Install and Setup OpenVPN Server on Ubuntu 20.04

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In this guide, we are going to learn how to install and setup OpenVPN Server on Ubuntu 20.04. OpenVPN is a robust and highly flexible open-source VPN software that uses all of the encryption, authentication, and certification features of the OpenSSL library to securely tunnel IP networks over a single UDP or TCP port.

It facilitates the extension of private network across a public network, access remote sites, make secure point-to-point connections, while maintaining security that would be achieved in a private network.

Installing OpenVPN Server on Ubuntu 20.04

Run system update

apt update

Install OpenVPN on Ubuntu 20.04

OpenVPN package is available on the default Ubuntu 20.04 repos. Thus the installation is as simple as running the command below;

apt install openvpn

Install Easy-RSA CA Utility on Ubuntu 20.04

Easy-RSA package provides utilities for generating SSL key-pairs that is used to secure VPN connections.

apt install easy-rsa

Create OpenVPN Public Key Infrastructure

Once you have installed easy-rsa, you need to initialize the OpenVPN PKI. The PKI consists of:

  • a public key and private key for the server and each client
  • a master Certificate Authority (CA) certificate and key which is used to sign each of the server and client certificates.

Before you can proceed, copy the easy-rsa configuration directory to a different location to ensure that that future OpenVPN package upgrades won’t overwrite your modifications.

cp -r /usr/share/easy-rsa /etc/

Next, initialize the PKI.

cd /etc/easy-rsa/
./easyrsa init-pki

Once the PKI is initialized, /etc/easy-rsa/pki is created.

Generate the Certificate Authority (CA) Certificate and Key

Next, generate the CA certificate and key for signing OpenVPN server and client certificates.

cd /etc/easy-rsa/
./easyrsa build-ca

This will prompt you for the CA key passphrase and the server common name.

Using SSL: openssl OpenSSL 1.1.1f  31 Mar 2020

Enter New CA Key Passphrase: ENTER PASSWORD
Re-Enter New CA Key Passphrase: RE-ENTER PASSWORD
Generating RSA private key, 2048 bit long modulus (2 primes)
e is 65537 (0x010001)
Can't load /etc/easy-rsa/pki/.rnd into RNG
139840045897024:error:2406F079:random number generator:RAND_load_file:Cannot open file:../crypto/rand/randfile.c:98:Filename=/etc/easy-rsa/pki/.rnd
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
Common Name (eg: your user, host, or server name) [Easy-RSA CA]:Kifarunix-demo CA

CA creation complete and you may now import and sign cert requests.
Your new CA certificate file for publishing is at:

The CA certificate is generated and stored at /etc/easy-rsa/pki/ca.crt.

Generate Diffie Hellman Parameters

Generate Diffie-Hellman keys used for key exchange during the TLS handshake between OpenVPN server and the connecting clients. This command has be executed within the Easy-RSA directory;

./easyrsa gen-dh

DH parameters of size 2048 created at /etc/easy-rsa/pki/dh.pem.

Generate OpenVPN Server Certificate and Key

To generate a certificate and private key for the OpenVPN server, run the command below;

cd /etc/easy-rsa
./easyrsa build-server-full server nopass

Enter the CA key passphrase create above to generate the certificates and keys.

nopass disables the use of passphrase.

Generate Hash-based Message Authentication Code (HMAC) key

TLS/SSL pre-shared authentication key is used as an additional HMAC signature on all SSL/TLS handshake packets to avoid DoS attack and UDP port flooding. This can be generated using the command;

openvpn --genkey secret /etc/easy-rsa/pki/ta.key

Generate OpenVPN Revocation Certificate

To invalidate a previously signed certificate, you need to generate a revocation certificate. Run the script within the Easy-RSA directory;

./easyrsa gen-crl

The revocation certificate is generated and stored at /etc/easy-rsa/pki/crl.pem.

Copy Server Certificates and Keys to Server Config Directory

Copy all generated server certificates/keys to OpenVPN server configuration directory.

cp -rp /etc/easy-rsa/pki/{ca.crt,dh.pem,ta.key,crl.pem,issued,private} /etc/openvpn/server/

Generate OpenVPN Client Certificates and Keys

OpenVPN clients certificates and private keys can be generated as follows

cd /etc/easy-rsa
./easyrsa build-client-full koromicha nopass
  • where koromicha is the name of the client for which the certificate and keys are generated.
  • Always use a unique common name for each client that you are generating certificate and keys for.

To generate for the second client,

./easyrsa build-client-full janedoe nopass

You can see how to use easyrsa command with ./easyrsa --help.

Copy Client Certificates and Keys to Client Directory

Create OpenVPN clients directories. For example, we have generated certificates and key files for two clients, koromicha and janedoe, hence we create directories as;

mkdir /etc/openvpn/client/{koromicha,janedoe}

After that, copy the client generated certificates/keys and server CA certificate to OpenVPN client configuration directory. You can

cp -rp /etc/easy-rsa/pki/{ca.crt,issued/koromicha.crt,private/koromicha.key} /etc/openvpn/client/koromicha
cp -rp /etc/easy-rsa/pki/{ca.crt,issued/janedoe.crt,private/janedoe.key} /etc/openvpn/client/janedoe/

Configure OpenVPN Server on Ubuntu 20.04

The next step is to configure OpenVPN server. Copy the sample OpenVPN server configuration to /etc/openvpn/server directory as shown below;

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

Extract the configuration and modify it to suite your needs;

cd /etc/openvpn/server/
gunzip server.conf.gz
vim /etc/openvpn/server/server.conf

This is how our sample configurations looks like with no comments. The configuration is highly commented to help you understand various option usage.

port 1194
proto udp4
dev tun
ca ca.crt
cert issued/server.crt
key private/server.key  # This file should be kept secret
dh dh.pem
topology subnet
ifconfig-pool-persist /var/log/openvpn/ipp.txt
push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
push "dhcp-option DNS"
push "dhcp-option DNS"
keepalive 10 120
tls-auth ta.key 0 # This file is secret
cipher AES-256-CBC
status /var/log/openvpn/openvpn-status.log
log-append  /var/log/openvpn/openvpn.log
verb 3
explicit-exit-notify 1
auth SHA512

Save and exit the config once done editing.

Configure OpenVPN IP Forwarding

To ensure that traffic from the client is routed through the OpenVPN server’s IP address (helps masks the the client IP address), you need to enable IP forwarding on the OpenVPN server.

Uncomment the line, net.ipv4.ip_forward=1, on /etc/sysctl.conf to enable packet forwarding for IPv4

sed -i 's/#net.ipv4.ip_forward=1/net.ipv4.ip_forward=1/' /etc/sysctl.conf

Apply the changes without rebooting the server.

sysctl --system

Allow OpenVPN service port through firewall;

ufw allow 1194/udp

Configure IP Masquerading on UFW

Find your default interface through which your packets are sent.

ip route get via dev enp0s3 src uid 0

Next, update UFW rules;

vim /etc/ufw/before.rules

Add the following highlighted lines just before the *filter table settings. Note the interface used shoud match the interface name above.

# Don't delete these required lines, otherwise there will be errors

Save and exit the config.

Enable UFW packet forwarding;


Reload UFW;

ufw reload

Running OpenVPN Server on Ubuntu 20.04

Start and enable OpenVPN server to run on system boot;

systemctl enable --now openvpn-server@server

Checking the status;

systemctl status openvpn-server@server
[email protected] - OpenVPN service for server
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/[email protected]; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: active (running) since Fri 2020-05-01 16:07:33 UTC; 3s ago
       Docs: man:openvpn(8)
   Main PID: 11980 (openvpn)
     Status: "Initialization Sequence Completed"
      Tasks: 1 (limit: 2281)
     Memory: 1.0M
     CGroup: /system.slice/system-openvpn\x2dserver.slice/[email protected]
             └─11980 /usr/sbin/openvpn --status /run/openvpn-server/status-server.log --status-version 2 --suppress-timestamps --config server.conf

May 01 16:07:33 systemd[1]: Starting OpenVPN service for server...
May 01 16:07:33 systemd[1]: Started OpenVPN service for server.

When OpenVPN service runs, it will create a tunnelling interface, tun0;

ip add s
4: tun0: <POINTOPOINT,MULTICAST,NOARP,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc fq_codel state UNKNOWN group default qlen 100
    inet brd scope global tun0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 fe80::1989:2bf2:1e7f:7415/64 scope link stable-privacy 
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

Also, be sure to check the logs;

tail /var/log/openvpn/openvpn.log
/sbin/ip link set dev tun0 up mtu 1500
/sbin/ip addr add dev tun0 broadcast
Socket Buffers: R=[212992->212992] S=[212992->212992]
UDPv4 link local (bound): [AF_INET][undef]:1194
UDPv4 link remote: [AF_UNSPEC]
MULTI: multi_init called, r=256 v=256
IFCONFIG POOL: base= size=252, ipv6=0
Initialization Sequence Completed

Magnificent. The OpenVPN server is now ready. That marks the end of our guide on how to install OpenVPN Server on Ubuntu 20.04.

You can now configure your clients accordingly.

Related Tutorials

Install and Configure OpenVPN Client on CentOS 8/Ubuntu 18.04

Configure OpenVPN LDAP Based Authentication

Configure IPSEC VPN using StrongSwan on Ubuntu 18.04

Configure strongSwan VPN Client on Ubuntu 18.04/CentOS 8

Connect to Cisco VPN Using PCF file on Ubuntu


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12 thoughts on “Install and Setup OpenVPN Server on Ubuntu 20.04”

  1. It was only after moving server.pem and server.key into the /etc/openvpn/server directory (so one dir up) that the solution worked. I guess the command below doesn’t work as expected. Other that that great work! Moving from 17.04 to 20.04 proved to be challenging. This instruction helped a lot.
    cp -rp /etc/easy-rsa/pki/{ca.crt,dh.pem,ta.key,crl.pem,issued,private} /etc/openvpn/server/

  2. hello,

    how to config client.ovpn file from this type of server.conf configuration?

    can you give me example?

  3. Hi,
    Thank you for this tutorial. I followed the above steps & connected successfully but once I connected through the VPN then my internet is not working. Can u pls help me out.

    • Hi, please note you need to change these lines;
      push "dhcp-option DNS"
      push "dhcp-option DNS"

      To your DNS server IP addresses.

  4. Hello While Initialising the pki it is showing error like this

    root@ip-172-27-185-17:~# cp -r /usr/share/easy-rsa /etc/
    root@ip-172-27-185-17:~# cd /etc/easy-rsa/
    root@ip-172-27-185-17:/etc/easy-rsa# ./easyrsa init-pki
    -bash: ./easyrsa: No such file or directory


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