Apr 12, 2017

8 min read

Should Setting up a VPN Be This Hard?

Written by

Vippy The VPS

In the last days of March, the U.S. government overturned rules aimed at protecting the privacy of users of internet service providers (ISP). With the rules gone, ISPs no longer need to obtain permission to sell user data. For a lot of people, that's a little scary.

Now, I recognize that ISPs are not selling my own specific data, but rather my data in aggregate with probably thousands of other customers just like me. I also know that they're not snooping in on HTTPS-secured traffic. I also know that tools like "Internet Noise" are less actual solutions to the problem and more one-off experiments to occupy a developer over their weekend.

Tech blogs and journalists have been touting the value of a virtual private network (VPN) ever since. I've been hearing about them for years, but mostly as a means to 1) get past region-blocked content on Netflix or 2) ensuring a secure connection when using hotel/airport WiFi. I knew that neither of those two applications appeal to me, and I knew that I didn't want to run my VPN with some company operating out of the Seychelles.

Because that's just boring.

Finding the right solution

I'm not completely militant about securing (or obscuring) my internet traffic with a VPN—if I was truly worried about that, I'd have started a long time ago, or would be using something like Tor instead. More than anything, these recent changes are a catalyst to convince me to finally poke around something that I've been curious about for years.

All this is to say I'm okay with an imperfect solution. I'm okay with only marginal protection. And I'm okay with failure, but only if it's my fault.

Matt, the CEO of SSD Nodes (and my boss), recommended that I try out OpenVPN over any of the other solutions. He's got good reasons to do so—it's a trusted solution that's been around for 15 years.

At first, I was a little horrified by the OpenVPN tutorials that I found floating around online. I'm a decent Linux administrator—I've used a VPS for hosting personal sites for years and have personally walked through all of the tutorials on this blog to ensure they work properly—but I'm nothing special.

I did find openvpn-install, which purports to set up the VPN with a single command. At the time, I figured it simply wasn't for me.

When searching beyond OpenVPN for something a little more streamlined, I found algo, a "a set of Ansible scripts that simplify the setup of a personal IPSEC VPN." As part of their release annoucement, they published a blog post that touted Algo as "the VPN that works". I have to admit, I was convinced by their marketing.

The Algo installation

Since I work for SSD Nodes, my provider choice is simple. I opted for the

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