Server 3.x

Client Certificate Authentication#

It is rather easy to enable X.509 client certificate authentication for the portal. No need for complicated user authentication scenarios if you client devices already have access to an organization issued client certificate.

NOTE: there won’t be any “Logout” option as browsers do not offer support for “Logout” when using client certificate authentication. The only way to “Logout” is to close your browser. Depending on the OS/browser you use you’ll always be authenticated when visiting the portal, possibly even without confirmation popup. This is great, but something you need to be aware of, you can basically have “the Kerberos experience”, which may confuse users.

Web Server#

NOTE: configuring client certificate authentication is separate from the server certificate you configure for your web server!

In /etc/httpd/conf.d/vpn.example.conf inside the <VirtualHost *:443> section you can add the following lines:

SSLVerifyClient optional
SSLVerifyDepth 1
# CentOS/RHEL/Fedora
SSLCACertificateFile /etc/pki/tls/certs/ca.crt
# Debian/Ubuntu
#SSLCACertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/ca.crt

Point SSLCACertificateFile to the CA under which your client certificate was issued. The SSLUserName variable is set to the SSL variable you want to use as the user’s User ID. See Environment Variables for more options. The SSLVerifyDepth depends on your PKI. If you don’t know what it should be, i.e. you don’t know how many intermediates there are, you can find it out by checking your client certificate, or start with 1, which is also the default if not set, and try to increment it until it works ;-)

We set the SSLVerifyClient to optional, as not all locations require a certificate. Locations that do require user authentication will enforce it anyway. An error will be shown when the user did not proceed with certificate authentication.

Restart the web server:

$ sudo systemctl restart apache2    # Debian/Ubuntu
$ sudo systemctl restart httpd      # CentOS/RHEL/Fedora


Modify /etc/vpn-user-portal/config.php and set authModule to ClientCertAuthModule.

Generating Client Certificates#

NOTE: this section is only for experimentation, mostly a “note to self” :-)

Of course, you could use the X.509 certificates issued for use with OpenVPN also for authenticating to the portal. But that is a bit of a 🐔🥚 problem ;-)

For simple testing you can use the “embedded” CA in the VPN server to generate a separate CA and issue client certificates with it. On your server:

$ mkdir CA
$ cd CA
$ vpn-ca -init-ca -name "My Test CA"
$ vpn-ca -client -name "foo"
$ vpn-ca -client -name "bar"

Here we created two client certificates, one for user foo (CN=foo) and one for user bar (CN=bar). To import them in browsers/OSes it is convenient to convert the key/cert to a PKCS#12 file. You can do that using openssl:

$ openssl pkcs12 -export -CAfile ca.crt -in foo.crt -inkey foo.key -out foo.p12
$ openssl pkcs12 -export -CAfile ca.crt -in bar.crt -inkey bar.key -out bar.p12

The “export” will ask for a password. You’ll also need it when importing the PKCS#12 file in your OS/browser.

Also make sure you copy the ca.crt file to the right place on your VPN server, and configure the web server as documented above.