc/letsencrypt/renewal/ to reboot strongswan after certificate renewal.

This worked great on macOS High Sierra and iOS 11. However, Windows 10 (Fall Creators) refused to connect to the VPN, stating that “IKE authentication credentials are unacceptable”.

The top google results for this were highly misleading for this particular context. It’s not about subjectAltName or Server Authentication flags or whatever.

It turns out that unlike macOS or iOS, Windows 10 wasn’t processing the full set of root and intermediate CA certificates, even though I symlinked the fullchain.pem to /etc/ipsec.d/certs. After throwing a symlink from /etc/letsencrypt/live/[domain]/chain.pem to /etc/ipsec.d/cacerts, Windows finally relented and let me connect to the VPN.

YMMV, because judging by the Google results, there are a lot of sources of error that yield the exact same, mildly useless “IKE authentication credentials are unacceptable” error message. However, this particular error is non-obvious, and worth looking at if you’re running into the same issue.

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