Cohesive VNS3 6.0 Beta3 is now available and free to use in AWS, Azure, and upon request. Get WireGuard(r) performance and encryption along with OIDC authentication, dynamic routing, global deployment capability, and integration to cloud and datacenter connectivity solutions today.
Enterprise WireGuard® with Cohesive VPN Client
VNS3 6.0 Beta3 will be available in cloud marketplaces or upon request this week (email@example.com). In our last post we showed how easy it is to connect your native WireGuard® clients to VNS3 6.0. In this post we show you how to use the Cohesive VPN Client to achieve the same goals like connecting to data centers or cloud VPCs/VNETs, and managing your own WireGuard® network connecting multiple people and devices. In addition, we will show an overview of using our enterprise capabilities like dynamic route updates, easy tunneling of all traffic with local subnet exceptions, and OIDC integration so you can authenticate your vpn users with Google Authentication, Okta, Auth0 and more.
The screen shots throughout show three windows; upper left the Cohesive VPN client, bottom left a command line from the same Mac, and to the right the cloud-based VNS3 server.
VNS3 Network Platform has the concept of “clientpacks” – basically the credentials needed to connect a machine or a person to the network via a VPN client. Historically “clientpacks” have been “openvpn” by default. Starting in 6.0 clientpacks 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 show the “Clientpacks” page. From this 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 allowing users to copy/paste the clientpack, download it for import, or use via a QR code on mobile devices.
It has all the necessary information to make a connection using the Cohesive VPN Client – with or without PSKs.
The commented lines are used by CNVPN CLI and GUI for additional enterprise support; failover, dynamic route updates, and OIDC authentication.
Copy/paste the clientpack into the Cohesive client via the “Paste” option, and choose Save.
Next choose “Connect” from the Cohesive Client’s “Actions” menu – and the VPN connection is created. The VNS3 Clientpacks page then shows the status as “connected”.
Below shows access to the VPN network by successfully pinging the VNS3 controller’s VPN address. (By default, this connection can access other addresses on the VPN. If that’s not desired it is easily changed via the Firewall page.)
You can use the Action menu on the VNS3 Clientpacks page to perform administrative operations. For example, if you select “Disable” on the connection, the client is dropped from the VPN.
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). 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!
To see some of those operations in action, take a look at our previous post. Cohesive’s target is to provide organizations the ability to deploy their own enterprise VPN infrastructure. This could be managed by Cohesive via our SecurePass offering, or self-managed. Regardless, our initial focus for 6.0 is managed, enterprise WireGuard.
Dynamic Route Updates
One of our key enterprise features is dynamic route updates. For “people vpns” you can usually just tunnel all traffic through the VPN – making the VPN adapter the default gateway. However, for IoT and machine2machine vpns, dynamic routing is a critical capability. You allow the device to have its own local gateway but when routes arrive dynamically, the traffic begins to follow that path. If the route is removed from the network, the default gateway is used.
In the example below the configuration is changed to have “RoutePolling = True”, and on the VNS3 controller a route to 184.108.40.206 has been advertised through the VPN. In the terminal window route display there is not yet a specific route to that public IP.
Once re-connected, the route to 220.127.116.11 through the VPN is visible on the client as a result of the dynamic route updating.
If that route is disabled or removed from the VPN network, then it is removed from the client.
Tunnel All Traffic
Tunneling all traffic through the VPN to the Internet is a snap with the Cohesive VPN Client.
Set the client parameter “TunnelAllTraffic” to “True” AND make sure you have enabled firewall directives on the VNS3 Server to send all VPN traffic out to the Internet.
VNS3 Free edition comes with a default set of rules in a group called “VPN2Internet. Go to the Groups view on the Firewall page and enable these rules.
This will direct all traffic from your VPN client to the Internet, getting its address translated to the Public IP of the VNS3 controller.
What if you still want to be able to access local network resources like a printer or file server? In that case, use the “LocalRoutes” option to enter a comma delimited list of the network CIDRs you want to exempt from the VPN so they can be reached locally.
Now that all traffic is being tunneled, from the command line the public IP 18.104.22.168 can be successfully pinged. To “prove” this traffic is going into the VPN we show it via our Network Sniffer.
VPN User Authentication
So far the examples have just used WireGuard protocol with unique keys and pre-shared key (PSK) for the connections. What about more specific user authentication? For WireGuard in VNS3 6.0 we use OIDC (Open ID Connect), and will add LDAP support in future. (Our dual stack offering in future will allow simultaneous use of OpenVPN and WireGuard clients, with your choice of LDAP/AD or OIDC).
With OIDC support you create a VPN users and/or admins application in your OIDC provider and then configure VNS3 integration.
Once the OIDC configuration has been saved you can login. In this case we are using our Google Apps login. When “Connect” is chosen, a login screen pops up in the default browser.
Upon entering the correct password the login panel indicates success and the VPN client connects!
Next up we will show using the Cohesive CNVPN CLI on a Linux machine. For cloud overlay networks and over-the-top cloud networking, the CLI is a powerful way to bring your enterprise feature set to your cloud and multi-cloud deployments.
(“WireGuard” and the “WireGuard” logo are registered trademarks of Jason A. Donenfeld.)
Native WireGuard® Clients and VNS3 6.0 Beta2
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.)
Announcing Successful Type 2 Soc 2 Examination
We’re happy to announce that Cohesive Networks has successfully completed a Type 2 SOC 2 examination. The examination confirmed that our systems are protected against unauthorized access, unauthorized disclosure of information, and damage to systems that could compromise the availability, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of information or systems.
- Selected SOC 2 Categories: Security
- Examination Type: Type 2
- Review Period: November 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022
- Service Auditor: Schellman & Company, LLC
Our Secure History
Security and privacy are at the core of our business model and part of our culture. Cohesive Networks was spun out in 2014 from Cohesive Flexible Technologies in part due to a realization we were no longer in the cloud migration business. We were in fact a security and networking company. As a result we had the opportunity and experience to create internal systems and controls to a high standard. All are still overbuilt by today’s measure.
By design, we have no access to customers’ VNS3 provided networks. Access and visibility are completely in the hands of the owner. Given that deployment mode, VNS3 has mechanisms to ensure limited attack surface with no backdoor access: Access URLs and API Tokens.
We also “eat our own cooking.” VNS3 was created by our parent company, Cohesive Flexible Technologies back in 2008. The purpose was first to secure our Elastic Server product cluster (see Bill-of-Materials approach to virtual machine image creation) and second to provide IP address control and security for the wild west EC2-classic 10/8 network space of the day. Our company runs internal Overlay Networks for our production systems, support engineers, as well as PeopleVPN for our remote/post-geographic team.
Cohesive Networks is committed to continuing annual Type 2 SOC 2 examinations and will plan on adding Availability and Privacy Trust Service categories in the future. Additionally we’ll be evaluating if a SOC 3 examination is more appropriate given our role as a provider of critical network infrastructure for our globally distributed customer base.
The Enterprise and WireGuard
WireGuard® at its core is a lightweight, low code, VPN tunneling protocol that optimizes for speed, security and ease of configuration. However, extended business functions needed for enterprise usage are left out of its code base by design. This non-opinionated approach allows third parties to develop novel methods that best fit enterprise needs and styles.
Examples of Enterprise needs are:
- Key (re)generation and distribution for both human users and machine-to-machine networks
- RESTful API for integration to in-house systems and external services
- Uniform access to encrypted tunneling via regional or global clusters
- Dynamic routing so devices on the WireGuard network learn about network paths as they come and go
- Failover support allowing clients to migrate servers in the event of maintenance or outages
- Integration to security platforms (Firewalls, WAFs, IDS/IPS)
- Integration to other “tunneled” paths (IPsec, GRE, VXLAN, cloud direct connects, etc..)
- Integration to “legacy” monitoring tools like SNMP
- Integration to “modern” monitoring tools like Datadog and Sumologic
- Integration to legacy authentication (Active Directory)
- Integration to modern authentication (OAuth / OpenID, MFA, etc..)
- AND more!
Cohesive is working to make the WireGuard protocol a first order citizen in our VNS3 Network Platform with a focus on many of these extended capabilities.
Enterprises will need methods to securely store and distribute keys to human and machines. Authenticated REST APIs allow automation frameworks to tag and place keys where needed in a distributed computing environment. Self-service web portals give end users access to allocated keys for their various devices. Administrators and intrusion detection systems need the ability to revoke keys when compromise occurs.
Not all tunneling systems and their keys are the same. Many companies employ encrypted overlay networks, in cloud and between their compute nodes in order to satisfy regulatory requirements and gain network visibility. For automated machine-to-machine communications, public/private key pairs are all that is required, whereas with “people VPN” scenarios added authentication factors are needed.
In the dynamic world of cloud networking and remote work, private networks are now fluid, meaning that network address ranges are added and removed, as new networks and subnets come on line or are decommissioned. In order for systems to communicate they need dynamic route updates providing up-to-date paths through interconnected transit networks.
These encrypted tunneling systems are used to take the enterprise, its customer and partners to, through, and across clouds. This requires the WireGuard feature called “Allowed IPs” that acts as both ACL and route directives to be integrated. In Enterprise WireGuard use-cases, the “Allowed IPs” don’t come from a configuration file, they will be dynamically and seamlessly integrated to the broader systems routing and ACL policies. communications in the enterprise. Companies need the ability to filter and direct traffic at ingress and egress points in cloud networks.
WireGuard is fast becoming an essential operating system and developer tool, and Cohesive Networks believes it’s on its way to being an essential building block for creating robust, enterprise-ready network solutions.
“WireGuard” and the “WireGuard” logo are registered trademarks of Jason A. Donenfeld.
WireGuard: A Quick Overview
Image courtesy of wireguard.com.
WireGuard® is a new communication protocol that implements encrypted virtual private networks (VPN). It endeavors to provide network agility, advanced security, performance, and configuration simplicity. Back in 2017 Jason A. Donenfeld, a security researcher and Linux kernel developer, was looking for a stealthy traffic tunneling solution for use in penetration testing jobs. In an interview on the Security. Cryptography. Whatever. podcast, Donenfeld explains that while he was “familiar with OpenVPN and IPSec” he was well aware of the bugs these solutions carried with them. Thus, he set out to create something new for himself that would not suffer from historical technical debt.
IPSec, one of the major VPN options available today, was born in 1992 with the Internet Engineering Task Force’s formation of the IP Security Working group, and was standardized in 1995 under RFC-1825 and RFC-1827. IPSec has always required a tremendous amount of configuration unique to the hardware and software environments it will then connect. The encryption, key exchange, and authentication algorithms that it supports are overly broad, in order to support legacy equipment. The key exchange mechanism can be prone to rekeying issues, causing stability problems. This is not to say that IPSec should be avoided, but to point to the non-triviality of its implementation. If you consider using IPSec as a vehicle for remote worker VPN connections (“people VPN” or “road warrior VPN”), there are security concerns as simple as an “aggressive mode” sending a hash of pre-shared keys in plain text.
Another option, OpenVPN, was initially released in 2001 by James Yonan. It uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to provide encryption. OpenVPN is currently the most widely used VPN protocol on the planet, to the extent that some might consider it the backbone of modern online security. Along with trusted encryption, OpenVPN also supports a wide range of algorithms for encryption and authentication, hashing, and key derivation, making it highly adaptable to different deployments. It also uses certificates for identification and encryption and it can operate on UDP or TCP.
This brings us back to the steady emergence of WireGuard. In January of 2020 Linus Torvalds merged David Miller’s “net-next” tree into the Linux kernel, bringing WireGuard into the mainline Linux kernel tree. WireGuard was written to be efficient and easily readable; it is comprised of around 4,000 lines of code, which is much fewer lines of code than OpenVPN relies on. Among other benefits, this smaller size makes WireGuard auditable in an afternoon (or so) and the condensed code significantly reduces the attack surface. The goal is to keep WireGuard slimmed down to its basic operational function; a simplified and performant VPN. It is left to third parties to extend it to meet various functional business requirements.
While IPSec and OpenVPN provide a plethora of algorithmic options, WireGuard limits the need for user choice and customization in favor of fast, modern cryptographic primitives that don’t rely on hardware accelerators. This greatly removes the possibility of user miscalculation and thus insecure or improper deployments. Many connectivity vulnerabilities are caused by the combination of primitives, not always the primitives themselves. WireGuard endeavors to combine known, secure, and performant primitives, and allows you to negotiate protocol versions to easily address future vulnerabilities.
WireGuard operates much like OpenSSH in terms of public and private keys. Peers identify themselves with a unique public keys which are is used to establish their IP inside of the tunnel. WireGuard calls this concept “cryptokey routing”. This simplification of tunnel configuration is a major advantage of WireGuard. Performance is another major factor of WireGuard’s appeal. OpenVPN adds about 20% data overhead while IPSec adds around 10%, but WireGuard uses a mere 4% more data than an unencrypted connection. Most tests even show WireGuard performing around twice as fast as OpenVPN, with WireGuard operating near to or close to line speed. Another key factor to the speed of connectivity is where WireGuard operates in the operating system. On Linux, WireGuard operates in kernel space, where packets are processed at a much faster rate. However, on Windows this is not the case, so the WireGuard group has developed a very simple and minimal TUN driver, Wintun, for the Windows kernel that shuttles packets to the Windows User Space. We can probably expect WireGuardNT (LINK) to move into the Windows kernel space in the future.
Back to the cryptokey routing table. The “cryptokey routing” concept developed by WireGuard allows changes to external source IPs to be picked up and propagated quickly and efficiency. Whether you are a roaming client that is switching between cellular and wifi, or a client that needs to ‘fail over’ to a backup server, the cryptokey routing table gets updated in mere seconds with the new IPs of the tunnel. In comparison, OpenVPN can take 30 seconds to reestablish new IP connections, which is only slightly slower than the time it takes IPSec connections using BGP routing to reestablish similar connections. The WireGuard protocol provides additional security in that it does not respond to packets from non peers nor unauthenticated packets, leaving WireGuard mostly invisible to non-peers.
In conclusion, it appears WireGuard aims to keep its code base small, be easy to implement and audit, all while having blazingly fast performance using state-of-the-art cryptography.
“WireGuard” and the “WireGuard” logo are registered trademarks of Jason A. Donenfeld.
News Roundup: Week of Feb 21, 2022
U.S. Cyber Officials Issue Official Warning Against Potential Russian Cyber Attacks
During a call this Monday, FBI and DHS cyber officials urged government agencies “to look out for signs of Russian activity on their networks” as a result of the evolving Ukraine crisis. According to Yahoo: “federal officials also urged those on the call to dramatically lower their threshold for reporting suspicious activity.” Citing “an uptick in Russian scanning of U.S. law enforcement networks” as well as “in Russian disinformation and misinformation about Ukraine,” cyber officials urge increased care and caution with links and communications as the crisis progresses.
IBM Opens Cyber Security Hub in India
IBM recently announced the opening of their first IBM Security Command Center in the Asia Pacific region. The center hopes to provide a cybersecurity incident response plan for enterprise customers with deployments in the region, as well as “a fully immersive, interactive, and experiential learning facility.” IBM plans to use simulations and experiential training to help enterprises protect themselves from cyberattacks. IBM promises that by co-locating this training center with their X-Force Command Center, IBM’s Security Operations Center, both live practice and training for cyber security precautions will benefit immensely.
Microsoft Brings Cloud Security to GCP
Yesterday Microsoft announced the release of Microsoft Defender for Cloud for Google Cloud Platform, making Microsoft the first major cloud provider to offer security solutions in all major cloud platforms. The offering from Microsoft boasts Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and Cloud Workload Protection (CWP) across both containers and servers. According to the release, GCP deployments of Microsoft Defender for Cloud will come “with out-of-box recommendations that allow you to configure GCP environments in line with key security standards like the Center for Internet Security (CIS).” Microsoft is also emphasizing the necessity of Zero Trust Management and event log management in cloud environments with two more ‘upgraded’ cloud security offerings.