DD-WRT Hacks, Part 1 - Setting up a PPTP VPN Endpoint

This is an old post!

This post is over 2 years old. Solutions referenced in this article may no longer be valid. Please consider this when utilizing any information referenced here.

To celebrate the re-launch of my “blog,” I’m going to do a multi-part entry about DD-WRT. But, first, a little history.

For the first time in 10 years, I have no servers running in my house. At one point, I had three servers running in here doing various things. Then, I moved my public server offsite (it’s in the rack at the office now).

That left two more Gentoo boxes running here in the house. Late last year I picked up a 1TB external hard drive, which I attached to my iMac and deactivated the file server. I will probably eventually replace this with a Drobo FS, but for now it’s fine.

That just left a single Gentoo box that was running Asterisk and various network services. But I finally convinced my wife to let me drop the goofy VoIP line that I was paying $30 for and just add more minutes to her cellphone. With Asterisk out of the picture, the only thing left running on that box was network services.

Well, a few weeks ago I ordered a TP-Link TL-WR1043ND router, intending to use it as a testbed for DD-WRT. Well, my experiments worked so well that I pulled my old router out and replaced it with the DD-WRT one. The faster processor also afforded a nice speed bump of about 7 Mb/s. With it handling all the services, I pulled out the final server and deactivated it. And my office is blissfully quiet now.

DD-WRT is now handling all the minor network services (DHCP, NTP, etc).

But what is it about DD-WRT that makes it so awesome - awesome enough to rip out some of my network infrastructure to make way for it? A few things that I will cover in this post.

1. DHCP static address assignments

Believe it or not, the built-in firmware of the WRT-54G did not give you the ability to define a static address to be assigned by DHCP based on MAC address. This seems like a glaring oversight to me, but it was the reason I ran my own DHCP server rather than use the built-in ones.

In DD-WRT (v24-sp2) you can go to the Services tab and set as many as you’d like. In my case, these are a couple of devices (like printers) that are addressed via IP address by the various machines, as well as my laptop and iMac.

So that’s one nice thing, but it’s not nearly as cool as …

2. VPN Support

The standard and VPN versions of DD-WRT support both PPTP and OpenVPN varieties of VPN … and I’m actually using both at the same time. My router is both a VPN server and VPN client as well. How? Why?

Well, as to why, at dealnews, we run a PPTP-based VPN to allow us to work at home as needed. Once connected, we have access to our testing servers and all our development services. It’s like being directly connected to the work network, but I’m sitting at my iMac at home in my pajamas.

I had been connecting directly from my Macs to the VPN for some time but, sitting at home the other day, I reflected on how silly it was that I was connecting two machines to the VPN and only when I needed them, rather than using DD-WRT to have a single tunnel up all the time that any computer on the home network could use if needed.

Setting up a PPTP VPN Endpoint using DD-WRT

So how did I set it up? Trial and error, as, frankly, the DD-WRT documentation is a bit lacking. So if you find yourself in my position of wanting to have a tunnel to your workplace VPN, hopefully this documentation will help you.

I’m making a few assumptions before we begin:

  • You have already configured your router using DD-WRT and have the most recent release (as of this writing, v24-sp2), VPN version installed.

    • The version number should be in the upper right corner of the web admin. If it says “std” or “vpn,” you’re in good shape. If it says “micro,” you probably don’t have the necessary tools.
  • You possess some basic understanding of networking, and have the necessary settings to complete a VPN connection. If you’ve gotten as far as flashing with third-party firmware, you probably do.

  • You understand that there is the possibility, albeit remote, that you could brick your router. I am not responsible for that, which is why I suggest you purchase an additional router to get all this set up on first before sacrificing your primary router.

With that out of the way, let’s begin!

  1. Log into your router’s DD-WRT web admin, and go to the Services -> VPN tab.

  2. Under PPTPD Client, click the radio button next to Enable.

  3. In the “Server IP or DNS Name” box, enter your VPN server.

  4. In the “Remote Subnet” box, enter the network address of the remote network. In my case, this was 10.1.2.0.

  5. In the “ Remote Subnet Mask” box, enter the remote subnet mask. In my case, this was 255.255.255.0.

  6. In the “MPPE Encryption” box, I have “mppe required,no40,no56,stateless”. This was required to get mine to work, but may not be necessary for you. Try first without it, then try with it if it won’t work.

  7. Leave the MTU and MRU values alone unless you know what you’re doing.

  8. Enable NAT.

  9. Username and password are self explanatory.

WIth that done, press “Save” and “Apply Settings” at the bottom the page. With any luck, you should now have a VPN tunnel up to your remote host.

To test it, go to Administration -> Commands, and in the command box, enter the following:

ping -c 1 <some remote address on VPN>

If you get a response back that looks like:

PING <remote service IP> (<remote service IP>): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from <remote service IP>: seq=0 ttl=64 time=281.288 ms
--- <remote service IP> ping statistics ---
1 packets transmitted, 1 packets received, 0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max = 281.288/281.288/281.288 ms

Then it’s up and working. Now, try from your computer…

Probably didn’t work, did it? This is because your router’s firewall doesn’t yet know about the remote network or to route packets to it appropriately. For some reason, the current version of DD-WRT does not add the appropriate configuration to the firewall automatically when the PPTP tunnel is established. So, we have to do it manually.

Go to Administration -> Commands, and enter the following:

iptables -I OUTPUT 1 --source 0.0.0.0/0.0.0.0 --destination <remote network address>/16 --jump ACCEPT --out-interface ppp0
iptables -I INPUT 1 --source <remote network address>/16 --destination 0.0.0.0/0.0.0.0 --jump ACCEPT --in-interface ppp0
iptables -I FORWARD 1 --source 0.0.0.0/0.0.0.0 --destination <remote network address>/16 --jump ACCEPT --out-interface ppp0
iptables -I FORWARD 1 --source <remote network address>/16 --destination 0.0.0.0/0.0.0.0 --jump ACCEPT
iptables --table nat --append POSTROUTING --out-interface ppp0 --jump MASQUERADE
iptables --append FORWARD --protocol tcp --tcp-flags SYN,RST SYN --jump TCPMSS --clamp-mss-to-pmtu

At the bottom, press “Run Commands” and wait. It shouldn’t take long, and should produce no output. Then, enter that command again, and press “Save Firewall” at the bottom. Give your router a few seconds to restart the appropriate services, then try again from your computer.

Your machine, and all machines on your network, should now be able to access the VPN. In this configuration, only traffic matching the remote network will pass over the VPN - the rest of your traffic will be routed to the Internet in normal fashion.

Now, in my next entry, I’ll tell you why I’m not using PPTP to connect myself back to my home network when I’m on the road.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Rob! I'm a blogger and software developer. I wrote petfeedd, dystill, and various other projects and libraries. I'm into electronics, general hackery, and model trains and airplanes. I am based in Huntsville, Alabama, USA.

About Me · Contact Me · Don't Hire Isaiah Armstrong

Did this article help you out?

I don't earn any money from this site.

I run no ads, sell no products and participate in no affiliate programs. I do not accept gifts in exchange for articles, guest articles or link exchanges. I don't track you or sell your data. The only third-party Javascript on this website is Google Analytics.

In general I run this site very much like a 1990s homepage or early 2000s personal blog, meaning that I do this solely because it's fun! I enjoy writing and sharing what I learn.

If you found this article helpful and want to show your appreciation, a tip or donation would be very welcome. Feel free to choose from the options below.

Comments (0)

Interested in why you can't leave comments on my blog? Read the article about why comments are uniquely terrible and need to die. If you are still interested in commenting on this article, feel free to reach out to me directly and/or share it on social media.

Contact Me
Share It

Interested in reading more?

DD-WRT

Switching to pfSense

So after several years of successfully using DD-WRT, I finally decided to move to pfSense. There are a multitude of reasons for this move, but I’ll try to enumerate some of them.
Read More
DD-WRT

DD-WRT Hacks, Part 2 - Setting up an OpenVPN Server

In my previous entry, I wrote about how awesome DD-WRT is, and how it had replaced a number of network devices allowing me to reduce the number of machines at home I had to administer. I finished the article by talking about how I’d set up a VPN tunnel to the office so multiple machines - namely, my Macbook Pro and my iMac - could access company resources at the same time. But at the end, I mentioned that PPTP was _not _what I was using to connect myself back to my home network when I’m on the road. But why? Two words: broadcast packets. PPTP, by default, does not support the relaying of broadcast packets across the VPN link.* For Mac users, this means Bonjour/Rendezvous based services such as easily shared computers on a network are not accessible as they rely on network broadcasts to advertise their services. PPTP can support broadcast packets with the help of a program called bcrelay. This program is actually installed on DD-WRT routers even, but does not work even though the DD-WRT web GUI claims that they can support relaying broadcast packets. To verify, you can drop to shell and try yourself: {% highlight bash %} [email protected]:~# bcrelay bcrelay: pptpd was compiled without support for bcrelay, exiting. run configure –with-bcrelay, make, and install. {% endhighlight %} The version of pptpd that ships with v24sp2 of DD-WRT lacks bcrelay support. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean the services are completely inaccessible. You can still reach them if you know IP addresses. Good for people with and understanding of networking, but not good for people like my wife and definitely not the “Mac way.” So, what options are left, if no PPTP? Enter OpenVPN OpenVPN is a massively flexible (and therefore massively difficult to configure) open source VPN solution. DD-WRT ships with OpenVPN server available with support for broadcast packets, so that is what I decided to use. A couple of notes before you begin. There are some tradeoffs to using OpenVPN. Perhaps the biggest is that it’s not natively supported on any operating system (unlike PPTP). That means on Windows or Mac, you’ll need a third-party client. And it’s not compatible at all with iPhones, iPods or iPads (unless they’re jailbroken). It is also much more difficult to configure that the relatively easy and reasonably well documented PPTP server setup. It was a worthwile tradeoff for me, but it may not be for you. So, before you begin, you’ll need the following: You have already configured your router using DD-WRT and have the most recent release (as of this writing, v24-sp2), VPN version installed. The version number should be in the upper right corner of the web admin. If it says “std” or “vpn,” you’re in good shape. If it says “micro,” you probably don’t have the necessary tools. You possess some basic understanding of networking, and have the necessary settings to complete a VPN connection. If you’ve gotten as far as flashing with third-party firmware, you probably do. You understand that there is the possibility, albeit remote, that you could brick your router. I am not responsible for that, which is why I suggest you purchase an additional router to get all this set up on first before sacrificing your primary router. You’re not scared of the shell. You must sacrifice a goat to the networking Gods. For reference, my network uses 192.168.1.x for addresses. This can cause problems as it’s incredibly common for LANs. You may want to change your addresses to something less common. Not that big a deal for me, though. I also have mine set up in bridged, as opposed to routed, mode. I thing this is smarter (and easier), but if you’re curious, the difference is explained here. The first thing you need to do is install OpenVPN on your client machine. Even if you intend to use something different, you still need to install it so that you can generate all the certificates you’ll need. On a Mac, I find the best way to do this is with MacPorts. {% highlight bash %} toruk:~ peckrob$ sudo port install openvpn2 {% endhighlight %} It’ll crank for awhile compiling and installing what it needs, so go get a snack. Then, once you have it installed, head over to /opt/local/share/doc/openvpn2/easy-rsa/2.0/ and run the following commands: {% highlight bash %} source ./vars ./clean-all ./build-ca ./build-key-server server ./build-key client1 ./build-dh {% endhighlight %} At each stage, it will ask you questions. It is important to provide consistent answers or you will get errors. Importantly, don’t add passwords to your certificates. Once you are finished, you will find all your keys in the keys/ directory. Now, the fun part. Head over to the keys directory (/opt/local/share/doc/openvpn2/easy-rsa/2.0/keys). There should be a bunch of files in there. In a browser, open up your router’s web admin, and go to Services -> VPN. Under OpenVPN Daemon, next to “Start OpenVPN Daemon,” select “Enable” “Start Type,” set to “WAN Up” CA Cert. Go back to your shell and “cat ca.crt”. Past everything between the “—–BEGIN CERTIFICATE—–” and “—–END CERTIFICATE—–” including those two lines. You must include the BEGIN and END for this to work on each one! (This was a major trip-up for me). “Public Client Cert,” go back to shell and “cat server.crt”. Past everything between the “—–BEGIN CERTIFICATE—–” and “—–END CERTIFICATE—–” as above. “Private Client Key,” go back to shell and “cat server.key.” You need everything between “—–BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY—–” and “—–END RSA PRIVATE KEY—–” as above. “DH PEM,” go back to shell and “cat dh1024.pem”. You need everything between “—–BEGIN DH PARAMETERS—–” and “—–END DH PARAMETERS—–” as above. The important not above is to include the lines containing “—-whatever—-“. Not doing this cost me about 3 hours of messing around until I figured this out. With that all complete, it’s now time for your server config. Here is my server config: {% highlight bash %} mode server proto tcp port 1194 dev tap0 server-bridge 192.168.1.1 255.255.255.0 192.168.1.201 192.168.1.210 # Gateway (VPN Server) Subnetmask Start-IP End-IP keepalive 10 120 daemon verb 6 client-to-client tls-server dh /tmp/openvpn/dh.pem ca /tmp/openvpn/ca.crt cert /tmp/openvpn/cert.pem key /tmp/openvpn/key.pem {% endhighlight %} The important things here are “dev tap0”, which creates an ethernet bridge and not a tunnel (as “dev tun0” would do), and the “server-bridge” line. The documentation for that line is below it. The start IP and end IP specifies an IP range that VPN clients will receive addresses from. With all this complete, press “Save” and “Apply Settings” at the bottom of the screen. Wait patiently. Then, in the web admin, go to Administration -> Commands. If you already have a Startup script, edit it, otherwise, add this to the commands window: {% highlight bash %} openvpn –mktun –dev tap0 brctl addif br0 tap0 ifconfig tap0 0.0.0.0 promisc up {% endhighlight %} Press “Save Startup.” Then, if you already have rules in “Firewall,” edit those, otherwise add: {% highlight bash %} iptables -I INPUT 2 -p tcp –dport 1194 -j ACCEPT {% endhighlight %} Press “Save Firewall.” Now, reboot your router. When it comes back up, you should have a running OpenVPN server. To check, go to Administration -> Commands, and type this into the command window: {% highlight bash %} ps | grep openvpn {% endhighlight %} If you see something that looks like: {% highlight bash %} 11456 root 2720 S openvpn –config /tmp/openvpn/openvpn.conf –route-up 17606 root 932 S grep openvpn {% endhighlight %} Then it worked. Congratulations, you have a working OpenVPN instance. But how to connect to it? If you use Mac, you really have two choices: Tunnelblick or Viscosity. Tunnelblick is a little on the ugly side and difficult to configure, but is free and open source. Viscosity is reasonably pretty to look at and easier to configure, but is a commercial product. I chose Viscosity, so that’s what I’m demonstrating here. Once you have Viscosity downloaded and installed, go to Preferences and Connections, and add a connection. Enter a name and server address. Set the protocol to TCP and the device to tap. Now, before you continue, go back to your shell. Go back to the /opt/local/share/doc/openvpn2/easy-rsa/2.0/keys directory, and copy those keys someplace in your home (~) folder that you’ll be able to access. Back in Viscosity, go to the “Certificates” tab. You should see three lines labeled “CA,” “Cert,” and “Key.” For “CA,” select the “ca.crt” file you just moved. For “Cert,” select “client1.crt”. And, for “Key,” select “client1.key”. Under the “Options” tab, disabled LZO compression. For some reason this was causing a problem for me, so I just disabled it. Click “Save.” If all is right in the Universe and the goat you sacrificed to the Gods (you did do the goat sacrifice step, right?) was pleasing, you should now be able to connect back to your home network. Broadcast packets will work, and everything will be wonderful.
Read More
Apache

Automatically Provisioning Polycom Phones

The goal of this project were twofold: To completely eliminate the need for me to touch the phone to provision it. I want to be able to create a profile for it in the database, then simply plug the phone in and let it do the rest. And… To eliminate per-phone physical configuration files stored on the server. The configuration files should be generated on the fly when the phone requests them. So the flow of what happens is this: I create a profile for the phone in the database, then plug the phone in. Phone boots initially, receives server from DHCP option 66. Script on the server hands out the correct provisioning path for that model of phone. Reboots with new provisioning information. Phone boots with new provisioning information, begins downloading update SIP application and BootROM. Reboots. Phone boots again, connects to Asterisk. At this rate, provisioning a phone for a new employee is simply me entering the new extension and MAC address into an admin screen, and giving them the phone. It’s pretty neat. **Note: **there are some areas where this is intentionally vague, as I’ve tried to avoid revealing too much about our private corporate administrative structure. If something here doesn’t make sense or you’re curious, post a comment. I’ll answer as best I can. Creating the initial configs I used the standard download of firmware and configs from Polycom to seed a base directory. This directory, on my server, is /www/asterisk/prov/polycom_ipXXX, where XXX in the phone model. Right now we deploy the IP-330, IP-331 and IP-4000. While right now the IP-330 and IP-331 can use the same firmware and configs, since the IP-330 has been discontinued they will probably diverge sometime in the not too near future. With the base configs in place, this is where mod_rewrite comes into play. I added the following rewrite rules to the Apache configs: {% highlight apache %} RewriteEngine on RewriteRule ^/000000000000.cfg /index.php RewriteRule /prov/[^/]+/([^/]+)-phone.cfg /provision.php?mac=$1 [L] RewriteRule /prov/polycom_[^/]+/[^/]+-directory.xml /prov/polycom_directory.php` RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^PUT* RewriteRule /prov/[^/]+/([^/]+).log /prov/polycom_log.php?file=$1` {% endhighlight %} To understand what these do, you will need to take apart the anatomy of a Polycom boot request. It requests the following files in this order: whichever bootrom.ld image it’s using, [mac-address].cfg if it exists or 000000000000.cfg otherwise, the sip.ld image, [mac-address]-phone.cfg, [mac-address]-web.cfg, and [mac-address]-directory.xml. So, we’re going to rewrite some of these requests to our scripts instead. Generating configs on the fly We’re going to skip the first rewrite rule (we’ll talk about that one in a little bit since it has to do with plug-in auto provisioning). The one we’re concerned with is the next one, which rewrites [mac-address]-phone.cfg requests to our provisioning script. So each request to that file is actually rewritten to provision.php?mac=[mac-address]. Now, in the database, we’re keeping track of what kind of phone it is (an IP-330, IP-331 or IP-4000), so when a request hits the script, we look up in the database what kind of phone we’re dealing with based on the MAC address, and use the variables from the database to fill in a template file containing exactly what that phone needs to configure itself. For example, the base template file for the IP-330 looks something like this: {% highlight php %} <server $p) { ?> voIpProt.server..address="" voIpProt.server..expires="3600" voIpProt.server..transport="UDPOnly" /> <reg $p) { ?> reg..displayName=" " reg..address="" reg..type="private" reg..auth.password="" reg..auth.userId="" reg..label=" " reg..server.1.register="1" reg..server.1.address="" reg..server.1.port="5060" reg..server.1.expires="3600" reg..server.1.transport="UDPOnly" /> {% endhighlight %} The script outputs this when the phone requests it. Voila. Magic configuration from the database. There’s a little bit more to it than this. A lot of the settings custom to the company and shared among the various phones are in a master dealnews.cfg file, and included with each phone (it was added to the 000000000000.cfg file). Now, on to the next rule. Generating the company directory Polycom phones support directories. There’s a way to get this to work with LDAP, but I haven’t tackled that yet. So, for now, we generate those dynamically as well when the phone requests any of its *-directory.xml files. This one’s pretty easy since 1) we don’t allow the endpoints to customize their directories (yet), and 2) because every phone has the same directory. So all of those requests go to a script that outputs the XML structure for the directory: {% highlight php %} $ext) { ?> {% endhighlight %} We do this for both the 000000000000-directory.xml and the [mac-address]-directory.xml file because one is requested at initial boot (the 000000000000-directory.xml file is intended to be a “seed” directory), whereas subsequent requests are for the MAC address specific file. Getting the log files Polycoms log, and occasionally the logs are useful for debug purposes. The phones, by default, will try to upload these logs (using PUT requests if you’re provisioning via HTTP like we are). But having the phone fill up a directory full of logs is ungainly. Wouldn’t it be better to parse that into the database, where it can be easily queried? And because the log files have standardized names ([mac-address]-boot/app/flash.log), we know what phone they came from.Well, that’s what the last two rewrite lines do. We rewrite those PUT requests to a PHP script and parse the data off stdin, adding it to the database. A little warning about this. Even at low settings Polycom phones are chatty with their logs. You may want to have some kind of cleaning script to remove log entries over X days old. Passing the initial config via DHCP At this point, we have a working magic configuration. Phones, once configured, fetch dynamically-generated configuration files that are guaranteed to be as up-to-date as possible. Their directories are generated out of the same database, and log files are added back to the same database. It all works well! … except that it still requires me to touch the phone. I’m still required to punch into the keypad the provisioning directory to get it going. That sucks. But there’s a way around that too! By default, Polycom phones out of the box look for a provisioning server on DHCP option 66. If they don’t find this, they will proceed to boot the default profile thats ships with the phone. It’s worth noting that, if you don’t pass it in the form of a fully-qualified URL, it will default to TFTP. But you can pass any format you can add to the phone. {% highlight bash %} if substring(hardware, 1, 3) = 00:04:f2 { option tftp-server-name “http://server.com”; } {% endhighlight %} In this case, what we’ve done is look for a MAC address in Polycom’s space (00:04:f2) and pass it option 66 with our boot server. But, we’re passing the same thing no matter what kind of phone it is! How can we tell them apart, especially since, at this point, we don’t know the MAC address. The first rewrite rule handles part of this for us. When the phone receives the server from option 66 and requests 000000000000.cfg from the root directory, we instead forward it on to our index.php file, which handles the initial configuration. Our script looks at the HTTP_USER_AGENT, which tells us what kind of phone we’re dealing with (they’ll contain strings such as “SPIP_330”, “SPIP_331” or “SSIP_4000”). Using that, we selectively give it an initial configuration that tells it the RIGHT place to look. {% highlight php %} <?php ob_start(); if(stristr($_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’], “SPIP_330”)) { include “devices/polycom_ip330_initial.php”; } if(stristr($_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’], “SPIP_331”)) { include “devices/polycom_ip331_initial.php”; } if(stristr($_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’], “SSIP_4000”)) { include “devices/polycom_ip4000_initial.php”; } $contents = ob_get_contents(); ob_end_clean(); echo $contents; ?> {% endhighlight %} These files all contain a variation of my previous auto-provisioning configuration config, which tells it the proper directory to look in for phone-specific configuration. Now, all you do is plug the phone in, and everything else just happens. A phone admin’s dream. Keeping things up to date By default, the phones won’t check to see if there’s new config or updated firmware until you tell them to. But his also means that some things, especially directory changes, won’t get picked up with any regularity. A quick change to the configs makes it possible to schedule the phones to look for changes at a certain time: {% highlight xml %} {% endhighlight %} This causes the phones to look for new configs at 1AM each morning and do whatever they have to with them. Conclusions The reason all this is possible is because Polycom’s files are 1) easily manipulatable XML, as opposed to the binary configurations used by other manufacturers, and 2) distributed, so that you only need to actually send what you need set, and the phone can get the rest from the defaults. In practice this all works very well, and cut the time it used to take me to configure a phone from 5-10 minutes to about 30 seconds. Basically, as long as it takes me to get the phone off the shelf and punch the MAC address into the admin GUI I wrote. I don’t even need to take it out of the box!
Read More