By Alok Saboo on October 7th, 2012
I was recently on the market for a wireless router that could handle my high speed broadband connection (upwards of 30Mbps). After a lot of searching, I finally bought bought the ASUS RT-N66U wireless router and have been extremely happy with it. If you are looking for a wireless router, I will very strongly recommend this router. One of the features that got me excited was the the ability to set up a VPN server to safely browse the Internet over public WiFi. I am using an ASUS RT-N66U, but you should be able to follow the tutorial on most ASUS routers (e.g., RT-N16, RT-N65U, RT-N56U, RT-AC66U) or ADSL modem routers (e.g., DSL-N55U).
Why do you need a VPN Server?
Recent WiFi snooping attacks (e.g., Firesheep) have demonstrated that your data may not be secure especially when it travels over unsecured networks – such as one at Starbucks or other public wifi hotspots. Since most of the public wireless networks are completely unencrypted, our recent post on securing mobile data suggested using VPN tunnel to route your data through secure private networks. VPN tunnels give you the security of private networks even when you are on unsecured public networks.
Commercial VPN solutions charge around $5 per month. However, if you have a broadband internet connection and a capable router, you can set up your own VPN tunnel – just follow along.
I am assuming that you have already completed the basic configurations on your ASUS device. Just go to the VPN Server tab (under Advanced Settings) and enable PPTP Server (you can also enable Samba support if you want to access local shares). Also, enter the username and password for your VPN account.
If your ISP does not provide you with a static IP, you can use a DDNS (Dynamic DNS) service that maps your dynamic IP address to a domain name. I am using ASUS’s own DDNS service, but you are welcome to use any other such service (e.g., DynDNS, Tzo, ZoneEdit, DNSOMatic, TunnelBroker, No-IP).
Next, fine tune VPN server configurations by specifying the authentication and encryption methods, IP address range, and broadcast support. Here are the settings that I am using:
These settings should work for most of us. However, sometimes the DNS resolution does not work over the VPN, i.e., you will be able to connect to the VPN but may not be able to browse the Internet. In such cases, you need to manually enter the DNS servers under VPN details. You can use any DNS provider – I am using Google Public DNS.
Congratulations!! Your VPN server is now ready to be used.
On your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), add a VPN configuration under Settings > General > Network > VPN (see screenshot below). You can enter your static IP address or the DDNS that you configured earlier.
To demonstrate that the VPN server is indeed working, let us check the public IP address with and without VPN.
On your Android device, you do the similar setup under Settings > Wireless & Networks > Add VPN Network.
There you have it…now you can secure all your data even on a public network for FREE. I have been extremely happy with this setup. Now I can safely browse even on a public network.
Please note that since all the traffic will be routed through your home network, i.e., one additional hoop, and the encryption overheads, your speeds will be lower on the VPN than without it. Finally, this solution is recommended only if your ASUS router is connected to a broadband connection.