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Security How To

Introduction

Many routers now come with an integrated OpenVPN server to provide secure remote access to both router storage and LAN devices. We haven't been testing VPN performance in our reviews because, frankly, I dread messing with VPN. I usually get it working eventually, but typically burn a day in the trial-and-error process that is inevitably required.

So in the interest of saving you a day, I am doing a few articles that present both VPN performance test results and step-by-step setup instructions for getting a working OpenVPN tunnel between a Windows client and the router. This tunnel will support connection both to the router's shared storage and to client devices on the router LAN.

Since ASUS was the first to integrate OpenVPN, I'll start with them.

Setup

My test setup used Win 7 and Win 8.1 computers.

  • Windows 7: Lenovo X220i (Intel Core i3-2310M @ 2.1 GHz, 2 GB RAM) running Win 7 Home Premium SP1 64 bit
  • Windows 8.1: Acer AspireS7 (Intel Core i5-4200U @ 2.3 GHz, 8 GB RAM) running Win 8.1 64 bit

To eliminate internet connection variation, I used the test setup shown below. Note that the two computers are on different private subnets.

OpenVPN test setup

OpenVPN test setup

Steps

1) Check your shares
Before you start messing with VPN, you first need to check that your OS sharing permissions are properly set so that shares can be reached among LAN machines on both networks. This sometimes is tricky when mixing Win 7 and 8 devices.

I don't use Windows Homegroups, don't use password protected sharing and don't use Guest accounts. So in Win 8, disabling password protected sharing (Network and Sharing Center > Advanced Sharing Settings > All Networks) and adding access for Everyone in the share's security properties usually does the trick.

2) Configure your firewall
OS and anti-virus suite application firewalls are another thing that can mess you up. If you run one, you've probably already figured out the settings to not block file sharing traffic. Buf if you have any problems pinging a share across the VPN tunnel, temporarily disable the firewall to see if that's the problem.

3) Install the OpenVPN client
ASUS provides links for downloading Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android OpenVPN clients on the VPN Server tab as shown below. Each link takes you to an ASUS FAQ page that includes a downlink link for the proper app and instructions for installing and configuring it.

ASUS VPN Server tab

ASUS VPN Server tab

This OpenVPN FAQ provides a pretty accurate description of the Windows installation process. Don't bother to launch the app after you install it. It won't do much until you install an OpenVPN config file.

4) Create User(s)
Create users on the VPN Server General settings page in the Username and Password section as shown below. Please use a stronger password than the one I used. Your connection security depends on it! Be sure to Apply the settings.

ASUS VPN Create user

ASUS VPN Create user

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