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Old 07-10-2017, 11:55 AM   #1
DoubleF
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Default Personal VPN setup, cost and how to set up?

I was hoping someone could answer a few questions about a VPN set up. I understand how they work, but I was hoping to get an idea about a true cost and an idea how to set it up. I would be casually using a VPN, but if I could do additional security over wifi, why not?

Questions:
- What do I need and its cost? Router, computer, software etc.
- How do I set it up? (Time, basic gist etc.)
- What are the major headaches with such a set up? Any software interface easier to use?
- Preferred set up suggestions or guides to read?


What I know:

- I've looked at software like Hamachi, but I wasn't enthused about paying a monthly fee for pro. It worked decently well I think, but I didn't completely feel like it was what I needed. OpenVPN, I don't get it, but I think I've been misunderstanding how that software works.
- The Nighthawk smart wifi routers have OpenVPN built in, but supposedly only works ok on laptops, not iOS and Android.
- I am not interested in buying a VPN subscription. Just hoping to learn how to set up a basic one for learning and project purposes. Essentially just pre-preemptive learning to future proof my understanding of internet things.
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Old 07-10-2017, 01:06 PM   #2
gottabekd
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I'm not really sure exactly what you are after, but I have some general comments which may be useful.

"VPN" can be used for a few different purposes. Companies with multiple offices around the world and remote employees might use a VPN to allow everyone to connect to their company network in a secure way. Or a "personal VPN" might just mean a single user routing their Internet traffic through a third party, giving some anonymity and potentially increasing the security of their traffic.

So assuming you are looking more for a personal VPN, and this may be obvious, but an analogy will help. A personal VPN is essentially a tunnel out to the Internet. A tunnel needs a start and an endpoint. The start will be your personal computer or laptop. The end will be some location out there on the Internet, and since someone is providing this service to you, you need to pay for it.

So an analogy would be say you live in a gated community where everything is nice and secure, but just outside the gate is some pretty rough areas. To drive across town you want to avoid driving through these rough areas. So instead of taking the surface streets, you build a tunnel under the city. Naturally, you will need to buy or rent some real estate for the exit of the tunnel. So you build the exit right into downtown, and now your commute to work avoids the sketchy areas.

Relating back to networking, a subscription to a personal VPN service is you paying for access to the tunnel endpoint. And the "security" of the VPN only really helps you bypass some sketchy networks like public wifi. Once your Internet traffic exits your VPN endpoint, it is no longer any more secure.

For VPN implementations, it gets pretty technical. I'm still not exactly sure what you are after, and maybe my analogy was already clear. But the key point is that you need that endpoint (tunnel exit) somewhere out there on the Internet. You can either pay a company for access to a VPN endpoint, or buy/rent a server hosted somewhere and set up a VPN there yourself.

I use https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/ as a personal VPN. It is fairly inexpensive, and they have good instructions and software that is suitable for any computer user to install and use. They also have 20+ endpoints around the world.

If you want to set this up yourself, there is one thing to consider. You can configure the VPN on your router (some high power routers will support OpenVPN, which Private Internet Access uses under the hood). This way, all your traffic from all your devices (that are connected to the Wifi on your router) will be using your VPN, without any further setup on your devices. Alternatively, you can install the PIA (Private Internet Access) software on every device you wish to use the VPN with. This is definitely a lot simpler than trying to configure a VPN at the router level.

Finally, you said you aren't interested in purchasing a subscription to a VPN. I'm saying you will have to if you want to use the VPN on the Internet. If you really just want to learn, then I suggest renting a server somewhere (such as digitalocean.com where a small server instance can be $5/month). This will give you a blank Linux system which you can read some docs on OpenVPN and have a go at setting it up, if that sounds appealing. I will caution that configuring networking remotely can be a pain because if you screw something up, you get locked out of the machine. Thankfully Digital Ocean provides console access via the browser that bypasses any of the networking setup.
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Old 07-10-2017, 01:58 PM   #3
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Darn, it seems like I have a mixed up understanding of a VPN. Thanks for the clarification between a personal and "enterprise" level VPN.

I'll contemplate PIA. It seems like it has good and favorable reviews.
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Old 07-11-2017, 08:10 PM   #4
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I have a personal VPN in my house that I built with a Raspberry Pi. There are lots of tutorials around the web how to set these up.

This way if I am out of the house or on vacation, I can connect to my home network and use my home Shaw network connection.
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Old 07-11-2017, 10:56 PM   #5
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That's a good idea too. Often the personal VPN services sell themselves as a way to provide anonymity and allow you to bypass geo-restrictions. But if all you want from a VPN is a more secure connection when on public networks, a home server could act as your VPN tunnel exit.

Setting this up (client and server) would be a little outside of a regular joe's comfort zone I would imagine. But if one is technically inclined, it could be a useful thing to have available when you want a little bit of security when connecting to public Wi-Fi.
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Old 07-11-2017, 10:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gottabekd View Post
Setting this up (client and server) would be a little outside of a regular joe's comfort zone I would imagine.
I totally agree. There are a handful of decent "off the shelf" products that do the same thing. You buy it, plug it into your router, configure via a web interface, and you're in business. Off hand I don't have links for any, but could dig some up if anyone wants them.
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Old 07-12-2017, 06:06 AM   #7
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I have used personal VPN's regularly over the last ten years. Basically, if you're living in China you pretty much want to have one. Prices vary depending on what you're needs are, but there are plenty of businesses offering VPNs online. I use one called Astrill, which has been good for me. Works on both phone and computer with a simple app installation.
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Old 07-12-2017, 08:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceman90 View Post
I totally agree. There are a handful of decent "off the shelf" products that do the same thing. You buy it, plug it into your router, configure via a web interface, and you're in business. Off hand I don't have links for any, but could dig some up if anyone wants them.
I wouldn't mind a link.

How much time and cost in parts did your set up require?
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Old 07-12-2017, 08:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleF View Post
I wouldn't mind a link.

How much time and cost in parts did your set up require?
A Raspberry Pi costs $40. By the time you get a case, cord, etc it would be between $50-$100 depending what exactly you use for each component.

As for time, took me about an hour and a half to setup, but I know what I am doing for the most part.

I will dig up some of the off the shelf products today when I am home with my bookmarks.

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Old 07-12-2017, 12:04 PM   #10
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I run a personal VPN on my Asus router (using Merlin firmware).
Pretty much what others have said. Secure access when connecting over sketchy wifi, but also so I can pull files off my home server.

If you router supports 3rd party firmware, most of them have OpenVPN capabilities baked in. Cheapest set up, but takes a bit of time to do the research and set up.
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Old 07-12-2017, 12:47 PM   #11
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For anyone interested, here is a pretty good tutorial to setup your own VPN using a Raspberry Pi. PiVPN is another way to do it.

Some pre-built solutions:
Or, as has been mentioned previously, some routers (or custom router firmware) have built in VPN solutions these days.
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