OpenVPN on Amazon Linux EC2

Mar 20, 2016 • Matt Karmazyn
Edited: Mar 20, 2016

I will show you how to set up an OpenVPN server on Amazon Linux in EC2.

WARNING: This guide is incomplete. It will take you through installation and most of the configuration but some pieces may be missing.

First launch an instance through console, api, terraform, whatever your desired approach is.


I am going to sudo up to root to make things a bit easier. I’m not concerned here as we are setting up a new instance, but always use sudo when doing maintenance work on an existing instance.

sudo su -

Then we want to run updates:

yum update -y
yum upgrade -y

Now let’s install OpenVPN

yum install -y openvpn

Install easy-rsa from EPEL

yum install easy-rsa -y --enablerepo=epel

Copy the sample server config file

cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn-*/sample/sample-config-files/server.conf /etc/openvpn/

Generate Keys and Certificates

We installed easy-rsa earlier which offers many scripts as utilities. These scripts are located in /usr/share/easy-rsa/2.0 after installation. We are going to copy these into our /etc/openvpn/rsa directory.

Lets create the rsa directory in case it does not exist yet.

mkdir /etc/openvpn/rsa

We are using /bin/cp to copy the files because most modern systems have an alias of cp to cp -i which will prompt you to overwrite files, and we don’t want that.

/bin/cp –rf /usr/share/easy-rsa/2.0/* /etc/openvpn/rsa

Next, we will use the parameters in /etc/openvpn/rsa/vars to indicate the values for our keys and certificates. Change the values according to your needs (fields are self-explanatory)

vim /etc/openvpn/rsa/vars

export KEY_CITY="mycity"
export KEY_ORG="myorg"
export KEY_EMAIL="[email protected]"
export KEY_OU="systems"

cd /etc/openvpn/rsa
source ./vars


The build-ca script will create a Certificate Authority (certificate + key) in /etc/openvpn/rsa/keys. We filled out and exported these values in the vars file. Press Enter to accept the default values:


Country Name (2 letter code) [US]:
State or Province Name (full name) [CA]:
Locality Name (eg, city) [mycity]:
Organization Name (eg, company) [myorg]:
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) [systems]:
Common Name (eg, your name or your server's hostname) [myorg CA]:
Name [EasyRSA]:
Email Address [[email protected]]:

[rsa]# ls keys/
ca.crt  ca.key  index.txt  serial

Next, we will create the key and the certificate for the server itself. As before, accept the default values and then press y to confirm the signing of the certificate:

./build-key-server server

[[email protected] rsa]# ./build-key-server server
Generating a 2048 bit RSA private key
writing new private key to 'server.key'
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
Country Name (2 letter code) [US]:
State or Province Name (full name) [CA]:
Locality Name (eg, city) [mycity]:
Organization Name (eg, company) [myorg]:
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) [systems]:
Common Name (eg, your name or your server's hostname) [server]:
Name [EasyRSA]:
Email Address [[email protected]]:

Please enter the following 'extra' attributes
to be sent with your certificate request
A challenge password []:
An optional company name []:
Using configuration from /etc/openvpn/rsa/openssl-1.0.0.cnf
Check that the request matches the signature
Signature ok
The Subject's Distinguished Name is as follows
countryName           :PRINTABLE:'US'
stateOrProvinceName   :PRINTABLE:'CA'
localityName          :PRINTABLE:'mycity'
organizationName      :PRINTABLE:'myorg'
commonName            :PRINTABLE:'server'
name                  :PRINTABLE:'EasyRSA'
emailAddress          :IA5STRING:'[email protected]'
Certificate is to be certified until Mar 20 16:44:51 2026 GMT (3650 days)
Sign the certificate? [y/n]:y

1 out of 1 certificate requests certified, commit? [y/n]y
Write out database with 1 new entries
Data Base Updated

Next, generate the Diffie-Hellman file used for information exchange to complement RSA (this may take some time). This will create a file named dh2048.pem inside /etc/openvpn/rsa/keys:


Finally, create separate certificate files for each client that will use your VPN server (change client to a name of your choosing):

./build-key client


We are going to begin editing the server.conf file. I will be using vi, but you can use your preferred text editor

vi /etc/openvpn/server.conf

dh /etc/openvpn/rsa/keys/dh2048.pem
push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
push "dhcp-option DNS"
push "dhcp-option DNS"
user nobody
group nobody

copy the keys to the /etc/openvpn directory

cp ca.crt server.crt server.key /etc/openvpn/

start the service

/etc/init.d/openvpn start

WARNING: This is where the guide dies. You may still need to make some ip tables changes. I may document this at a later time.