Native WireGuard® Clients and VNS3 6.0 Beta2

by | 14 Jun 2022

VNS3 6.0 Beta2 is now available.

You can find the Free edition in both the Amazon and Azure marketplaces (GCP coming soon).

It is an easy way to get a server up and running that can connect you to data centers, cloud VPCs/VNETs, has a super firewall, straightforward support of even difficult things like “source based routing”, and most of all a quick way to run and manage your own WireGuard® network connecting multiple people, devices, or both.

This post will show you how to use the standard Mac Appstore WireGuard client built and delivered by the WireGuard team with Cohesive Networks VNS3 6.0 network controllers. (Of course similar capability is available using the same app from the Windows/iPhone/Android “app stores” as well.)

In future posts we will show the Cohesive CLI (cnvpn) at work, and the Cohesive WG GUI working with VNS3 6.0. And then we will follow up by showing how the different connection options work with a distributed VPN cluster where you can spread a VNS3 controller mesh across regions and clouds with ease, yet have a unified VPN system for management of credentials, pre-shared keys, OIDC sessions and more.

In the screen shots throughout we have three windows; upper left the Mac OS WG client, bottom left a command line from the same Mac, and to the right the cloud-based VNS3 server supporting a wide range of cloud networking use-cases, and here specifically WireGuard VPN connections.

VNS3 Network Platform has the concept of “clientpacks” – basically the credentials needed to connect a machine or a person via a VPN client to the network.  Historically they have been “openvpn” by default – and starting in 6.0 they are WireGuard by default. In a future release we will support a dual stack with both “ovpn” and “wg” connections simultaneously, and a goal of IPsec clients as well.

In the picture above and those below we see the “Clientpacks” page. From here you can perform key administrative functions like disabling addresses, re-generating credentials, updating pre-shared keys, and getting access URLs for secure and easy distribution of VPN credentials.

Above shows the results of choosing “Access URL” and displaying its result. This is a secure, one-time, timed URL which allows users to copy/paste the clientpack, download it for import, or for mobile clients use a QR code for import.

It has all the necessary information to make a connection using the standard WG Client – with or without PSKs.

There is also a series of commented lines which are used by CNVPN CLI and GUI for additional enterprise support (failover, dynamic route updates, OIDC authentication) to be discussed in future. For now we just want to focus on how easy it is to connect native WG clients.

Copy/paste the clientpack into the Mac OS client, and click SAVE/ACTIVATE.

Voilà – you are connected to the VPN.  The VNS3 Clientpacks page shows the status as “connected”.

The WG Client now shows its statistics about the connection, and below we are pinging the VNS3 controller’s VPN address to show access to the VPN network.

(By default, this connection can access other addresses on the VPN. If that’s not desired it is easily changed via the Firewall page.)  

If needed you can use the Action menu to perform administrative operations.   For example, if you select “Disable” on the connection, the client is dropped from the VPN.  Below, we see the client set to disabled state by the Admin, and we see the “pings” begin to fail.

Then we “Enable” – and the client is back on the network and packets begin to flow.

And of course similar operations can be performed to re-new or re-secure a connection by adding a PSK or re-generating keys – both of which require the clientpack to be redistributed to the user or device.  But as expected, when you enable a PSK for the connection, the user is unable to access the network.  With the credential re-deployed with the appropriate clientpack containing the PSK, they are back on the net!

Accessing the other devices on the VPN network is one use, what about getting to the Internet?

This requires a couple configuration elements on the client side which requires a little bit of operating system knowledge on the client side and a of couple firewall rules on the VNS3 Controller.  We won’t go into those specifics here.

But, if you look at the Cohesive-specific directives used by the CNVPN CLI and GUI – one of them is “TunnelAllTraffic” – and when this is set to “true” – all the client side magic is done for you!  But that is for another day.

(“WireGuard” and the “WireGuard” logo are registered trademarks of Jason A. Donenfeld.)