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Self Hosted WireGuard VPN on OpenBSD

We’re at a time where we’re reminded by Edward Snowden (Twitter link) himself, that large corporations hosting VPNs should not be trusted.

If you're an ExpressVPN customer, you shouldn't be.

— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 16, 2021

For traveling and some form of privacy enhancements we are however in need for VPN solutions. Given trust in big tech is at an all time low, I’m looking to setup my own VPN using a recent open source solution WireGuard on Vultr.

WireGuard logo

WireGuard is a project by Jason Donenfeld (Twitter link). It was designed with the goals of ease of use, simplicity and modern cryptography. A counterweight to OpenVPN and IPsec. The spec is meant to be easy to implement in very few lines of code, allowing auditability for security vulnerabilities and the claim of having “a minimal attack surface”. Contrary to common solutions, it passes traffic only over UDP.

WireGuard was incorporated into the Linux 5.6 kernel and released in March 2020. As we all know, there is no greater honor for software engineers to receive the praise of Linus Torvalds. Linus called the implementation “work of art compared to OpenVPN and IPSec” on the mailing list:

Can I just once again state my love for it and hope it gets merged soon? Maybe the code isn’t perfect, but I’ve skimmed it, and compared to the horrors that are OpenVPN and IPSec, it’s a work of art.

The second operating system after Linux with integrated WireGuard support, and my personal favorite for servers, was OpenBSD. Matt Dunwoodie’s implementation for OpenBSD, written in C landed in OpenBSD 6.8, October 2020 and was announced on the OpenBSD mailing list by Jason A. Donenfeld himself:

I should also note that the upstreaming process to OpenBSD was extremely pleasant. We did three patch revisions, with useful feedback on each one and a very supportive community.

The OpenBSD code is distributed under a free ISC license. We can consider this solution one of the safest and easiest to use VPNs available to us.

Setting up WireGuard on OpenBSD

Vultr VPS OpenBSD Setup

We create a $5 VPS on Vultr in either Germany or Japan, both countries with a high internet freedom index. The setup here is similar to what I noted down earlier on a OpenBSD base configuration. Create a user and add the public keys for ssh that Vultr added to our root user:

cp .ssh/authorized_keys /home/<user>/.ssh/

Allow doas for our new user

vi /etc/doas.conf
permit persist :wheel
usermod -G wheel <user>

And disallow root to ssh into the box

vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config
PermitRootLogin no
PasswordAuthentication no

Install updates and reboot


We can now begin the VPN setup.

Setting up a WireGuard VPN Server

Install WireGuard tools

doas pkg_add wireguard-tools

Enable IP and IPv6 forwarding to allow packets to move between the WireGuard interface and the egress interface.

doas sysctl net.inet.ip.forwarding=1
doas sysctl net.inet6.ip6.forwarding=1

And ensure it persists a reboot

doas vi /etc/sysctl.conf
sysctl net.inet.ip.forwarding=1
sysctl net.inet6.ip6.forwarding=1

Create the WireGuard keys

doas mkdir /etc/wireguard
doas chmod 700 /etc/wireguard
doas su     # become root
cd /etc/wireguard
wg genkey > secret.key
chmod 600 secret.key
wg pubkey < secret.key > public.key

While being located in /etc/wireguard, create the file vi /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf with these contents:

ListenPort = 51820

# iOS / Android smartphone
AllowedIPs =

Navigate with vi to the private key and use the :r private.key shortcut to paste the contents into the right place. Each peer is assigned a key pair (a public and private key) and an internal IP address. The outgoing traffic from a client is encrypted with the servers public key and enveloped in UDP. We use the subnet for the VPN. The IP will be the server through which traffic is tunneled.

Create vi /etc/hostname.wg0 with the following contents:

inet NONE

!/usr/local/bin/wg setconf wg0 /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf

Next we configure the firewall pf and allow connections from clients. We open the port 51820 on which WireGuard will listen. Configure pf with vi /etc/pf.conf. Note that ifconfig shows our network device is vio0 but yours might be different:

pass in on wg0
pass in inet proto udp from any to any port 51820
pass out on egress inet from (wg0:network) nat-to (vio0:0)

That’s it. Optionally assign a A and AAAA DNS record from a domain you’re owning for quick access.

How to add an iPhone or Android as a WireGuard Client?

Install WireGuard on your iOS or Android phone

We can generate QR codes on terminals with the utility qrencode. Install and test it with

doas pkg_add libqrencode
qrencode -s 6 "Your text here!" --type=UTF8 --level=M

Example qrencode

Now create the client config:

umask 077 && wg genkey > wg-private-client.key
wg pubkey < wg-private-client.key > wg-public-client.key

Print the client pubkey and add it to the server config to the peer section in /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf from above.

cat wg-public-client.key

Then reboot the server or run

doas sh /etc/netstart wg0
doas pfctl -f /etc/pf.conf

We’re done with the WireGuard server (for one client configured).

We can check if the port is open with netcat nc -zv -u <IP or FQDN> 51820.

Print the client private key for our client config:

cat wg-private-client.key

Create ~/wg-client.conf with the following content:


# Server
Endpoint = <IP or FQDN>:51820
AllowedIPs = ::/0,
PersistentKeepalive = 25

The first client will be assigned, if we add more peers we just increment this number. AllowedIPs and ::/0 mean all IP addresses in IPv4 and IPv6 will use the WireGuard tunnel.

Print the QR code for the config above and scan it with your smartphone for importing the config:

qrencode --read-from=wg-client.conf --type=UTF8 --level=M

Show the status of connected peers

doas wg show wg0

We’re done.

How to add Ubuntu Linux as a WireGuard Client?

I’m running Ubuntu Server on my Raspberry Pi and want it to enjoy the same privacy considerations as my other clients.

Install WireGuard and resolvconf on the Ubuntu client machine:

sudo apt-get install wireguard resolvconf

Follow the key creation and create a client config, see that I incremented the interface address to 3 here.


# Server
Endpoint = <IP or FQDN>:51820
AllowedIPs = ::/0,
PersistentKeepalive = 25

Copy the config in place on the Ubuntu client /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf. And test the configuration with

systemctl start wg-quick@wg0

We expect the IP of the VPN server to be shown. If this works, enable WireGuard to run on reboot

sudo systemctl enable wg-quick@wg0


Summary: adding clients and showing connected clients

See a snippet on how to add any client configuration to a WireGuard server.

On the server, we can show the connected clients and the bandwidth of each with the show command:

doas wg show

WireGuard wg show output

Enjoy your private and secure VPN!

Published on Sunday, Sep 26, 2021. Last modified on Saturday, Jun 18, 2022.
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