Setup Your Own Private Network With OpenVPN

Vultr offers you awesome private network connectivity for servers running at the same location. But sometimes you want two servers in different countries / datacenters to be able to communicate in a private and secure way. This tutorial will show you how to achieve that with the help of OpenVPN. The operating systems used here are Debian and CentOS, just to show you two different configurations. This can be easily adapted for Debian -> Debian, Ubuntu -> FreeBSD and so on.

  • Machine 1: Debian, will act as server (Location: NL)
  • Machine 2: CentOS, will act as client (Location: FR)

Machine 1

Start on machine 1 by installing OpenVPN:

apt-get install openvpn

Then, copy the example configuration and the tool for generating keys, easy-rsa, to /etc/openvpn:

cp -r /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/easy-rsa/ /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/server.conf.gz /etc/openvpn

The default values for your keys aren’t exactly safe anymore, to fix this open /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0/vars with your favorite text editor and modify the following line:

export KEY_SIZE=4096

Next, ensure that the values are loaded into your current session, clean up eventually existing keys, and generate your certificate authority:

cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0source ./vars./clean-all./build-ca

You will be prompted for information. Make your life easier by supplying information about your server, for example, where it’s located and what the FQDN is/will be. This is useful for when you have to debug problems:

Country Name (2 letter code) [US]:NLState or Province Name (full name) [CA]:-Locality Name (eg, city) [SanFrancisco]:Vultr Datacenter NLOrganization Name (eg, company) [Fort-Funston]:-Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) [changeme]:-Common Name (eg, your name or your server's hostname) [changeme]:yourserver1.yourdomain.tldName [changeme]:-Email Address [mail@host.domain]:youraddress@yourdomain.tld

Another necessity is parameters for the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Those need to be generated too:


Important: The build-dh command is a relatively complex process that can take up to ten minutes, depending on your server’s resources.

To further improve the security of this connection, we will generate a static secret that needs to be distributed amongst all clients:

mkdir /etc/openvpn/keysopenvpn --genkey --secret /etc/openvpn/keys/ta.key

Now, you can generate the key for the server:

./build-key-server server1

This command will prompt for some information:

Country Name (2 letter code) [US]:NLState or Province Name (full name) [CA]:-Locality Name (eg, city) [SanFrancisco]:Vultr Datacenter NLOrganization Name (eg, company) [Fort-Funston]:-Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) [changeme]:-Common Name (eg, your name or your server's hostname) [server1]:yourserver1.yourdomain.tldName [changeme]:-Email Address [mail@host.domain]:youraddress@yourdomain.tld

The final step is to sign the certificate request that was just generated with the CA’s key:

1 out of 1 certificate requests certified, commit? [y/n]y

Copy the necessary keys and certificates into a separate folder:

cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0/keyscp dh4096.pem ca.crt server1.crt server1.key /etc/openvpn/keys/chmod 700 /etc/openvpn/keyschmod 600 /etc/openvpn/keys/*

Now for the configuration, unzip it …

cd /etc/openvpngunzip server.conf.gz

… and open the resulting server.conf with your favorite text editor. The configuration should look similar to this:

port 1194proto udpdev tunca keys/ca.crtcert keys/server1.crtkey keys/server1.key dh keys/dh4096.pemserver ipp.txt# Uncomment this if you have multiple clients# and want them to be able to see each other;client-to-clientkeepalive 10 120tls-auth keys/ta.key 0 tls-cipher DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA256-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA128-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:CAMELLIA256-SHA:AES256-SHA:CAMELLIA128-SHA:AES128-SHAcipher AES-256-CBCauth SHA384comp-lzouser nobodygroup nogrouppersist-keypersist-tunverb 3mute 20

After restarting the service you should watch your log a bit …

service openvpn restart && tail -f /var/log/syslog

… to make sure everything is working. If no errors are detected, then you can generate the keys for your second server:

cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0source ./vars./build-key server2

Again, you will be prompted for information:

Country Name (2 letter code) [US]:FRState or Province Name (full name) [CA]:-Locality Name (eg, city) [SanFrancisco]:Vultr Datacenter FROrganization Name (eg, company) [Fort-Funston]:-Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) [changeme]:-Common Name (eg, your name or your server's hostname) [server2]:yourserver2.yourdomain.tldName [changeme]:-Email Address [mail@host.domain]:youraddress@yourdomain.tld

Now, you need to transfer the necessary files to your second server, preferably encrypted:

cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0/keyscp /etc/openvpn/keys/ta.key .tar -cf vpn.tar ca.crt server2.crt server2.key ta.keyscp vpn.tar yourusername@server2:~/rm vpn.tar

Machine 2

Time to switch to the SSH-connection of your second server. The first step is to install OpenVPN …

yum install openvpn

… and to deactivate firewalld. The replacement will be plain iptables.

systemctl stop firewalldsystemctl disable firewalld

Unpack the archive that you just moved to the server and properly set permissions on the files:

cd /etc/openvpnmkdir keyschmod 700 keyscd keystar -xf ~/vpn.tar -C .chmod 600 *

Create /etc/openvpn/client.conf with your favorite text editor. It should look like this:

clientdev tunproto udpremote yourserver yourportresolv-retry infinitenobinduser nobodygroup openvpnpersist-keypersist-tunca keys/ca.crtcert keys/server2.crtkey keys/.keyns-cert-type servertls-auth keys/ta.key 1tls-cipher DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA256-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA128-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:CAMELLIA256-SHA:AES256-SHA:CAMELLIA128-SHA:AES128-SHAcipher AES-256-CBCauth SHA384remote-cert-tls servercomp-lzoverb 3mute 20

The last step is to start and enable the service:

systemctl start openvpn@client.servicesystemctl enable openvpn@client.service

If everything is working, then you should have no problem pinging the first server:

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=17.8 ms64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=17.9 ms64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=17.8 ms

You now have a private connection over the Internet!

If you need to troubleshoot any errors, try checking the logs with the following command:

journalctl -xn

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