Hands-On Lab: Setting Up a VPN for Secure Networking
If you're looking for a way to securely connect different devices or networks together over the internet, a virtual private network (VPN) is the way to go. A VPN provides a secure connection by encrypting traffic and tunneling it through tunnels, protecting your data from prying eyes. But setting up a VPN can be a daunting task, especially if you have little experience with networking. That's where this hands-on lab comes in.
In this lab, we will guide you step by step in setting up a VPN using OpenVPN – an open-source VPN solution. OpenVPN is one of the most popular VPN solutions out there, and for a good reason. It's easy to set up and configure, and it's highly secure. With OpenVPN, you can set up a VPN that can connect clients running on different devices and platforms.
What is a VPN, and why do you need one?
Before we dive into the lab, let's first talk about what a VPN is and why you need one. A virtual private network (VPN) is a secure and encrypted connection over the internet that allows you to connect to a private network, such as your company's network, from anywhere in the world. With a VPN, you can browse the internet securely, access private resources, and communicate with remote sites as if you were physically there.
When you connect to a VPN, your internet traffic is encrypted and tunneled through a server in a different location. This makes it difficult for anyone to intercept your online activity or trace it back to you. A VPN is especially useful when you're using public Wi-Fi, as it protects you from potential security threats like hackers and snoops. Additionally, a VPN also helps you to bypass geo-restrictions and censorship, letting you access content that might not be available in your region.
Before you begin this lab, you will need the following:
- A Linux-based virtual machine (VM) or a physical server with a Ubuntu or Debian operating system
- Root or sudo access to the VM or server
- Basic knowledge of Linux and networking
- A public IP address or a domain name that resolves to the public IP address of the server
Step 1: Installing OpenVPN
The first step in setting up a VPN is installing the OpenVPN software. OpenVPN is available in the default Ubuntu and Debian repositories; you can install it using the following command:
sudo apt update
sudo apt install openvpn
Step 2: Configuring the OpenVPN server
Once you have installed OpenVPN, the next step is to configure the server. OpenVPN's configuration files are located in the
/etc/openvpn directory. You can create a new configuration file named
server.conf using the following command:
sudo nano /etc/openvpn/server.conf
Then, copy and paste the following configuration into the file:
server 10.8.0.0 255.255.255.0
push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
push "dhcp-option DNS 22.214.171.124"
push "dhcp-option DNS 126.96.36.199"
keepalive 10 120
Here's what the various options in the configuration do:
port: Specify the port on which the VPN Server listens. UDP port 1194 is the default port for OpenVPN.
proto: Specify the protocol used for communication. UDP is faster and more reliable than TCP, making it the preferred protocol.
dev: Specify the type of virtual network device used. Tun devices are used for point-to-point connections, and tap devices are used for Ethernet bridges.
key: Specify the paths to the server's certificate authority, public key, and private key, respectively.
dh: Specify the path to the Diffie-Hellman key exchange file.
server: Specify the IP range for the virtual network. The first IP address in the range is the VPN server's IP address.
ifconfig-pool-persist: Specify the path to a file that maintains a record of which IP addresses are assigned to clients.
push: Push additional options to the client configuration files. In this case, we are pushing DNS servers and the option to redirect all internet traffic through the VPN.
keepalive: Specify how often the server should send keepalive packets to clients.
cipher: Specify the encryption cipher used for the VPN.
comp-lzo: Enable LZO compression to reduce bandwidth usage.
group: Specify the user and group that the OpenVPN process should run as.
persist-tun: Keep the key and virtual network device persistent across restarts.
verb: Increase the verbosity of the server log.
Save and close the file by pressing
Ctrl + X, followed by
Y, and then
Step 3: Generating certificates and keys
OpenVPN requires certificates and keys to authenticate clients and establish a secure connection. You can use the
easy-rsa tool to generate the necessary files automatically.
sudo apt install easy-rsa
Create a new directory to store the certificates and keys:
sudo mkdir /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/
sudo cp -r /usr/share/easy-rsa/* /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/
Then, navigate to the
sudo nano vars
Set the following variables:
Save and close the
Next, execute the following commands to generate the certificates and keys:
sudo ./easyrsa init-pki
sudo ./easyrsa build-ca
sudo ./easyrsa gen-dh
sudo ./easyrsa build-server-full server nopass
Step 4: Starting the OpenVPN server
Now that you have generated the necessary certificates and keys, you can start the OpenVPN server using the following command:
sudo systemctl start openvpn@server
Check the status of the OpenVPN service to ensure that it's running:
sudo systemctl status openvpn@server
Step 5: Adding firewall rules
To allow VPN traffic, you need to add firewall rules to the server. You can use the
ufw firewall, which is installed by default on Ubuntu, to add the rules:
sudo ufw allow 1194/udp
sudo ufw enable
Step 6: Configuring the VPN client
To connect to the VPN server, you need to configure a client. OpenVPN provides clients for different platforms, such as Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. In this lab, we will use the OpenVPN client for Linux.
Install the OpenVPN client:
sudo apt install openvpn
Create a new configuration file named
client.ovpn in the
sudo nano /etc/openvpn/client.ovpn
Copy and paste the following configuration into the file:
remote your_server_ip_address 1194
your_server_ip_address with the public IP address or domain name of your server.
Save and close the file.
client.key files from the server to the client using
Step 7: Connecting to the VPN server
Now that you have configured the client, you can connect it to the VPN server using the following command:
sudo openvpn --config /etc/openvpn/client.ovpn
If the connection is successful, you should see logs indicating that the client has connected to the VPN server.
In this hands-on lab, we have shown you how to set up a VPN using OpenVPN. You have learned how to install and configure the OpenVPN server, generate certificates and keys, configure the client, and connect to the VPN server. With this knowledge, you can now create your VPNs to securely connect different devices or networks together over the internet.
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