If you want more than just pre-shared keys OpenVPN makes it easy to setup and use a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to use SSL/TLS certificates for authentication and key exchange between the VPN server and clients. OpenVPN can be used in a routed or bridged VPN mode and can be configured to use either UDP or TCP. The port number can be configured as well, but port 1194 is the official one. And it is only using that single port for all communication. VPN client implementations are available for almost anything including all Linux distributions, OS X, Windows and OpenWRT based WLAN routers.
To install openvpn in a terminal enter:
sudo apt install openvpn easy-rsa
Public Key Infrastructure Setup
The first step in building an OpenVPN configuration is to establish a PKI (public key infrastructure). The PKI consists of:
a separate certificate (also known as a public key) and private key for the server and each client, and
a master Certificate Authority (CA) certificate and key which is used to sign each of the server and client certificates.
OpenVPN supports bidirectional authentication based on certificates, meaning that the client must authenticate the server certificate and the server must authenticate the client certificate before mutual trust is established.
Both server and client will authenticate the other by first verifying that the presented certificate was signed by the master certificate authority (CA), and then by testing information in the now-authenticated certificate header, such as the certificate common name or certificate type (client or server).
Certificate Authority Setup
To setup your own Certificate Authority (CA) and generating certificates and keys for an OpenVPN server and multiple clients first copy the easy-rsa directory to /etc/openvpn. This will ensure that any changes to the scripts will not be lost when the package is updated. From a terminal change to user root and:
mkdir /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/ cp -r /usr/share/easy-rsa/* /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/
Next, edit /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/vars adjusting the following to your environment:
export KEY_COUNTRY="US" export KEY_PROVINCE="NC" export KEY_CITY="Winston-Salem" export KEY_ORG="Example Company" export KEY_EMAIL="email@example.com" export KEY_CN=MyVPN export KEY_NAME=MyVPN export KEY_OU=MyVPN
Enter the following to generate the master Certificate Authority (CA) certificate and key:
cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/ source vars ./clean-all ./build-ca
Next, we will generate a certificate and private key for the server:
As in the previous step, most parameters can be defaulted. Two other queries require positive responses, “Sign the certificate? [y/n]” and “1 out of 1 certificate requests certified, commit? [y/n]”.
Diffie Hellman parameters must be generated for the OpenVPN server:
All certificates and keys have been generated in the subdirectory keys/. Common practice is to copy them to /etc/openvpn/:
cd keys/ cp myservername.crt myservername.key ca.crt dh2048.pem /etc/openvpn/
The VPN client will also need a certificate to authenticate itself to the server. Usually you create a different certificate for each client. To create the certificate, enter the following in a terminal while being user root:
cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/ source vars ./build-key client1
Copy the following files to the client using a secure method:
As the client certificates and keys are only required on the client machine, you should remove them from the server.
Simple Server Configuration
Along with your OpenVPN installation you got these sample config files (and many more if if you check):
root@server:/# ls -l /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/ total 68 -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 3427 2011-07-04 15:09 client.conf -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 4141 2011-07-04 15:09 server.conf.gz
Start with copying and unpacking server.conf.gz to /etc/openvpn/server.conf.
sudo cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/server.conf.gz /etc/openvpn/ sudo gzip -d /etc/openvpn/server.conf.gz
Edit /etc/openvpn/server.conf to make sure the following lines are pointing to the certificates and keys you created in the section above.
ca ca.crt cert myservername.crt key myservername.key dh dh2048.pem
Edit /etc/sysctl.conf and uncomment the following line to enable IP forwarding.
Then reload sysctl.
sudo sysctl -p /etc/sysctl.conf
That is the minimum you have to configure to get a working OpenVPN server. You can use all the default settings in the sample server.conf file. Now start the server. You will find logging and error messages in your via journal. Dependin on what you look for:
sudo journalctl -xe
If you started a templatized service openvpn@server you can filter for this particular message source with:
sudo journalctl --identifier ovpn-server
Be aware that the “systemctl start openvpn” is not starting your openvpn you just defined. Openvpn uses templatized systemd jobs, openvpn@CONFIGFILENAME. So if for example your configuration file is “server.conf” your service is called openvpn@server. You can run all kind of service and systemctl commands like start/stop/enable/disable/preset against a templatized service like openvpn@server.
ubuntu@testopenvpn-server:~$ sudo systemctl start openvpn@server ubuntu@testopenvpn-server:~$ sudo systemctl status openvpn@server . firstname.lastname@example.org - OpenVPN connection to server Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/openvpn@.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Tue 2016-04-12 08:51:14 UTC; 1s ago Docs: man:openvpn(8) https://community.openvpn.net/openvpn/wiki/Openvpn23ManPage https://community.openvpn.net/openvpn/wiki/HOWTO Process: 1573 ExecStart=/usr/sbin/openvpn --daemon ovpn-%i --status /run/openvpn/%i.status 10 --cd /etc/openvpn --script-security 2 --config /etc/openvpn/%i.conf --writep Main PID: 1575 (openvpn) Tasks: 1 (limit: 512) CGroup: /email@example.com |-1575 /usr/sbin/openvpn --daemon ovpn-server --status /run/openvpn/server.status 10 --cd /etc/openvpn --script-security 2 --config /etc/openvpn/server.conf --wr Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: /sbin/ip route add 10.8.0.0/24 via 10.8.0.2 Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: UDPv4 link local (bound): [undef] Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: UDPv4 link remote: [undef] Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: MULTI: multi_init called, r=256 v=256 Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: IFCONFIG POOL: base=10.8.0.4 size=62, ipv6=0 Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: ifconfig_pool_read(), in='client1,10.8.0.4', TODO: IPv6 Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: succeeded -> ifconfig_pool_set() Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: IFCONFIG POOL LIST Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: client1,10.8.0.4 Apr 12 08:51:14 testopenvpn-server ovpn-server: Initialization Sequence Completed
You can enable/disable various openvpn services on one system, but you could also let Ubuntu do the heavy lifting. There is config for AUTOSTART in /etc/default/openvpn. Allowed values are “all”, “none” or space separated list of names of the VPNs. If empty, “all” is assumed. The VPN name refers to the VPN configutation file name. i.e. “home” would be /etc/openvpn/home.conf If you’re running systemd, changing this variable will require running “systemctl daemon-reload” followed by a restart of the openvpn service (if you removed entries you may have to stop those manually) After “systemctl daemon-reload” a restart of the “generic” openvon will restart all dependent services that the generator in /lib/systemd/system-generators/openvpn-generator created for your conf files when you called daemon-reload.
That is the minimum you have to configure to get a working OpenVPN server. You can use all the default settings in the sample server.conf file. Now start the server. You will find logging and error messages in your journal.
Now check if OpenVPN created a tun0 interface:
root@server:/etc/openvpn# ifconfig tun0 tun0 Link encap:UNSPEC HWaddr 00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00 inet addr:10.8.0.1 P-t-P:10.8.0.2 Mask:255.255.255.255 UP POINTOPOINT RUNNING NOARP MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1 [...]
Simple Client Configuration
There are various different OpenVPN client implementations with and without GUIs. You can read more about clients in a later section. For now we use the OpenVPN client for Ubuntu which is the same executable as the server. So you have to install the openvpn package again on the client machine:
sudo apt install openvpn
This time copy the client.conf sample config file to /etc/openvpn/.
sudo cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/client.conf /etc/openvpn/
Copy the client keys and the certificate of the CA you created in the section above to e.g. /etc/openvpn/ and edit /etc/openvpn/client.confto make sure the following lines are pointing to those files. If you have the files in /etc/openvpn/ you can omit the path.
ca ca.crt cert client1.crt key client1.key
And you have to at least specify the OpenVPN server name or address. Make sure the keyword client is in the config. That’s what enables client mode.
client remote vpnserver.example.com 1194
Also, make sure you specify the keyfile names you copied from the server
ca ca.crt cert client1.crt key client1.key
Now start the OpenVPN client:
ubuntu@testopenvpn-client:~$ sudo systemctl start openvpn@client ubuntu@testopenvpn-client:~$ sudo systemctl status openvpn@client . firstname.lastname@example.org - OpenVPN connection to client Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/openvpn@.service; disabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Tue 2016-04-12 08:50:50 UTC; 3s ago Docs: man:openvpn(8) https://community.openvpn.net/openvpn/wiki/Openvpn23ManPage https://community.openvpn.net/openvpn/wiki/HOWTO Process: 1677 ExecStart=/usr/sbin/openvpn --daemon ovpn-%i --status /run/openvpn/%i.status 10 --cd /etc/openvpn --script-security 2 --config /etc/openvpn/%i.conf --writep Main PID: 1679 (openvpn) Tasks: 1 (limit: 512) CGroup: /email@example.com |-1679 /usr/sbin/openvpn --daemon ovpn-client --status /run/openvpn/client.status 10 --cd /etc/openvpn --script-security 2 --config /etc/openvpn/client.conf --wr Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: OPTIONS IMPORT: --ifconfig/up options modified Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: OPTIONS IMPORT: route options modified Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: ROUTE_GATEWAY 192.168.122.1/255.255.255.0 IFACE=eth0 HWADDR=52:54:00:89:ca:89 Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: TUN/TAP device tun0 opened Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: TUN/TAP TX queue length set to 100 Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: do_ifconfig, tt->ipv6=0, tt->did_ifconfig_ipv6_setup=0 Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: /sbin/ip link set dev tun0 up mtu 1500 Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: /sbin/ip addr add dev tun0 local 10.8.0.6 peer 10.8.0.5 Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: /sbin/ip route add 10.8.0.1/32 via 10.8.0.5 Apr 12 08:50:52 testopenvpn-client ovpn-client: Initialization Sequence Completed
Check if it created a tun0 interface:
root@client:/etc/openvpn# ifconfig tun0 tun0 Link encap:UNSPEC HWaddr 00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00 inet addr:10.8.0.6 P-t-P:10.8.0.5 Mask:255.255.255.255 UP POINTOPOINT RUNNING NOARP MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1
Check if you can ping the OpenVPN server:
root@client:/etc/openvpn# ping 10.8.0.1 PING 10.8.0.1 (10.8.0.1) 56(84) bytes of data. 64 bytes from 10.8.0.1: icmp_req=1 ttl=64 time=0.920 ms
The OpenVPN server always uses the first usable IP address in the client network and only that IP is pingable. E.g. if you configured a /24 for the client network mask, the .1 address will be used. The P-t-P address you see in the ifconfig output above is usually not answering ping requests.
Check out your routes:
root@client:/etc/openvpn# netstat -rn Kernel IP routing table Destination Gateway Genmask Flags MSS Window irtt Iface 10.8.0.5 0.0.0.0 255.255.255.255 UH 0 0 0 tun0 10.8.0.1 10.8.0.5 255.255.255.255 UGH 0 0 0 tun0 192.168.42.0 0.0.0.0 255.255.255.0 U 0 0 0 eth0 0.0.0.0 192.168.42.1 0.0.0.0 UG 0 0 0 eth0
First trouble shooting
If the above didn’t work for you, check this:
Check your journal, e.g. journalctl –identifier ovpn-server (for server.conf)
Check that you have specified the keyfile names correctly in client.conf and server.conf.
Can the client connect to the server machine? Maybe a firewall is blocking access? Check journal on server.
Client and server must use same protocol and port, e.g. UDP port 1194, see port and proto config option
Client and server must use same config regarding compression, see comp-lzo config option
Client and server must use same config regarding bridged vs routed mode, see server vs server-bridge config option
Advanced routed VPN configuration on server
The above is a very simple working VPN. The client can access services on the VPN server machine through an encrypted tunnel. If you want to reach more servers or anything in other networks, push some routes to the clients. E.g. if your company’s network can be summarized to the network 192.168.0.0/16, you could push this route to the clients. But you will also have to change the routing for the way back – your servers need to know a route to the VPN client-network.
Or you might push a default gateway to all the clients to send all their internet traffic to the VPN gateway first and from there via the company firewall into the internet. This section shows you some possible options.
Push routes to the client to allow it to reach other private subnets behind the server. Remember that these private subnets will also need to know to route the OpenVPN client address pool (10.8.0.0/24) back to the OpenVPN server.
push "route 10.0.0.0 255.0.0.0"
If enabled, this directive will configure all clients to redirect their default network gateway through the VPN, causing all IP traffic such as web browsing and DNS lookups to go through the VPN (the OpenVPN server machine or your central firewall may need to NAT the TUN/TAP interface to the internet in order for this to work properly).
push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
Configure server mode and supply a VPN subnet for OpenVPN to draw client addresses from. The server will take 10.8.0.1 for itself, the rest will be made available to clients. Each client will be able to reach the server on 10.8.0.1. Comment this line out if you are ethernet bridging.
server 10.8.0.0 255.255.255.0
Maintain a record of client to virtual IP address associations in this file. If OpenVPN goes down or is restarted, reconnecting clients can be assigned the same virtual IP address from the pool that was previously assigned.
Push DNS servers to the client.
push "dhcp-option DNS 10.0.0.2" push "dhcp-option DNS 10.1.0.2"
Allow client to client communication.
Enable compression on the VPN link.
The keepalive directive causes ping-like messages to be sent back and forth over the link so that each side knows when the other side has gone down. Ping every 1 second, assume that remote peer is down if no ping received during a 3 second time period.
keepalive 1 3
It’s a good idea to reduce the OpenVPN daemon’s privileges after initialization.
user nobody group nogroup
OpenVPN 2.0 includes a feature that allows the OpenVPN server to securely obtain a username and password from a connecting client, and to use that information as a basis for authenticating the client. To use this authentication method, first add the auth-user-pass directive to the client configuration. It will direct the OpenVPN client to query the user for a username/password, passing it on to the server over the secure TLS channel.
# client config! auth-user-pass
This will tell the OpenVPN server to validate the username/password entered by clients using the login PAM module. Useful if you have centralized authentication with e.g. Kerberos.
plugin /usr/lib/openvpn/openvpn-plugin-auth-pam.so login
Advanced bridged VPN configuration on server
OpenVPN can be setup for either a routed or a bridged VPN mode. Sometimes this is also referred to as OSI layer-2 versus layer-3 VPN. In a bridged VPN all layer-2 frames – e.g. all ethernet frames – are sent to the VPN partners and in a routed VPN only layer-3 packets are sent to VPN partners. In bridged mode all traffic including traffic which was traditionally LAN-local like local network broadcasts, DHCP requests, ARP requests etc. are sent to VPN partners whereas in routed mode this would be filtered.
Prepare interface config for bridging on server
Make sure you have the bridge-utils package installed:
sudo apt install bridge-utils
Before you setup OpenVPN in bridged mode you need to change your interface configuration. Let’s assume your server has an interface eth0 connected to the internet and an interface eth1 connected to the LAN you want to bridge. Your /etc/network/interfaces would like this:
auto eth0 iface eth0 inet static address 220.127.116.11 netmask 255.255.255.248 default 18.104.22.168 auto eth1 iface eth1 inet static address 10.0.0.4 netmask 255.255.255.0
This straight forward interface config needs to be changed into a bridged mode like where the config of interface eth1 moves to the new br0 interface. Plus we configure that br0 should bridge interface eth1. We also need to make sure that interface eth1 is always in promiscuous mode – this tells the interface to forward all ethernet frames to the IP stack.
auto eth0 iface eth0 inet static address 22.214.171.124 netmask 255.255.255.248 default 126.96.36.199 auto eth1 iface eth1 inet manual up ip link set $IFACE up promisc on auto br0 iface br0 inet static address 10.0.0.4 netmask 255.255.255.0 bridge_ports eth1
At this point you need to bring up the bridge. Be prepared that this might not work as expected and that you will lose remote connectivity. Make sure you can solve problems having local access.
sudo ifdown eth1 && sudo ifup -a
Prepare server config for bridging
Edit /etc/openvpn/server.conf changing the following options to:
;dev tun dev tap up "/etc/openvpn/up.sh br0 eth1" ;server 10.8.0.0 255.255.255.0 server-bridge 10.0.0.4 255.255.255.0 10.0.0.128 10.0.0.254
Next, create a helper script to add the tap interface to the bridge and to ensure that eth1 is promiscuous mode. Create /etc/openvpn/up.sh:
#!/bin/sh BR=$1 ETHDEV=$2 TAPDEV=$3 /sbin/ip link set "$TAPDEV" up /sbin/ip link set "$ETHDEV" promisc on /sbin/brctl addif $BR $TAPDEV
Then make it executable:
sudo chmod 755 /etc/openvpn/up.sh
After configuring the server, restart openvpn by entering:
sudo systemctl restart openvpn@server
First, install openvpn on the client:
sudo apt install openvpn
Then with the server configured and the client certificates copied to the /etc/openvpn/ directory, create a client configuration file by copying the example. In a terminal on the client machine enter:
sudo cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/client.conf /etc/openvpn
Now edit /etc/openvpn/client.conf changing the following options:
dev tap ;dev tun ca ca.crt cert client1.crt key client1.key
Finally, restart openvpn:
sudo systemctl restart openvpn@client
You should now be able to connect to the remote LAN through the VPN.
Client software implementations
Linux Network-Manager GUI for OpenVPN
Many Linux distributions including Ubuntu desktop variants come with Network Manager, a nice GUI to configure your network settings. It also can manage your VPN connections. Make sure you have package network-manager-openvpn installed. Here you see that the installation installs all other required packages as well:
root@client:~# apt install network-manager-openvpn Reading package lists... Done Building dependency tree Reading state information... Done The following extra packages will be installed: liblzo2-2 libpkcs11-helper1 network-manager-openvpn-gnome openvpn Suggested packages: resolvconf The following NEW packages will be installed: liblzo2-2 libpkcs11-helper1 network-manager-openvpn network-manager-openvpn-gnome openvpn 0 upgraded, 5 newly installed, 0 to remove and 631 not upgraded. Need to get 700 kB of archives. After this operation, 3,031 kB of additional disk space will be used. Do you want to continue [Y/n]?
To inform network-manager about the new installed packages you will have to restart it:
root@client:~# restart network-manager network-manager start/running, process 3078
Open the Network Manager GUI, select the VPN tab and then the ‘Add’ button. Select OpenVPN as the VPN type in the opening requester and press ‘Create’. In the next window add the OpenVPN’s server name as the ‘Gateway’, set ‘Type’ to ‘Certificates (TLS)’, point ‘User Certificate’ to your user certificate, ‘CA Certificate’ to your CA certificate and ‘Private Key’ to your private key file. Use the advanced button to enable compression (e.g. comp-lzo), dev tap, or other special settings you set on the server. Now try to establish your VPN.
OpenVPN with GUI for Mac OS X: Tunnelblick
Tunnelblick is an excellent free, open source implementation of a GUI for OpenVPN for OS X. The project’s homepage is at http://code.google.com/p/tunnelblick/. Download the latest OS X installer from there and install it. Then put your client.ovpn config file together with the certificates and keys in /Users/username/Library/Application Support/Tunnelblick/Configurations/ and lauch Tunnelblick from your Application folder.
# sample client.ovpn for Tunnelblick client remote blue.example.com port 1194 proto udp dev tun dev-type tun ns-cert-type server reneg-sec 86400 auth-user-pass auth-nocache auth-retry interact comp-lzo yes verb 3 ca ca.crt cert client.crt key client.key
OpenVPN with GUI for Win 7
First download and install the latest OpenVPN Windows Installer. OpenVPN 2.3.2 was the latest when this was written. As of this writing, the management GUI is included with the Windows binary installer.
You need to start the OpenVPN service. Goto Start > Computer > Manage > Services and Applications > Services. Find the OpenVPN service and start it. Set it’s startup type to automatic. When you start the OpenVPN MI GUI the first time you need to run it as an administrator. You have to right click on it and you will see that option.
You will have to write your OpenVPN config in a textfile and place it in C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config\client.ovpn along with the CA certificate. You could put the user certificate in the user’s home directory like in the follwing example.
# C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config\client.ovpn client remote server.example.com port 1194 proto udp dev tun dev-type tun ns-cert-type server reneg-sec 86400 auth-user-pass auth-retry interact comp-lzo yes verb 3 ca ca.crt cert "C:\\Users\\username\\My Documents\\openvpn\\client.crt" key "C:\\Users\\username\\My Documents\\openvpn\\client.key" management 127.0.0.1 1194 management-hold management-query-passwords auth-retry interact ; Set the name of the Windows TAP network interface device here dev-node MyTAP
Note: If you are not using user authentication and/or you want to run the service without user interaction, comment out the following options:
auth-user-pass auth-retry interact management 127.0.0.1 1194 management-hold management-query-passwords
You may want to set the Windows service to “automatic”.
OpenVPN for OpenWRT
OpenWRT is described as a Linux distribution for embedded devices like WLAN router. There are certain types of WLAN routers who can be flashed to run OpenWRT. Depending on the available memory on your OpenWRT router you can run software like OpenVPN and you could for example build a small inexpensive branch office router with VPN connectivity to the central office. More info on OpenVPN on OpenWRT is here. And here is the OpenWRT project’s homepage: http://openwrt.org
Log into your OpenWRT router and install OpenVPN:
opkg update opkg install openvpn
Check out /etc/config/openvpn and put your client config in there. Copy certificates and keys to /etc/openvpn/
config openvpn client1 option enable 1 option client 1 # option dev tap option dev tun option proto udp option ca /etc/openvpn/ca.crt option cert /etc/openvpn/client.crt option key /etc/openvpn/client.key option comp_lzo 1
Restart OpenVPN on OpenWRT router to pick up the config
You will have to see if you need to adjust your router’s routing and firewall rules.