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OpenVPN Authentication and Gateway Configuration
Securing oneself is a never ending battle

For a number of years now when on insecure network connections I have been routing my computer to the Internet through secure tunnels and VPNs, but I’ve been interested in trying out different types of VPN software lately so I can more easily help secure friends who ask of it. This would mainly include ease of installation and enabling, which partly requires no extra software for them to install.

Unfortunately, Windows 7 and Android (and probably most other software) only support PPTP and L2TP/IPSEC out of the box. While these protocols are good for what they do, everything I have read says OpenVPN is superior to them as a protocol. I was very frustrated to find out how little support OpenVPN actually has today as a standard in the industry, which is to say, you have to use third party clients and it is rarely, if ever, included by default in OSes. The OpenVPN client and server aren’t exactly the easiest to set up either for novices.


So on to the real point of this post. The sample client and server configurations for OpenVPN were set up just how I needed them except they did not include two important options for me: User authentication and full client Internet forwarding/tunneling/gateway routing. Here is how to enable both.


Routing all client traffic (including web-traffic) through the VPN:
  • Add the following options to the server configuration file:
    • push "redirect-gateway def1" #Tells the client to use the server as its default gateway
    • push "dhcp-option DNS 10.8.0.1" #Tells the client to use the server as its DNS Server (DNS Server's IP address dependent on configuration)
  • Run the following commands in bash:
    • iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s 10.8.0.0/24 -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE #This command assumes that the VPN subnet is 10.8.0.0/24 (taken from the server directive in the OpenVPN server configuration) and that the local ethernet interface is eth0.
    • echo '1' > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward #Enable IP Forwarding (This one is not mentioned in the OpenVPN howto)

Adding user authentication (Using alternative authentication methods)

To set up username/password authentication on the server, an authorization script is needed that receives the username/password and returns whether the login information was successful (0) or failed (1). The steps to set up this process are as follows:

  • Add the following options to the server configuration file:
    • auth-user-pass-verify verify.php via-env #The third argument (method) specifies whether to send the username and password through either a temporary file (via-file) or environment variables (via-env)
    • script-security 3 system #Allows OpenVPN to run user scripts and executables and send password authentication information through environment variables. While "system" is deprecated, I had to use it or external commands like ifconfig and route were failing with "failed: could not execute external program"
  • Add the following options to the client configuration file:
    • auth-user-pass #Request user credentials to log in
  • The final step is to create the verify.php (see auth-user-pass-verify configuration above) script which returns whether it was successful, and also outputs its success to stdout, which is added to the OpenVPN log file.
    #!/usr/bin/php -q
    <?
    //Configuration
    $ValidUserFile='users.txt'; //This file must be in htpasswd SHA1 format (htpasswd -s)
    $Method='via-env'; //via-file or via-env (see auth-user-pass-verify configuration above for more information)
    
    //Get the login info
    if($Method=='via-file') //via-file method
    {
    	$LoginInfoFile=trim(file_get_contents('php://stdin')); //Get the file that contains the passed login info from stdin
    	$LoginInfo=file_get_contents($LoginInfoFile); //Get the passed login info
    	file_put_contents($LoginInfoFile, str_repeat('x', strlen($LoginInfo))); //Shred the login info file
    	$LoginInfo=explode("\n", $LoginInfo); //Split into [Username, Password]
    	$UserName=$LoginInfo[0];
    	$Password=$LoginInfo[1];
    }
    else //via-env method
    {
    	$UserName=$_ENV['username'];
    	$Password=$_ENV['password'];
    }
    
    //Test the login info against the valid user file
    $UserLine="$UserName:{SHA}".base64_encode(sha1($Password, TRUE)); //Compile what the user line should look like
    foreach(file($ValidUserFile, FILE_IGNORE_NEW_LINES) as $Line) //Attempt to match against each line in the file
    	if($UserLine==$Line) //If credentials match, return success
    	{
    		print "Logged in: $UserName\n";
    		exit(0);
    	}
    
    //Return failure
    print "NOT Logged in: $UserName\n";
    exit(1);
    ?>
    		
Auto initializing SSH Remote Tunnel
SSH is so incredibly useful

I often find SSH tunnels absolutely indispensable in my line of work for multiple reasons including secure proxies (tunneling) over insecure connections and connecting computers and programs together over difficult network setups involving NATs and firewalls.

One such example of this I ran into recently is that I have a server machine (hereby called “the client”) that I wanted to make sure I have access to no matter where it is. For this I created an auto initializing SSH remote port tunnel to a server with a static IP Address (hereby called “the proxy server”) which attempts to keep itself open when there is problems.

The first step of this was to create the following bash script on the client that utilizes the OpenSSH’s client to connect to an OpenSSH server on the proxy server for tunneling:

#!/bin/bash
for ((;;)) #Infinite loop to keep the tunnel open
do
	ssh USERNAME@PROXYSERVER -o ExitOnForwardFailure=yes -o TCPKeepAlive=yes -o ServerAliveCountMax=2 -o ServerAliveInterval=10 -N -R PROXYPORT:localhost:22 &>> TUNNEL_LOG #Create the SSH tunnel
	echo "Restarting: " `date` >> TUNNEL_LOG #Write to the log file "TUNNEL_LOG" whenever a restart is attempted
	sleep 1 #Wait 1 second in between connection attempts
done
The parts of the command that create the SSH tunnel are as follows:
Part of Command Description
ssh The OpenSSH client application
USERNAME@PROXYSERVER The proxy server and username on said server to connect to
-o ExitOnForwardFailure=yes Automatically terminate the SSH session if the remote port forward fails
-o TCPKeepAlive=yes
-o ServerAliveCountMax=2
-o ServerAliveInterval=10
Make sure the SSH connection is working, and if not, reinitialize it. The connection fails if server keepalive packets that are sent every 10 seconds are not received twice in a row, or if TCP protocol keepalive fails
-N “Do not execute a remote command. This is useful for just forwarding ports” (This means no interactive shell is run)
-R PROXYPORT:localhost:22 Establish a port of PROXYPORT on the proxy server that sends all data to port 22 (ssh) on the client (localhost)
&>> TUNNEL_LOG Send all output from both stdin and stderr to the log file “TUNNEL_LOG”

For this to work, you will need to set up public key authentication between the client and utilized user on the proxy server. To do this, you have to run “ssh-keygen” on the client. When it has finished, you must copy the contents of your public key file (most likely at “~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub”) to the “~/.ssh/authorized_keys” file on the user account you are logging into on the proxy server. You will also have to log into this account at least once from the client so the proxy server’s information is in the client’s “known_hosts” file.

For security reasons you may want the user on the proxy server to have a nologin shell set since it is only being used for tunneling, and the above mentioned public key will allow access without a password.

For network access reasons, it might also be worth it to have the proxy port and the ssh port on the proxy server set to commonly accessible ports on all network setups (that a firewall wouldn’t block). Or you may NOT want to have it on common ports for other security reasons :-).

If you want the proxy port on the proxy server accessible from other computers (not only the proxy server), you will have to turn on “GatewayPorts” (set to “yes”) in the proxy server’s sshd config, most likely located at “/etc/ssh/sshd_config”.


The next step is to create a daemon that calls this script. The normal method for this in Linux would be to use inittab. This can be a bit cumbersome though with Linux distributions that use upstart, like Ubuntu, so I just cheated in it and created the following script to initialize a daemon through rc.d:

#!/bin/bash
echo -e '#!/bin/bash\nfor ((;;))\ndo\n  ssh USERNAME@PROXYSERVER -o TCPKeepAlive=yes -o ExitOnForwardFailure=yes -o ServerAliveCountMax=2 -o ServerAliveInterval=10 -N -R PROXYPORT:localhost:22 &>> TUNNEL_LOG\n  echo "Restarting: " `date` >> TUNNEL_LOG\n  sleep 1\ndone' > TUNNEL_SCRIPT_PATH #This creates the above script
echo -e '#!/bin/bash\ncd TUNNEL_SCRIPT_DIRECTORY\n./TUNNEL_SCRIPT_EXECUTABLE &' > /etc/init.d/TUNNEL_SCRIPT_SERVICE_NAME #This creates the init.d daemon script. I have the script set the working path before running the executable so the log file stays in the same directory
chmod u+x TUNNEL_SCRIPT_PATH /etc/init.d/TUNNEL_SCRIPT_SERVICE_NAME #Set all scripts as executable
update-rc.d TUNNEL_SCRIPT_SERVICE_NAME defaults #Set the run levels at which the script runs