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A Step-by-Step Guide to Installing OpenVPN on a CentOS Server

Picture of Boyan Kirov
Boyan Kirov
DevOps & Cloud Engineer
17.08.2023
Reading time: 3 mins.
Last Updated: 03.01.2024

Table of Contents

Introduction to OpenVPN

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, ensuring the security of your data and maintaining the privacy of your communications is paramount. OpenVPN, a robust and widely adopted open-source virtual private network (VPN) solution, offers a reliable means to establish a secure and encrypted connection to private networks over the internet. If you’re seeking to bolster the security of your CentOS server and facilitate safe remote access, OpenVPN stands out as an excellent choice. Throughout this comprehensive guide, we will lead you through each step of the installation process for OpenVPN on a CentOS server, ensuring not only a seamless installation experience but also a heightened sense of security for your network.

Step 1: Update CentOS for Optimal Performance

Before embarking on the journey of OpenVPN installation, it is of paramount importance to fortify your CentOS server with the latest packages and security patches. By executing a series of commands within a terminal or SSH session, you can accomplish this critical task:

sudo yum update
sudo reboot

Step 2: OpenVPN Installation and Setup

Once your CentOS server is fortified with the latest updates, you can proceed with the installation of OpenVPN. Execute the following commands to achieve this:

sudo yum install epel-release
sudo yum install openvpn easy-rsa

By installing these packages, you lay the foundation for a secure and efficient OpenVPN setup.

Step 3: Configuring OpenVPN to Suit Your Needs

Having successfully installed OpenVPN, you’ll need to navigate to the designated configuration directory. To do so, employ the command below:

cd /etc/openvpn/

This directory houses the essential configuration files for OpenVPN. As a pivotal step, you’ll want to create a personalized configuration file by copying the sample configuration file:

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

With the newly created ‘server.conf’ file at your disposal, employ a text editor to tailor the configuration settings to your specific requirements. Take care to adjust elements such as IP address ranges, protocol preferences, and port configurations. Once you have fine-tuned these settings, ensure to save the file.

Step 4: Generating Certificates and Keys for Enhanced Security

OpenVPN relies on certificates and cryptographic keys to establish a secure channel of communication. To generate these crucial components, you can leverage the easy-rsa package that was installed earlier. Traverse to the designated easy-rsa directory with the following command:

cd /usr/share/easy-rsa/3.0/

Within this directory, you can craft your own ‘vars’ file by copying the provided ‘vars.example’ file:

sudo cp vars.example vars

By customizing the values within the ‘vars’ file to align with the particulars of your organization, you further enhance the security of your OpenVPN installation. After making the necessary modifications, proceed to initialize the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) with the command:

sudo ./easyrsa init-pki

Following this, you can construct the Certificate Authority (CA) by executing:

sudo ./easyrsa build-ca

The subsequent step involves generating the server certificate and key, which can be achieved through the following commands:

sudo ./easyrsa gen-req server nopass
sudo ./easyrsa sign-req server server

These certificates and keys play a pivotal role in fostering secure and authenticated communication within your OpenVPN network.

Conclusion

As the digital realm continues to evolve, the importance of safeguarding your data and communication cannot be overstated. By diligently following the comprehensive steps outlined in this guide, you have successfully navigated the process of installing and configuring OpenVPN on your CentOS server. Through your efforts, you have fortified your network’s security and established a reliable mechanism for encrypted remote access. By embracing OpenVPN, you’ve taken a significant stride toward maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of your digital interactions.

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