Archives For raspberry pi

OpenVPN is a very powerful tool to connect to a remote network in a secure and easy way. But while it’s quite easy to set it up (see my post about OpenVPN on Raspberry Pi), getting all the pieces together takes some more network understanding and configuration. I created an image to show what’s going on when a OpenVPN client connects to the server.

OpenVPN networking

The grey network is the local network you’re connecting to, the green network is created by OpenVPN. After a successful connection, the OpenVPN server can ‘push’ a route to the OpenVPN client to make it aware of the grey network that is available through the OpenVPN connection. In this case you’d add this setting to the OpenVPN server:

push "route"

Now that the OpenVPN client knows how to find the Linux server on the grey network, it should be working, right? Nope. The Linux server does not know about the green network. So, when a OpenVPN client connects with a 10.8.0.x ip-address, this server does not know where to send the response to. When this happens, the Linux server sends its traffic to the default gateway of the local network: the router of the grey network.

But unfortunately, the router does not know about the green network neither. Since 10.8.0.x is a non-routable address (RFC 1918), it drops the packets because it has no way of knowing where to find this private network. To the OpenVPN client, this may look like there’s something wrong with the VPN connection, because even a simple ping will not work and times out. In reality, this is a routing problem.

The solution? Make the Linux server or at least the router aware of the green network, and tell them where to send traffic to this network. This is done by adding a route like this:

route add -net gw

Assuming the local network ip-address of the OpenVPN server is

This way the hosts in the grey network know about the green network and send their traffic to the OpenVPN server. Of course the OpenVPN server knows how to reach the OpenVPN client and all is working!

You can extend this further and add routes to the network of the VPN client and make hosts on both networks communicate to each other. This is useful for example to connect a branch-office to the corporate network. I’ll write about this in more detail some other time.

Hopefully this post brings some insight in what goes on when using networks and VPN connections.

The Raspberry Pi is a $35 credit-card sized computer, with an ARM-based CPU. It uses very little power (only 3 Watt), so it’s ideal for a server that’s always-on. I was thinking what’d be a nice task for my Raspberry Pi and came up with an OpenVPN server. This enables me to connect to my home from anywhere, for example to access some files or to access the internet from there.

Before we start, Let’s have a look what’s on board the Raspberry Pi so you’ve an idea what we talk about:


Here’s mine in action:


Now, let’s see how we can turn it into a OpenVPN server. Actually this is very easy due to the fact that the Raspberry Pi is running (a modified) Debian Weezy called Raspbian. Since it’s Debian, you can use apt-get to install software:

apt-get install openvpn

After the install finishes, you need to generate keys for the server and the client(s). OpenVPN ships with the ‘easy-rsa’-tool. It’s easiest to copy the example folder and work from there.

cp -R /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/easy-rsa /etc/openvpn
cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0

The ‘easy-rsa’-tool has a file called ‘vars’ that you can edit to set some defaults. That will save you time later on but it’s not required to do so.

Load the vars like this (note the two dots):

. ./vars

Then we need to generate keys:

./build-key-server server
./build-key client-name

The first line makes sure we start from scratch. The second generates a key for the Certificate Authority. The key for the server itself is generated on the third line. Repeat the forth line for each client that needs to connect. Finally, we need the Diffie Hellman key as well, which is generated on the fifth line. Make sure you use a 2048 bit key, as suggested in the comments.

We need to copy the keys to the OpenVPN folder.

cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0/keys
cp ca.crt ca.key dh2048.pem server.crt server.key /etc/openvpn

Last step is to configure the server. You can copy the example config and make sure it points to the certs you just created.

cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/server.conf.gz /etc/openvpn
gunzip /etc/openvpn/server.conf.gz
vim /etc/openvpn/server.conf

When you’re done, start OpenVPN like this:

/etc/init.d/openvpn start

Response looks like:

[ ok ] Starting virtual private network daemon: server.

Verify it by running:

ifconfig tun0

You’ll see:

tun0 Link encap:UNSPEC HWaddr 00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00-00 
 inet addr: P-t-P: Mask:
 RX packets:49 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
 TX packets:16 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
 collisions:0 txqueuelen:100 
 RX bytes:3772 (3.6 KiB) TX bytes:1212 (1.1 KiB)

Now you should be able to connect to the OpenVPN server with a client. I’m using Viscosity on Mac OSX, but there’re many clients available on almost any platform (Windows, Mac OSX, Linux). You need the client.crt, client.key and ca.crt files plus the ip-address of your Raspberry Pi.


Connecting should now work without trouble. Have a look at ‘/var/log/syslog’ to access the logfiles. You’d be able to see which client connects:

Jan 5 22:07:56 raspberrypi ovpn-server[14459]: [client-name] Peer Connection Initiated with [AF_INET]

Now that all is working, time for a last tip: when you want to access the network behind the Raspberry Pi through your OpenVPN connection, configure OpenVPN to push the right route to the clients. Edit the OpenVPN server config, and add a parameter like this:

push "route"

Be sure to enter the network- and netmask address that match your network setup. The route is automatically added on connect, and removed on disconnect.

Finally, enable routing on the Rasperry Pi:

echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/forwarding

Have fun with it, you can do a lot of great things with this little machine!

Update: Also see these follow-up posts that contain more detailed info on some interesting use cases and help you set it up:

HOWTO connect to hosts on a remote network using OpenVPN and some routing

Secure browsing via untrusted wifi networks using OpenVPN and the Raspberry Pi