Install OpenVPN Server on Debian 11/Debian 10

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In this guide, we are going to learn how to install OpenVPN Server on Debian 11/Debian 10.

Installing OpenVPN Server on Debian

Run system update

apt update

Install OpenVPN on Debian 11/Debian 10

OpenVPN package is available on the default Debian 11/Debian 10 repos.

apt install openvpn -y

Create OpenVPN Public Key Infrastructure

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.

Thus, 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

Sample command output;

init-pki complete; you may now create a CA or requests.
Your newly created PKI dir is: /etc/easy-rsa/pki

Create 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 1.1.1d  10 Sep 2019

Enter New CA Key Passphrase: 
Re-Enter New CA Key Passphrase: 
Generating RSA private key, 2048 bit long modulus (2 primes)
e is 65537 (0x010001)
Can't load /etc/easy-rsa/pki/.rnd into RNG
139670192284800: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 will be 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.

Sample output;

Using SSL: openssl OpenSSL 1.1.1d  10 Sep 2019
Generating a RSA private key
writing new private key to '/etc/easy-rsa/pki/private/server.key.MMFHTTtpKD'
Using configuration from /etc/easy-rsa/pki/safessl-easyrsa.cnf
Enter pass phrase for /etc/easy-rsa/pki/private/ca.key:
Check that the request matches the signature
Signature ok
The Subject's Distinguished Name is as follows
commonName            :ASN.1 12:'server'
Certificate is to be certified until Oct 10 18:23:08 2024 GMT (1080 days)

Write out database with 1 new entries
Data Base Updated

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.

Sample output;

Using SSL: openssl OpenSSL 1.1.1d  10 Sep 2019
Using configuration from /etc/easy-rsa/pki/safessl-easyrsa.cnf
Enter pass phrase for /etc/easy-rsa/pki/private/ca.key:

An updated CRL has been created.
CRL file: /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.

Sample command output;

Using SSL: openssl OpenSSL 1.1.1d  10 Sep 2019
Generating a RSA private key
writing new private key to '/etc/easy-rsa/pki/private/koromicha.key.saAaE6L0tX'
Using configuration from /etc/easy-rsa/pki/safessl-easyrsa.cnf
Enter pass phrase for /etc/easy-rsa/pki/private/ca.key:
Check that the request matches the signature
Signature ok
The Subject's Distinguished Name is as follows
commonName            :ASN.1 12:'koromicha'
Certificate is to be certified until Oct 10 18:25:37 2024 GMT (1080 days)

Write out database with 1 new entries
Data Base Updated

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 Debian 11/Debian 10

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

On Debian 10;

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

Extract the configuration.

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

On Debian 11;

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

Modify the configuration file, server.conf, to suite your needs;

This is how our configurations looks like with no comments.

cp /etc/openvpn/server/server.conf{,.bak}

cat > /etc/openvpn/server/server.conf << 'EOL'
port 1194
proto udp
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 -p

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 Debian 11/Debian 10

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 Tue 2021-10-26 15:06:18 EDT; 9s ago
     Docs: man:openvpn(8)
 Main PID: 1595 (openvpn)
   Status: "Initialization Sequence Completed"
    Tasks: 1 (limit: 2359)
   Memory: 2.4M
   CGroup: /system.slice/system-openvpn\x2dserver.slice/[email protected]
           └─1595 /usr/sbin/openvpn --status /run/openvpn-server/status-server.log --status-version 2 --suppress-timestamps --config server.conf

Oct 26 15:06:18 debian systemd[1]: Starting OpenVPN service for server...
Oct 26 15:06:18 debian 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 pfifo_fast state UNKNOWN group default qlen 100
    inet brd scope global tun0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
    inet6 fe80::bf6a:bdf4:58e1:ec24/64 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
Could not determine IPv4/IPv6 protocol. Using AF_INET
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

The OpenVPN server is now ready to accept and route connections from clients.

That marks the end of our guide.

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


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7 thoughts on “Install OpenVPN Server on Debian 11/Debian 10”

  1. what is that:

    2022-01-19 16:50:23 Closing TUN/TAP interface
    2022-01-19 16:50:23 net_addr_v4_del: dev tun0
    2022-01-19 16:50:23 sitnl_send: rtnl: generic error (-1): Operation not permitted
    2022-01-19 16:50:23 Linux can’t del IP from iface tun0
    2022-01-19 16:50:23 SIGTERM[hard,] received, process exiting

  2. Thank you for the tutorial. I believe a “–” is missing in “openvpn –genkey secret /etc/easy-rsa/pki/ta.key” behind “secret”

  3. This is a very thorough and good tutorial, it’s only missing one key thing and that is if you want to use your OpenVPN server as a way to access the internet from your client. The way this is written the client will connect, but internet will not be routed through the server.

    To do that your will need to follow this example

    You already have this in the conf
    push “redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp”

    which is needed , but the missing command to run is this:
    iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE

    That creates the tunnel.

    Then add to the server.conf to your VPN server can also handle DNS queries
    push “dhcp-option DNS”

    Hope this helps.

  4. Hey!
    Mi client doesn’t connect and the log keep with this message:

    TLS Error: cannot locate HMAC in incoming packet from x.x.x.x

    Could you post a client file example?



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