strongSwan Developer Documentation

Contributions / License

Before starting development, please read our contribution requirements.

Getting the Source Code

The easiest way to get the source code is checking it out from our Git repository:

git clone git://
The repository is also mirrored to GitHub.

Browsing the Source Code

The Git repository can be browsed online using either Gitweb or the integrated repository browser (slower).

Source Code Documentation

The newer parts of strongSwan use extractable inline documentation extensively. This documentation is extracted with Doxygen for the latest release
and uploaded to Use make apidoc to generate it yourself from the sources.

Code style

For our code we heavily use an object oriented programming style for C. Also have a look to our basic programming style guidelines.

Quality Assurance

Unit Tests

Our libraries are tested with an increasing number of unit tests. To run them use make check.

The following environment variables change the behavior of the test runner:

TESTS_PLUGINS A space-separated list of plugins to load (not implemented by all test runners). Since 5.3.3.
TESTS_REDUCED_KEYLENGTHS If this is set test cases that generate keys will do so only for reduced key lengths to avoid blocking on hosts with low entropy.
TESTS_STRONGSWAN_CONF Path to a custom strongswan.conf file used for the tests. Since 5.2.0.
TESTS_SUITES A comma-separated list of test suites to run (all suites are run if this is not specified).
TESTS_SUITES_EXCLUDE A comma-separated list of test suites excluded from running. Since 5.2.1.
TESTS_VERBOSITY The log level used when running the tests (-1 to 4, see LoggerConfiguration), defaults to -1.
LEAK_DETECTIVE_DISABLE If our custom memory allocator is enabled with --enable-leak-detective it can be disabled temporarily by setting this variable in order to speed up running the tests.

Coverage reports can be generated with make coverage (requires configuring with --enable-coverage, which is not recommended for production builds as it disables all optimizations).

The unit tests also run automatically on Travis CI:

Testing Environment

Our integration and regression testing environment helps us ensure the quality of future releases.

The results for the latest release are published online.


The src directory in the strongSwan distribution contains the following components:

aikgen Utility to generate an Attestation Identity Key bound to a TPM
charon The IKE keying daemon
charon-cmd A command line IKE client
charon-nm The back end for the NetworkManager plugin
charon-svc A Windows IKE service
charon-systemd An IKE daemon similar to charon, but is specifically designed for use with systemd
charon-tkm A variant of charon that is backed by a Trusted Key Manager (TKM)
checksum Utility to generate checksums of built executables and libraries
conftest Conformance test tool
dumm An experimental UML testing framework
frontends/android VPN client for Android 4+
frontends/gnome NetworkManager plugin
frontends/osx charon-xpc helper daemon for the native Mac OS X application
ipsec The legacy ipsec command line tool wrapping commands and other tools
libcharon Contains most of the code and the plugins of the charon daemon
libfast A lightweight framework to build native web applications using ClearSilver and FastCGI
libimcv Contains IMCs, IMVs and code shared by them
libipsec An IPsec implementation used by kernel-libipsec and the Android app
libpts Contains code for TPM-based remote attestation and SWID tag handling
libpttls Implements the PT-TLS protocol
libradius RADIUS protocol implementation used by e.g. the eap-radius and tnc-pdp plugins
libsimaka Contains code shared by several EAP-SIM/AKA plugins
libstrongswan The strongSwan library with basic functions used by the daemons and utilities
libtls TLS implementation used by the eap-tls, eap-ttls, eap-peap and other plugins
libtnccs Contains IF-TNCCS implementations
libtncif Contains IF-IMC/IMV code
manager A deprecated graphical management application for charon based on libfast
medsrv An experimental management front end for mediation servers based on libfast
pki Public Key Infrastructure utility
pool Utility to manage attributes and IP address pools provided by the attr-sql plugin
pt-tls-client PT-TLS protocol client
scepclient Utility to enroll certificates using the SCEP protocol
starter Legacy daemon that reads ipsec.conf and controls the keying daemon charon
stroke Legacy command line utility to control charon via the stroke protocol
swanctl Configuration and control utility that communicates via vici interface
tpm_extendpcr Tool that extends a digest into a TPM PCR
_updown[_espmark] Default script called by the updown plugin on tunnel up/down events

Removed Components

Removed with 5.5.1
frontends/maemo Maemo applet
Removed with 5.4.0
libhydra Contained daemon-specific code and plugins used by the charon and starter daemons
Removed with 5.0.0
pluto The old IKEv1 keying daemon.
libfreeswan The deprecated library used by pluto.
whack Command line utility to control pluto via the whack protocol.