A 2-post collection

IKEv2 VPN with StrongSWAN

Wow this was harder than i thought.

I just wanted to get a modern VPN on all my devices without the hassle to install third-party VPN clients on all of them (hello OpenVPN o/). The protocol of choice seems to be IKEv2 as all devices that I own seem to support this and it is more secure than the old PPTP or L2TP protocols the devices could support natively.

But let's just jump directly into it.

IPsec config

On the server we will be using StrongSWAN. All configuration is for Ubuntu 15.10 but should work on any distribution that has StrongSWAN as the configuration did not really change in the last few years.

Install StrongSWAN

At first we need to install StrongSWAN (all steps from here on should be done as the root user, switch to root by issuing sudo su - and typing your password):

apt install strongswan strongswan-plugin-af-alg strongswan-plugin-agent strongswan-plugin-certexpire strongswan-plugin-coupling strongswan-plugin-curl strongswan-plugin-dhcp strongswan-plugin-duplicheck strongswan-plugin-eap-aka strongswan-plugin-eap-aka-3gpp2 strongswan-plugin-eap-dynamic strongswan-plugin-eap-gtc strongswan-plugin-eap-mschapv2 strongswan-plugin-eap-peap strongswan-plugin-eap-radius strongswan-plugin-eap-tls strongswan-plugin-eap-ttls strongswan-plugin-error-notify strongswan-plugin-farp strongswan-plugin-fips-prf strongswan-plugin-gcrypt strongswan-plugin-gmp strongswan-plugin-ipseckey strongswan-plugin-kernel-libipsec strongswan-plugin-ldap strongswan-plugin-led strongswan-plugin-load-tester strongswan-plugin-lookip strongswan-plugin-ntru strongswan-plugin-pgp strongswan-plugin-pkcs11 strongswan-plugin-pubkey strongswan-plugin-radattr strongswan-plugin-sshkey strongswan-plugin-systime-fix strongswan-plugin-whitelist strongswan-plugin-xauth-eap strongswan-plugin-xauth-generic strongswan-plugin-xauth-noauth strongswan-plugin-xauth-pam strongswan-pt-tls-client

This one seems a bit excessive but I just installed everything I could find for StrongSWAN as I am lazy.


The next step is to get rid of the default configuration and supply our own:

The best bet here is to just move away the default config in /etc/ipsec.conf (or delete it as it does not contain anything of any value) and copy and paste the config above into it.

You will have to modify some values:

  • should be the hostname of the box you connect to.
  • rightsourceip should be a private IPv4 network and a subnet of the IPv6 subnet of your server (if your server got a /64 probably add another address part and use a /112 here)
  • rightdns is the dns server that will be sent to the client, I just used Google's free DNS servers here.

If you only want to use IPv4 just remove the v6 addresses.

Packet forwarding

To allow the connected VPN clients to actually talk to each other you'll have to enable packet forwarding, if you don't do that the clients will only be able to speak with the server.

Create a new file in /etc/sysctl.d named 99-vpn.conf:

Reload the settings with sysctl --system

If you want to give the VPN clients Internet access you'll have to enable NAT for the interfaces and routing for IPv6. I just added these lines to /etc/rc.local, you probably want to use the default facility for iptables rules of your distribution though:

Don't forget to actually run the script afterwards to enable the rules without rebooting. (D'oh!)

Generating certificates

To be on the real secure side and to make device provisioning as easy as possible we use X.509 certificates to connect to the VPN.
There are 3 sets of certificates:

  • The root CA
  • The VPN server certificate
  • The client certificates

Switch to /etc/ipsec.d and run all the following in that directory.

Root CA

For a CA we need a key first (we pick a 4096 bit long RSA key here):

ipsec pki --gen --type rsa --size 4096 --outform der > private/strongswanKey.der
chmod 600 private/strongswanKey.der

So let's create a root CA:

ipsec pki --self --ca --lifetime 3650 --in private/strongswanKey.der --type rsa --dn "C=DE, O=Dunkelstern, CN=Dunkelstern VPN Root CA" --outform der > cacerts/strongswanCert.der

So what's all that stuff?

  • First we tell the ipsec tool to create a self signed ca with roughly 10 years of lifetime
  • Use the key we generated
  • Tell the pki tool some settings: The country (DE), the Organisation (Dunkelstern) and the Common Name (Dunkelstern VPN Root CA)

You should probably move all the root CA private files (the key!) off the machine after you're done with them and put them on a disk into a safe or something.

VPN Certificates

So we have a CA but we definitely do not want to use that directly for the VPN server, so we create a derivative Certificate that has the root CA as parent. So at first we need a key again:

ipsec pki --gen --type rsa --size 4096 --outform der > private/strongswanKey.der
chmod 600 private/strongswanKey.der

And now comes the interesing part:

export vpn_host=""
export vpn_ipv4=""
export vpn_ipv6="::1"

ipsec pki --pub --in private/vpnHostKey.der --type rsa | ipsec pki --issue --lifetime 730 --cacert cacerts/strongswanCert.der --cakey private/strongswanKey.der --dn "C=DE, O=Dunkelstern, CN=$vpn_host" --san $vpn_ipv4 --san @$vpn_ipv4 --san $vpn_ipv6 --san @$vpn_ipv6 --flag serverAuth --flag ikeIntermediate --outform der > certs/vpnHostCert.der

You'll have to replace some values here:

  • vpn_host the hostname of the VPN server
  • vpn_ipv4 the public IPv4 address
  • vpn_ipv6 the public IPv6 address

Now it is really time to move the CA root private key ;)

Client certificates

To create client certificates I made a small script as you'll probably do this often:

Usage is something like kopernikus which will drop a p12 file in /etc/ipsec.d/p12/ with the name you supplied. The p12 file is encrypted with a pass-phrase you'll have to supply.


To get a working VPN config onto an iOS device you'll have to use a *.mobileconfig configuration profile as the VPN GUI of the iPhone and iPad has a bug that prevents valid connections as of iOS 9.3.

Create mobile config profile

Fetch the Apple Configurator 2 from the AppStore on a Mac (it's free but sadly there is no configurator for Windows)

After starting the configurator choose File->New Profile from the menu and fill the generic info field as you want:

Apple Configurator generic info

For the next step you'll need the p12 file and the vpnHostCert.der file to add to the certificate store:

Apple Configurator certificate store

And the last step: Configure the VPN

Apple Configurator VPN

Make sure you select the certificate auth method and the correct certificate. The Remote Identifier is what's in leftid in the ipsec.conf, the Local Identifier is what's in the Certificate's common name (machine@host).

Attention: Set the Encryption algorithm for IKE SA Params and Child SA Params to something sensible, do not use the 3DES default. 3DES is inherently unsafe!

If you're ready, save the config somewhere. So there's another step to get it running: Another Bug workaround!

Open the generated file in some text-editor and search for OverridePrimary and set it to zero!

Install on iOS device

The easiest way to install the configuration profile is just sending it to yourself as an email and then tap the attachment and allow it to install the VPN. If your device is enrolled in MDM (Mobile device management) you can send the profile over the air.


To connect to the VPN go into Settings->General->VPN and turn on the switch. All traffic will now be sent through the VPN. If the switch turns off immediately you either forgot to set OverridePrimary to zero or you chose an encryption that the server does not understand. Look into the server logfile for more information.


Just create a config file like you do for an iOS device and double click it. It will open in the System Preferences Profiles pane (which is not visible until you import a profile)

OSX System Prefs

I had to click the plus button and add the profile again as the preference pane did open but it did not automatically import the profile.

If you want to have an icon in the menu bar, switch to the Network pref-pane and tick the checkbox to show that icon:

Show in menu bar


(UPDATE: Wait stop right here! Read the follow up: The right way to setup a VPN on windows)

Oh my... Microsoft! To get it running on Windows you will have to jump over some obstacles. I am no windows guy, perhaps there's an easier way to do it, please mail me:

Import Certificates

Run the Management Console from the Win+R box with mmc:

Management Console

Now add the Certificates snap-in (File -> Add/Remove Snap in...):

Certificates Snap in

Switch to Console Root -> Certificates -> Personal -> Certificates and import the p12 file by clicking through the import wizard at Action -> All tasks -> Import.

Now you should have two new entries:

  • machinename@host
  • XY VPN Root CA

Move the Root CA to Trusted Root Certificate Authorities -> Certificates to trust it.

Setup VPN

First open the Network and Sharing Center (best done by right-clicking on the network icon in the task bar)

Network and Sharing Center

Now set up a new Network connection:

Network connection Workplace

VPN, not dialup

VPN step 1

Now go back to the Network and Sharing Center and click on Change Adapter Settings on the left. Select your VPN connection and open the properties window.

VPN Properties

Switch to the Security pane and set the VPN type to IKEv2 and the authentication to Use machine certificates.


On the Networking pane open the properties dialog for both Internet Protocol versions and set up the DNS servers as windows does not automatically take those from the VPN connection

DNS here

The connection is now ready to be activated, but there are some bugs hidden.

Public network? Why?

If you double click to connect now (which throws you over to the modern control panel)

Connect finally

You may notice that the network is classified as a public network. If you don't want it to be public follow the next steps. Skip them if public is ok with you.

First open the policy editor by running gpedit.msc from the Win+R window. Now navigate to Local Computer Policy -> Computer Configuration -> Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Network List Manager Policies (Why is everything so wordy?), right click the VPN connection and set the Network Location

Network Location type

Getting IPv6 to work

If you look into the VPN connection status you may notice that IPv4 Connectivity says Internet and IPv6 Connectivity tells you No Network access. This is because Windows does not setup a default route through the VPN tunnel for IPv6 but depends on the Router on the other end to respond to router queries or send router advertisements. This could be done on the server but noone but Windows does need this and the error could be fixed by just running a single command on the windows box:

route -6 add ::0/0 2a01:4f8:190:2012:3::2

Where the IP on the end is the IP of your tunnel endpoint (look it up in the properties).

So how can we tell Windows to run that command for us... let's say it's a bit hacky what we are about to do now:

  1. Write a small netsh script to run
  2. Find the "VPN connection established"-Event in the event log
  3. Attach a scheduled task to that event type to run the script.

Hacky enough? Ok let's go.

Create a new text-file with the following content:

interface ipv6
add route ::0/0 "VPN Connection" 2a01:4f8:190:2012:3::2

Replace VPN Connection with the name of your connection and the IP address with the IP address you get from the VPN server. Move that text file somewhere where you will not delete it by accident.

Now open the event viewer (Win+R run eventvwr) and navigate to
Event Viewer (Local) -> Applications and Service Logs -> Microsoft -> Windows -> NetworkProfile -> Operational (wow!)

Event viewer path

Now find the event that signifies that the VPN connection was established. It usually has the Event ID 10000 and we need an entry with the State: Connected flag set.

Log entry

Finally we attach a task to that event, which will be called everytime the VPN connects.


My script was called route.nsh and I dropped it into C:\ directly.

Attention: Do not finish the wizard without telling it to open the task properties at the end, we have something to do there!

Set the Run with highes privileges checkbox.

High privilege

... turn off the energy save mode and set the task to run only if the VPN connection is available:

On battery too

Finished! If you now disconnect and then reconnect the VPN IPv6 will work through the tunnel!


coming soon.

xhyve: a quick how to

So here we are, xhyve finally usable, so how to use it?

Fetching the source and compiling it

To compile xhyve you need either Xcode or at least the Xcode command line tools from Apple. If you not already have those installed run the following in a Terminal window:

xcode-select --install  

Now you're ready to checkout the source code and compile it:

git clone xhyve  
cd xhyve  
git checkout sparse-disk-image  

If everything worked the last lines of the make output should look something like this:

ld xhyve.sym  
dsym xhyve.dSYM  
strip xhyve  

If you want you could install the xhyve binary to /usr/local/bin now or just copy it somewhere where you'll find it:

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/{bin,share/man/man1}  
sudo cp build/xhyve /usr/local/bin/  
sudo cp xhyve.1 /usr/local/share/man/man1/  

(It will ask for your password when using sudo, if you have Homebrew installed you might skip the sudo)

The first config file

A xhyve config file is a simple shell script, as xhyve takes all configuration in it's command line parameters.

What's possible

The best option to see what xhyve actually can do is the man page, but I will describe the basics to you nonetheless.

Open the man page with man ./xhyve.1 while you're in the source directory or just with man xhyve if you copied the binary and man-page into /usr/local.

So what can xhyve emulate:


Command line parameter: -A

This is an option that should be set all the time except if you get weird ACPI related crashes.

Number of CPUs

Command line parameter: -c <number>

How many CPU cores you want to share with the guest operating system, defaults to one, maximum is 16.

Allocated RAM

Command line parameter: -m <number>

Amount of RAM to give to the guest operating system. You may use suffixes like k, m or g for Kilobytes, Megabytes or Gigabytes.

Virtual COM ports

Command line parameter: -l <source-device>,<destination-device>

This maps a virtual COM port (serial port) to a host device.
<source-device> may be either com1 or com2 and <destination-device> may be either stdio (to connect the serial port to the terminal window's console) or any character device in /dev/.

Virtual PCI bus

Command line parameter: -s <slot>,<emulation>,[config]

This is a bit more complex as it defines which hardware is connected to your VM.

<slot> is a number from 0 to 31 that defines the PCI slot.

<emulation> is the device to emulate. xhyve knows the following devices:

  • hostbridge, this is usually needed at slot 0 for most guests
  • virtio-net, a virtual network card
  • virtio-blk, a virtual block device (a disk)
  • ahci-cd, a virtual CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive
  • ahci-hd, a virtual disk for guests that have no virtio driver
  • uart, a virtual serial port (COM3+)
  • lpc, a PCI to ISA bridge, used for COM1 and COM2

Each of these has a specific configuration that may be set, see the man page for further instructions, an example of the usage follows.

Linux kernel to boot

Command line parameter: -f kexec,<kernel>,<initrd>,<kernel command line>

This essentially specifies which linux kernel to load. The problem with xhyve is that it has no BIOS or EFI emulation, so it loads the Linux kernel directly, this leads to a small inconvenience: We need the Kernel outside of the disk image.

What's needed

So this is all nice and good but which of these command line flags do we really need to get a standard Ubuntu running?

  • -A, for ACPI mode
  • -m 1G, 1GB RAM
  • -s 0,hostbridge -s 31,lpc, basically the minimum PCI config that works
  • -l com1,stdio, map the first serial port to the Terminal window
  • -s 1,ahci-cd,ubuntu-15.10-server-amd64.iso, the CD-ROM with the Ubuntu ISO inserted
  • -s 2,virtio-blk,hdd.img,sectorsize=4096,size=20G,split=1G,sparse, the main disk, 20GB max size, split into 1GB parts, use a sector size of 4096 (best choice for SSDs) and do not eat my harddisk space (sparse)
  • -f kexec,vmlinuz,initrd.gz,"earlyprintk console=ttyS0", load a linux kernel from the files vmlinuz and initrd.gz the kernel parameters tell Ubuntu to map the console to the first serial port so we can see the boot process in the Terminal.

All in one (save as

# Linux
CMDLINE="earlyprintk=serial console=ttyS0"

# Guest Config
MEM="-m 1G"  
IMG_CD="-s 1,ahci-cd,ubuntu-15.10-server-amd64.iso"  
IMG_HDD="-s 2,virtio-blk,hdd.img,size=20G,split=1G,sparse"  
NET="-s 3,virito-net,vmnet0"  
PCI_DEV="-s 0:0,hostbridge -s 31,lpc"  
LPC_DEV="-l com1,stdio"  

# and now run

As you might have noticed, we run the xhyve binary as root this is because the xhyve binary has to be code signed with an Apple Developer Key or run as root to use the networking infrastructure. Let's just install Ubuntu and think about that later.

Installing ubuntu

As there is no graphical output we have to install Ubuntu Server (as only the Server version has the text-mode installer).

Go get it here:

As you have read in the What's possible section, we need a Linux Kernel outside of our disk images to boot. So let's get one.

Extracting the setup kernel

As the Ubuntu install CD contains all files we need, why not just extract it from the disk image? Well there's one catch: Ubuntu uses a so called Mixed-Mode CD image and Mac OS X doesn't really like to mount such a disk so we have to resort to a small trick, execute the following on a Terminal to get the Kernel:

# create a 2k temporary file filled with zeroes
dd if=/dev/zero bs=2k count=1 of=tmp.iso

# append the ubuntu server image to that
dd if=ubuntu-15.10-server-amd64.iso bs=2k skip=1 >> tmp.iso

# mount it
hdiutil attach tmp.iso

# copy needed files
cp /Volumes/Ubuntu-Server\ 15/install/vmlinuz .  
cp /Volumes/Ubuntu-Server\ 15/install/initrd.gz .

# unmount it
hdiutil detach /Volumes/Ubuntu-Server\ 15  

You may want to keep tmp.iso or as well delete it as we have what we want. (Thanks to the people at pagetable for this neat trick)

Running the setup

If you saved the All in one script from above, make it executable with chmod a+x and run it.

If everything worked Ubuntu should boot in your Terminal.
Do not finish the setup yet, as you'll need to do something before:

Extracting the system kernel

When you finished setup you'll need to exchange which Kernel to load. The easiest thing to do that is by opening a console in the ubuntu installer. If it asks you if you want to finish the installation and reboot, don't do that but return to the main installer menu, there's an option Open a console that we need now.

After being dumped into the console make the installed target your change root:

chroot /target  
cd /boot  

Now open a second Terminal window on your Mac and run the following:

nc -l -p 1234 | tar x  

This starts a netcat server that listens on the port 1234 for a connection from the Ubuntu guest and expects to receive a tar file.

Now on the Ubuntu guest execute the following:

tar cv vmlinuz* initrd.img* | nc <ip_of_mac> 1234  

If everything worked you should have two files on your Mac:

  • vmlinuz-4.2.0-16-generic
  • initrd.img-4.2.0-16-generic

(The version number may differ)

Now finish the setup and let Ubuntu reboot. Rebooting should exit xhyve and dump you to your Mac console. This is correct!

Boot config

Now copy to and make the following changes:

  • replace the files for INITRD and KERNEL with those you extracted from the VM
  • add root=/dev/vda1 to the Kernel command line after console=ttyS0
  • You may comment out the IMG_CD line

In future, to boot Ubuntu, you'll only need to run and it will just work.