Sunday, September 12, 2010

VPN Server Implementation & Illustration in ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Been managing a remote ubuntu server for a long time using VNC. To further enhance security measures, I have ventured into VPN implementation.

VPN Server implementation:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server pptpd

pptpd is Microsoft Point to point Tunneling Protocol, chosen as such to maintain compatibility with both linux & Microsoft windows clients.

Reboot server.

sudo gedit /etc/pptpd.conf

add the following two lines to end of pptdp.conf


Above specify corresponding local & remote ip for the VPN connection.

sudo gedit /etc/ppp/pptpd-options

change the host name if you wish, default is pptpd.

sudo gedit /etc/ppp/chap-secrets

specify the user name, server, password & ip addresses allowed for connection, * for no ip address restriction.

# client server secret IP addresses
username pptpd password *

To enable ip-masquerading

sudo gedit /etc/rc.local

add the followings above 'exit 0'

iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE

To secure SSH server against brute force attack.
add the followings above 'exit 0' also.

iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p tcp --dport 22 -m state --state NEW -m recent --set --name SSH
iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p tcp --dport 22 -m state --state NEW -m recent --update --seconds 60 --hitcount 8 --rttl --name SSH -j DROP

Do check which ethernet adapter you are using for connection


Mine uses eth1 & I have to change all entries of eth0 to eth1 in /etc/rc.local

sudo gedit /etc/sysctl.conf

uncomment the line "net.ipv4.ip_forward=1"

Reboot server.

Router configuration:

To enable VPN pass-through on your router, do the followings

forward 1723 TCP port to your VPN server's ip address,
on some router, it is simply enabling 'pptp',
on some Dlink router, protocol is TCP & set to 6, with 1723 TCP port.

forward GRE to your VPN server's ip address,
on some Dlink router, protocol is Other & set to 4, with port field greyed out.

enable 'PPTP' & 'IPsec'.

VPN Client implementation:

On ubuntu 10.04 LTS, network-manager-pptp is needed & installed by default.

if it is not install, type in terminal:

sudo apt-get install network-manager-pptp

Left click on network-manager, VPN connections & select configure VPN

Enter connection name, gateway, username, password

Gateway can be local ip address of your server if you are connecting within same subnet.

Gateway can be your dynamic dns hostname like, assuming you are using dyndns's service to track your dynamic ip(not covered in this article).

Select 'Advanced', check 'Use Point-to-Point Encryption (MPPE)'

Once setup correctly. Select network manager & your vpn connection name to connect to the server.

If everything is setup correctly, you will see the connection established.

ifconfig should give result as follow:

ppp0 Link encap:Point-to-Point Protocol
inet addr: P-t-P: Mask:
RX packets:20 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:32 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:3
RX bytes:1251 (1.2 KB) TX bytes:1778 (1.7 KB)

Note: will be the server ip address used in subsequent client connections examples.

On Windows XP client, open network connections & select 'make new connection', 'connect to work place' & 'VPN connection'. Enter details as above & you should be connected to the server in no time.

Testing the VPN connection:

Assuming you have setup NFS server, VNC server(remote desktop) & Samba(windows share in linux) in the ubuntu server correctly(again, not covered in this article). See examples as follow:

1. VNC:

On ubuntu client pc, open 'Application', 'Internet', 'Terminal Server Client', enter the ip address of the server, select VNC protocol & click 'connect'.

In-secured connections =

ip address =

(assuming my VNC server is on in the same subnet)

Secured connections =

ip address =

2. Windows File Sharing

On Windows client pc

Open 'My Computer', 'Tools' & select map network drive:

In-secured connection =

\\\250g hdd or
\\callisto550\250g hdd

Secured connection =

\\\250g hdd

On Ubuntu client pc using Samba

Open 'Places', 'Connect to server' & select 'Windows Share'

In-secured connection =

Server =

Secured connection =

Server =

3. NFS:

In-secured connections =

Open 'terminal', type:

sudo mount /clientpc/localmountpoint

(assuming my NFS server is on in the same subnet)

(replace appropriate shared folders in your server & mount point in your client pc accordingly.)

Secured connections =

Open 'terminal', type:

sudo mount /clientpc/localmountpoint

One common mistake in nfs implementation is in the /etc/exports configuration

To allow access of share folder to clients within the same subnet, entry in /etc/exports should be

/tmp/sharedfolder (ro,async)

To allow access of share folder to remote clients via VPN, the client pc's ip address
should be, as per example above. So, one need to modify the entry to allow access by clients in subnet as follow

/tmp/sharedfolder (ro,async)

To illustrate the encryption taking place, same files were transfered from NFS server to the Client PC using both the 'Secured VPN connection' & the 'In-secured connection' over my gigabit network.

In-secured file transfer = ~55MByte/s
Secured VPN file transfers = ~9MByte/s

So, the encryption process reduced the throughput to slightly less than one fifth of the In-secured file transfer. Of course, there is little motivation to have encrypted file transfer within a home or small office. Above example is just to illustrate encryption is actually taking place.

VPN is to be deployed for remote users to be connected to the home network as if he is locally connected. Under such implementation, the bottleneck is more likely the internet bandwidth & ping at both end of the server & client. I transferred a file from my VNC server in Singapore with a 3Mbps cable network to a client PC 550km away in Malaysia with a 1Mbps ADSL network & net a 56KByte/s throughput.

Have fun with VPN.


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