Applies to openSUSE Leap 42.1

16 Configuring a VPN Server


Nowadays, the Internet connection is cheap and available almost everywhere. It is important that the connection is as secure as possible. Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure network within a second, insecure network such as the Internet or Wi-Fi. It can be implemented in different ways and serves several purposes. In this chapter, we focus on the OpenVPN implementation to link branch offices via secure wide area networks (WANs).

16.1 Conceptual Overview

This section defines some terms regarding VPN and gives a brief overview of some scenarios.

16.1.1 Terminology


The two ends of a tunnel, the source or destination client.

Tap Device

A tap device simulates an Ethernet device (layer 2 packets in the OSI model such as IP packets). A tap device is used for creating a network bridge. It works with Ethernet frames.

Tun Device

A tun device simulates a point-to-point network (layer 3 packets in the OSI model such as Ethernet frames). A tun device is used with routing and works with IP frames.


Linking two locations through a primarily public network. From a more technical viewpoint, it is a connection between the client's device and the server's device. Usually a tunnel is encrypted, but it does need to be by definition.

16.1.2 VPN Scenarios

Whenever you set up a VPN connection, your IP packets are transferred over a secured tunnel. A tunnel can use a so-called tun or tap device. They are virtual network kernel drivers which implement the transmission of Ethernet frames or IP frames/packets.

Any userspace program OpenVPN can attach itself to a tun or tap device to receive packets sent by your operating system. The program is also able to write packets to the device.

There are many solutions to set up and build a VPN connection. This section focuses on the OpenVPN package. Compared to other VPN software, OpenVPN can be operated in two modes:

Routed VPN

Routing is an easy solution to set up. It is more efficient and scales better than bridged VPN. Furthermore, it allows the user to tune MTU (Maximum Transfer Unit) to raise efficiency. However, in a heterogeneous environment NetBIOS broadcasts do not work if you do not have a Samba server on the gateway. If you need IPv6, each tun drivers on both ends must support this protocol explicitly. This scenario is depicted in Figure 16.1, “Routed VPN”.

Routed VPN
Figure 16.1: Routed VPN
Bridged VPN

Bridging is a more complex solution. It is recommended when you need to browse Windows file shares across the VPN without setting up a Samba or WINS server. Bridged VPN is also needed if you want to use non-IP protocols (such as IPX) or applications relying on network broadcasts. However, it is less efficient than routed VPN. Another disadvantage is that it does not scale well. This scenario is depicted in the following figures.

Bridged VPN - Scenario 1
Figure 16.2: Bridged VPN - Scenario 1
Bridged VPN - Scenario 2
Figure 16.3: Bridged VPN - Scenario 2
Bridged VPN - Scenario 3
Figure 16.4: Bridged VPN - Scenario 3

The major difference between bridging and routing is that a routed VPN cannot IP-broadcast while a bridged VPN can.

16.2 Setting Up a Simple Test Scenario

In the following example we will create a point-to-point VPN tunnel. The example demonstrates how to create a VPN tunnel between one client and a server. It is assumed that your VPN server will use private IP addresses like IP_OF_SERVER and your client the IP address IP_OF_CLIENT. You can modify these private IP addresses to your needs but make sure you select addresses which do not conflict with other IP addresses.

Warning: Use Only For Testing

This scenario is only useful for testing and is considered as an example to get familiar with VPN. Do not use this as a real world scenario as it can compromise security and safety of your IT infrastructure!

It is recommended to use configuration file names structured as /etc/openvpn/XXX.conf. If you need to store more files, create a configuration directory /etc/openvpn/XXX/. This makes life a bit easier as you know exactly which file belongs to which configuration file.

16.2.1 Configuring the VPN Server

To configure a VPN server, proceed as follows:

Procedure 16.1: VPN Server Configuration
  1. Install the package openvpn on the machine that will later become your VPN server.

  2. Open a shell, become root and create the VPN secret key:

    root # openvpn --genkey --secret /etc/openvpn/secret.key
  3. Copy the secret key to your client:

    root # scp /etc/openvpn/secret.key root@IP_OF_CLIENT:/etc/openvpn/
  4. Create the file /etc/openvpn/server.conf with the following content:

    dev tun
    secret secret.key
  5. If you use a firewall, start YaST and open UDP port 1194 (Security and Users › Firewall › Allowed Services).

  6. Start the OpenVPN server service:

    sudo systemctl start openvpn@server

    This notation points to the OpenVPN server configuration file located at /etc/openvpn/server.conf . See /usr/share/doc/packages/openvpn/README.SUSE for details.

16.2.2 Configuring the VPN Client

To configure the VPN client, do the following:

Procedure 16.2: VPN Client Configuration
  1. Install the package openvpn on your client VPN machine.

  2. Create /etc/openvpn/client.conf with the following content:

    dev tun
    secret secret.key

    Replace the placeholder IP_OF_CLIENT in the first line with either the domain name, or the public IP address of your server.

  3. If you use a firewall, start YaST and open UDP port 1194 as described in Step 5 of Procedure 16.1, “VPN Server Configuration”.

  4. Start the OpenVPN service:

    sudo systemctl start openvpn@client

16.2.3 Testing the VPN Example Scenario

After OpenVPN has successfully started, test the availability of the tun device with the following command:

ip addr show tun0

To verify the VPN connection, use ping on both client and server side to see if they can reach each other. Ping the server from the client:

ping -I tun0 IP_OF_SERVER

Ping the client from the server:

ping -I tun0 IP_OF_CLIENT

16.3 Setting Up Your VPN Server Using Certificate Authority

The example in Section 16.2 is useful for testing, but not for daily work. This section explains how to build a VPN server that allows more than one connection at the same time. This is done with a public key infrastructure (PKI). A PKI consists of a pair of public and private keys for the server and each client, and a master certificate authority (CA), which is used to sign every server and client certificate.

This setup involves the following basic steps:

16.3.1 Creating Certificates

Before a VPN connection gets established, the client must authenticate the server certificate. Conversely, the server must also authenticate the client certificate. This is called mutual authentication. To create such certificates, use the YaST CA module. See Chapter 17, Managing X.509 Certification for more details.

To create a VPN root, server, and client CA, proceed as follows:

Procedure 16.3: Creating a VPN Server Certificate
  1. Prepare a common VPN Certificate Authority (CA):

    1. Start the YaST CA module.

    2. Click Create Root CA.

    3. Enter a CA Name and a Common Name, for example VPN-Server-CA.

    4. Fill out the other boxes like e-mail addresses, organization, etc. and proceed with Next.

    5. Enter your password twice and proceed with Next.

    6. Review the summary. YaST displays the current settings for confirmation. Click Create. The root CA is created and displayed in the overview.

  2. Create a VPN server certificate:

    1. Select the root CA you created in Step 1 and click Enter CA.

    2. When prompted, enter the CA Password.

    3. Click the Certificate tab and click Add › Add Server Certificate.

    4. Enter a Common Name, for example, and proceed with Next.

    5. Enter your password twice and click Advanced options.

      Switch to the Advanced Settings › Key Usage list and check one of the following sets:

      • digitalSignature and keyEncipherment, or,

      • digitalSignature and keyAgreement

      Switch to the Advanced Settings › extendedKeyUsage and type serverAuth for a server certificate.

      When using the method remote-cert-tls server or remote-cert-tls client to verify the certificates, then the certificates can only have a certain number of key usages set. The reason for this is to prevent or at least mitigate the possibility of a man-in-the-middle attack. For further background information, see Finish with Ok and then proceed with Next.

    6. Review the summary. YaST displays the current settings for confirmation. Click Create. The VPN server certificate is created and displayed in the Certificates tab.

  3. Create VPN client certificates:

    1. Make sure you are on the Certificates tab.

    2. Click Add › Add Client Certificate.

    3. Enter a Common Name, for example,

    4. Enter the e-mail addresses for your client, for example,, and click Add. Proceed with Next.

    5. Enter your password twice and click Advanced options.

      Switch to Advanced Settings › Key Usage list and check one of the following flags:

      • digitalSignature or,

      • keyAgreement or,

      • digitalSignature and keyAgreement.

      Switch to the Advanced Settings › extendedKeyUsage and type clientAuth for a server certificate.

    6. Review the summary. YaST displays the current settings for confirmation. Click Create. The VPN client certificate is created and is displayed in the Certificates tab.

    7. Repeat Step 3 if you need certificates for more clients.

After you have successfully finished Procedure 16.3, “Creating a VPN Server Certificate” you have a VPN root CA, a VPN server CA, and one or more VPN client CAs. To finish the task, proceed with the following procedure:

  1. Choose the Certificates tab.

  2. Export the VPN server certificate in two formats: PEM and unencrypted key in PEM.

    1. Select your VPN server CA ( in our example) and choose Export › Export to File.

    2. Select Only the Certificate in PEM Format, enter your VPN server certificate password and save the file to /etc/openvpn/server_crt.pem.

    3. Repeat Step 2.a and Step 2.b, but choose the format Only the Key Unencrypted in PEM Format. Save the file to /etc/openvpn/server_key.pem.

  3. Export the VPN client certificates and choose an export format, PEM or PKCS12 (preferred). For each client:

    1. Select your VPN client certificate ( in our example) and choose Export › Export to File.

    2. Select Like PKCS12 and Include the CA Chain, enter your VPN client certificate key password and provide a PKCS12 password. Enter a File Name, click Browse and save the file to /etc/openvpn/client1.p12.

  4. Copy the files to your client (in our example,

  5. Export the VPN CA (in our example VPN-Server-CA):

    1. Switch to the Description tab and select Export to File.

    2. Select Advanced › Export to File.

    3. Mark Only the Certificate in PEM Format and save the file to /etc/openvpn/vpn_ca.pem.

If desired, the client PKCS12 file can be converted into the PEM format using this command:

openssl pkcs12 -in client1.p12 -out client1.pem

Enter your client password to create the client1.pem file. The PEM file contains the client certificate, client key, and the CA certificate. You can split this combined file using a text editor and create three separate files. The file names can be used for the ca, cert, and key options in the OpenVPN configuration file (see Example 16.1, “VPN Server Configuration File”).

16.3.2 Configuring the Server

For your configuration, copy to /etc/openvpn/ and modify the example configuration file that is provided with /usr/share/doc/packages/openvpn/sample-config-files/server.conf. You need to adjust some paths.

Example 16.1: VPN Server Configuration File
# /etc/openvpn/server.conf
port 1194 1
proto udp 2
dev tun0 3

# Security 4

ca    vpn_ca.pem
cert  server_crt.pem
key   server_key.pem

# ns-cert-type server 
remote-cert-tls client 5
dh   server/dh2048.pem 6

server 7
ifconfig-pool-persist /var/run/openvpn/ipp.txt 8

# Privileges 9
user nobody
group nobody

# Other configuration 10
keepalive 10 120
# status      /var/log/openvpn-status.tun0.log 11
# log-append  /var/log/openvpn-server.log 12
verb 4


The TCP/UDP port which OpenVPN listens to. You need to open the port in the Firewall, see Chapter 15, Masquerading and Firewalls. The standard port for VPN is 1194, so you can usually leave that as it is.


The protocol, either UDP or TCP.


The tun or tap device, see Section 16.1.1, “Terminology” for the differences.


The following lines contain the relative or absolute path to the root server CA certificate (ca), the root CA key (cert), and the private server key (key). These were generated in Section 16.3.1, “Creating Certificates”.


Require that peer certificate to have been signed with an explicit key usage and extended key usage based on RFC3280 TLS rules. There is a description of how to make a server use this explicit key in Procedure 16.3, “Creating a VPN Server Certificate”.


The Diffie-Hellman parameters. Create the required file with the following command:

openssl dhparam -out /etc/openvpn/dh2048.pem 2048


Supplies a VPN subnet. The server can be reached by


Records a mapping of clients and its virtual IP address in the given file. Useful when the server goes down and (after the restart) the clients get their previously assigned IP address.


For security reasons it is a good idea to run the OpenVPN daemon with reduced privileges. For this reason the group and user nobody is used.


Several other configuration options—see the comment in the example configuration file: /usr/share/doc/packages/openvpn/sample-config-files.


Enable this option, if you prefer a short status with statistical data (operational status dump). By default, it is not set; all output is written to syslog. If you have more than one configuration file (for example, one for home and another for work), it is recommended to include the device name into the file name. This avoids overwriting each other's output files accidentally. In this case it is tun0, taken from the dev directive—see 3.


By default, log messages go to syslog. Overwrite this behavior by removing the hash character. In that case, all messages go to /var/log/openvpn-server.log. Do not forget to configure a logrotate service. See man 8 logrotate for further details.

After having completed this configuration, you can see log messages of your OpenVPN server under /var/log/openvpn.log. After having started it for the first time, it should finish with:

... Initialization Sequence Completed

If you do not see this message, check the log carefully for any hints of what is wrong in your configuration file.

16.3.3 Configuring the Clients

For your configuration, copy and modify the example configuration file that is provided with /usr/share/doc/packages/openvpn/sample-config-files/client.conf. You need to adjust some paths.

Example 16.2: VPN Client Configuration File
# /etc/openvpn/client.conf
client 1
dev tun 2
proto udp 3
remote IP_OR_HOST_NAME 1194 4
resolv-retry infinite

remote-cert-tls server 5

# Privileges 6
user nobody
group nobody

# Try to preserve some state across restarts.

# Security 7
pkcs12 client1.p12

comp-lzo 8


You need to specify that this machine is a client.


The network device. Both clients and server must use the same device.


The protocol. Use the same settings as on the server.


This is a useful security option for clients, to ensure that the host they connect to is a designated server.


Replace the placeholder IP_OR_HOST_NAME with the respective host name or IP address of your VPN server. After the host name, the port of the server is given. You can have multiple lines of remote entries pointing to different VPN servers. This is useful for load balancing between different VPN servers.


For security reasons it is a good idea to run the OpenVPN daemon with reduced privileges. For this reason the group and user nobody is used.


Contains the client files. For security reasons, it is better to have a separate file pair for each client.


Turns compression on. Use only when the server has this parameter switched on as well.

16.4 Changing Name Servers in VPN

If you need to change name servers before or during a VPN session, use netconfig.

Important: Differences between SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server

The following procedure is for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server only without NetworkManager (with ifup). SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop installations use NetworkManager and must install the NetworkManager-openvpn plug-in.

Use the following procedure to change a name server:

Procedure 16.4: Changing Name Servers
  1. Copy the following scripts and make them executable:

    cp /usr/share/doc/packages/openvpn/sample-scripts/client-netconfig.* \
    chmod +x /etc/openvpn/client-netconfig.*
  2. Add the following lines to /etc/openvpn/client.conf:

    pull dhcp-options
    up   /etc/openvpn/client-netconfig.up
    down /etc/openvpn/client-netconfig.down

If you need to specify a ranking list of fallback services, use the NETCONFIG_DNS_RANKING variable in /etc/sysconfig/network/config. The default value is auto which resolves to (documented in man 8 netconfig):

+/vpn/ -/auto/ +strongswan +openswan +racoon -avahi

Preferred service names have the + prefix, fallback services the - prefix.

16.5 The GNOME Applet

The following sections describe the setup of OpenVPN connections with the GNOME tool.

  1. Make sure the package NetworkManager-openvpn-gnome is installed and all dependencies have been resolved.

  2. Press AltF2 and enter nm-connection-editor into the text box to start the Network Connection Editor. A new window appears.

  3. Select the VPN tab and click Add.

  4. Choose the VPN connection type, in this case OpenVPN.

  5. Choose the Authentication type. Depending on the setup of your OpenVPN server, choose between Certificates (TLS) or Password with Certificates (TLS).

  6. Insert the necessary values into the respective text boxes. For our example configuration, these are:


    The user (only available when you have selected Password with Certificates (TLS))


    The password for the user (only available when you have selected Password with Certificates (TLS))

    User Certificate


    CA Certificate


    Private Key


  7. Finish with Apply and Close.

  8. Enable the connection with your Network Manager applet.

16.6 For More Information

For more information about VPN, see:

  • the OpenVPN home page

  • man openvpn

  • /usr/share/doc/packages/openvpn/sample-config-files/: example configuration files for different scenarios.

  • /usr/src/linux/Documentation/networking/tuntap.txt, to install the kernel-source package.

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