Sometimes, it is desirable to have a TLS-based VPN tunnel for those times when you’re stuck behind an oppressive firewall and need to have secure communications to the outside world. Maybe you’re visiting China, maybe you’re making an IoT device and don’t want to open your customers’ networks to world+dog by making your device easy to compromise (or have it pick on Brian Krebs).
OpenVPN is able to share a port with a non OpenVPN server. When a tunnel is established, it looks almost identical to HTTPS traffic because both use TLS. The only dead giveaway would be the OpenVPN session lasts longer, but then again, in this day of websockets and long polling, who knows how valid that assumption will be?
The lines needed to pull this magic off? Here, we have sniproxy listening on port 65443. You can use nginx, Apache, or any other HTTPS web server here. It need only be listening on the IPv4 loopback interface (127.0.0.1) since all connections will be from OpenVPN.
port-share localhost 65443
There’s one downside. OpenVPN will not listen on both IPv4 and IPv6. In fact, it takes a ritual sacrifice to get it to listen to an IPv6 socket at all. On UDP, it’s somewhat understandable, and yes, they’re working on it. On TCP, it’s inexcusable, the problems that plague dual-stack sockets on UDP mostly aren’t a problem on TCP.
It’s also impossible to selectively monitor ports. There’s a workaround however. Two, in fact. Both involve deploying a “proxy” to re-direct the traffic. So to start with, change that “port 443” to another port number, say 65444, and whilst you’re there, you might as well bind OpenVPN to loopback:
port-share localhost 65443
Port 443 is now unbound and you can now set up your proxy.
Workaround 1: redirect using xinetd
The venerable xinetd superserver has a rather handy port redirection feature. This has the bonus that the endpoint need not be on the same machine, or be dual-stack.
flags = IPv6 # Use AF_INET6 as the protocol family
disable = no # Enable this service
type = UNLISTED # Not listed in standard system file
socket_type = stream # Use "stream" socket (aka TCP)
protocol = tcp # Protocol used by the service
user = nobody # Run proxy as user 'nobody'
wait = no # Do not wait for close, spawn a thread instead
redirect = 127.0.0.1 65444 # Where OpenVPN is listening
only_from = ::/0 0.0.0.0/0 # Allow world + dog
port = 443 # Listen on port 443
Workaround 2: socat and supervisord
socat is a Swiss Army knife of networking, able to tunnel just about anything to anything else. I was actually going to deploy that route, but whilst I was waiting for socat and supervisord to install, I decided to explore xinetd‘s capabilities. Both will do the job however.
There is a catch though, socat does not daemonise. So you need something that will start it automatically and re-start it if it fails. You might be able to achieve this with systemd, here I’ll use supervisord to do that task.
The command to run is:
socat TCP6-LISTEN:443,fork TCP4:127.0.0.1:65444
and in supervisord you configure this accordingly:
command=socat TCP6-LISTEN:443,fork TCP4:127.0.0.1:65444"