If you’re looking for an enterprise-level virtual private network (VPN) solution but don’t want to spend the enormous amounts of money required by industry leaders, you can create your very own VPN server on a Raspberry Pi. A VPN server is essentially a server that allows users to connect to a privately hosted network, creating a secure connection within that network. The primary purpose of a VPN server is to provide security for users by encrypting all of the data that is transmitted between the user and the service, as well as preventing any sensitive information from being intercepted by third parties. A VPN server can also be used to provide privacy for users by ensuring that all of their internet activity is routed through a secure connection.
To learn how to create a VPN server on a Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to follow a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to set up the device as a dedicated VPN server, as well as give you a sense of what it takes to manage a VPN server over time. This tutorial will introduce you to the Raspberry Pi and its versatile nature; a device that can be used to run various operating systems and specialized software (as well as a standard operating system like Ubuntu). Furthermore, this tutorial will teach you how to set up your own VPN server using the Raspberry Pi, providing you with essential skills that you can later apply to any other server-related tasks.
Step 1: Get a Raspberry Pi
To create an enterprise-level VPN server using a Raspberry Pi, you’ll first need to purchase one of these devices. As mentioned by the name, a Raspberry Pi is a small computer that plugs into your TV to create a wireless hotspot. Additionally, as a small and credit-less device, a Raspberry Pi is an ideal choice for creating a VPN server since it doesn’t require specialized hardware to function nor does it incur large energy costs (due to its low-power nature).
To learn more, visit the official Raspberry Pi website by clicking here.
You can also find detailed information about the device (along with tips on how to get the most out of it) in our dedicated guide, which you can access by clicking here.
Step 2: Install Raspbian
Once you’ve purchased a Raspberry Pi and connected it to your Wi-Fi, you can start the process of installing a specialized operating system on it named Raspbian. Raspbian is a derivative of Debian—the same operating system developed by the team behind the Raspberry Pi—and it’s completely free and open source software (FOSS). Raspbian is the preferred choice for those looking to create a VPN server due to its small size and limited resource requirements. If you’ve ever used a Debian-based operating system, such as Ubuntu, you’ll find adapting to Raspbian easier than making the transition to a different distro (i.e., operating system).
You can install Raspbian onto the microSD card of your newly purchased Raspberry Pi by going to “/boot” on the device and entering the following command:
sudo apt-get install raspbian-desktop-i386
Wait for the process to complete, and you’re good to go! If your TV has an ethernet port, you can now use it to connect to the internet and begin installing applications that are required to run a VPN server.
Step 3: Set Up a Web Server to Provide Secure Access To The Internet
Now that you have Raspbian installed on your Raspberry Pi, you can set up a web server to provide secure access to the internet. There are several lightweight and secure web servers that can be used for this purpose, and the best part is that you can install these servers on your Raspberry Pi. Some of the most popular lightweight web servers are Apache, Nginx, and LiteSpeed.
You can install one of these web servers on your Raspberry Pi by going to “/etc/apache2” on your command line and entering the following command:
sudo apt-get install apache2
Then, visit the Raspberry Pi’s IP address (found in the “/etc/hosts” file) on your web browser to view the default Apache 2.0 website.
You can install Nginx along with Apache 2.0 on your Raspberry Pi to create a truly lightweight and secure web server. For best results, you should install Nginx as a front-end server and configure it to work with Apache 2.0. Doing so will provide you with an optimally functioning and secure web server.
To set up Apache 2.0 with Nginx, go to “/etc/apache2” on your Raspberry Pi and enter the following command:
sudo apt-get install nginx apache2
Then, enter the Nginx section of the Apache 2.0 configuration file and change the “listen” directive to “listen only on localhost” (by removing the semi-colon), as shown here:
# Listen on all IP addresses (0.0.0.0 by default)
Next, edit the Apache 2.0 configuration file (again, from “/etc/apache2”) and set the “ServerAdmin” directive to “root” (instead of “www-data” as shown below):
# ServerAdmin: root
Then, visit the Raspberry Pi’s IP address (found in the “/etc/hosts” file) on your web browser to view the default Nginx configuration website.
You can install the LightSpeed web server on your Raspberry Pi to create a secure and stable lightweight web server. Like the other servers mentioned above, LightSpeed also supports IPv6, has an embedded web server, and is highly configurable. The best part about LightSpeed is that it’s very easy to install on a Raspberry Pi! To install it, enter the following command:
sudo apt-get install lightspeed
And that’s it! Now that you have a secure (and completely free!) web server, you can move on to the next step.
Step 4: Install OpenVPN
Once you have a functioning web server, you can install the OpenVPN client—which is a free and open source VPN tool—on your Raspberry Pi. The OpenVPN client provides secure access to a privately hosted network (i.e., a VPN server), allowing you to protect your personal data while online and prevent any snooping by corporate entities or the government. OpenVPN is the most popular and most-used VPN software, and while it requires a bit of a learning curve, it’s very easy to set up and use once you’ve done so. OpenVPN’s main purpose is to allow for secure and private communications over untrusted networks (i.e., the internet).
To install OpenVPN on your Raspberry Pi, enter the following command in the terminal (hit enter after each line):
sudo apt-get install openvpn
Then, you’ll need to create a config file for OpenVPN (i.e., a text file containing all of the necessary connection information). To do this, create a new file called “/etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/vars” on your Raspberry Pi and enter the following text: