How to Set up a personal IPSEC VPN (Algo VPN)


Staff member
Algo VPN is a set of Ansible scripts that simplify the setup of a personal IPSEC and Wireguard VPN. It uses the most secure defaults available, works with common cloud providers, and does not require client software on most devices. See our release announcement for more information.

  • Supports only IKEv2 with strong crypto (AES-GCM, SHA2, and P-256) and WireGuard
  • Generates Apple profiles to auto-configure iOS and macOS devices
  • Includes a helper script to add and remove users
  • Blocks ads with a local DNS resolver (optional)
  • Sets up limited SSH users for tunneling traffic (optional)
  • Based on current versions of Ubuntu and strongSwan
  • Installs to DigitalOcean, Amazon Lightsail, Amazon EC2, Vultr, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, Scaleway, OpenStack, or your own Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server
  • Does not support legacy cipher suites or protocols like L2TP, IKEv1, or RSA
  • Does not install Tor, OpenVPN, or other risky servers
  • Does not depend on the security of TLS
  • Does not require client software on most platforms
  • Does not claim to provide anonymity or censorship avoidance
  • Does not claim to protect you from the FSB, MSS, DGSE, or FSM
Deploy the Algo Server
The easiest way to get an Algo server running is to let it set up a new virtual machine in the cloud for you.

  1. Setup an account on a cloud hosting provider. Algo supports DigitalOcean (most user friendly), Amazon Lightsail, Amazon EC2, Vultr, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, Scaleway, and DreamCompute or other OpenStack-based cloud hosting.
  2. Download Algo. Unzip it in a convenient location on your local machine.
  3. Install Algo's core dependencies. Open the Terminal. The python interpreter you use to deploy Algo must be python2. If you don't know what this means, you're probably fine. cd into the algo-master directory where you unzipped Algo, then run:

$ python -m ensurepip --user
$ python -m pip install --user --upgrade virtualenv
Linux (deb-based):

$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install \
    build-essential \
    libssl-dev \
    libffi-dev \
    python-dev \
    python-pip \
    python-setuptools \
    python-virtualenv -y
4. Install Algo's remaining dependencies. Use the same Terminal window as the previous step and run:

$ python -m virtualenv --python=`which python2` env &&
    source env/bin/activate &&
    python -m pip install -U pip virtualenv &&
    python -m pip install -r requirements.txt
On macOS, you may be prompted to install cc. You should press accept if so.

5. List the users to create. Open config.cfg in your favorite text editor. Specify the users you wish to create in the userslist.

6. Start the deployment. Return to your terminal. In the Algo directory, run ./algo and follow the instructions.
There are several optional features available. None are required for a fully functional VPN server.
These optional features are described in greater detail in

That's it! You will get the message below when the server deployment process completes.
You now have an Algo server on the internet. Take note of the p12 (user certificate) password in case you need it later, it will only be displayed this time.

You can now setup clients to connect it, e.g. your iPhone or laptop. Proceed to Configure the VPN Clients below.

        "\"#                          Congratulations!                            #\"",
        "\"#                     Your Algo server is running.                     #\"",
        "\"#    Config files and certificates are in the ./configs/ directory.    #\"",
        "\"#              Go to after connecting               #\"",
        "\"#        and ensure that all your traffic passes through the VPN.      #\"",
        "\"#                    Local DNS resolver                     #\"",
        "\"#                The p12 and SSH keys password is XXXXXXXX             #\"",
Configure the VPN Clients
Certificates and configuration files that users will need are placed in the configs directory. Make sure to secure these files since many contain private keys. All files are saved under a subdirectory named with the IP address of your new Algo VPN server.

Apple Devices
WireGuard is used to provide VPN services on Apple devices. Algo generates a WireGuard configuration file, wireguard/<username>.conf, and a QR code, wireguard/<username>.png, for each user defined in config.cfg.

On iOS, install the WireGuard app from the iOS App Store. Then, use the WireGuard app to scan the QR code or AirDrop the configuration file to the device.

On macOS Mojave or later, install the WireGuard app from the Mac App Store. WireGuard will appear in the menu bar once you run the app. Click on the WireGuard icon, choose Import tunnel(s) from file..., then select the appropriate WireGuard configuration file. Enable "Connect on Demand" by editing the tunnel configuration in the WireGuard app.

Installing WireGuard is a little more complicated on older version of macOS. See Using macOS as a Client with WireGuard.

If you prefer to use the built-in IPSEC VPN on Apple devices, then see Using Apple Devices as a Client with IPSEC.

Android Devices
WireGuard is used to provide VPN services on Android. Install the WireGuard VPN Client. Import the corresponding wireguard/<name>.conf file to your device, then setup a new connection with it. See the Android setup instructions for more detailed walkthrough.

Windows 10
Copy your PowerShell script windows_{username}.ps1 to the Windows client and run the following command as Administrator to configure the VPN connection.

powershell -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -File windows_{username}.ps1 -Add
For a manual installation, see the Windows setup instructions.

Linux Network Manager Clients (e.g., Ubuntu, Debian, or Fedora Desktop)
Network Manager does not support AES-GCM. In order to support Linux Desktop clients, choose the "compatible" cryptography during the deploy process and use at least Network Manager 1.4.1. See Issue #263 for more information.

Linux strongSwan Clients (e.g., OpenWRT, Ubuntu Server, etc.)
Install strongSwan, then copy the included ipsec_user.conf, ipsec_user.secrets, user.crt (user certificate), and user.key (private key) files to your client device. These will require customization based on your exact use case. These files were originally generated with a point-to-point OpenWRT-based VPN in mind.


Staff member
Ubuntu Server 18.04 example
sudo apt-get install strongswan libstrongswan-standard-plugins: install strongSwan
/etc/ipsec.d/certs: copy <name>.crt from algo-master/configs/<server_ip>/pki/certs/<name>.crt
/etc/ipsec.d/private: copy <name>.key from algo-master/configs/<server_ip>/pki/private/<name>.key
/etc/ipsec.d/cacerts: copy cacert.pem from algo-master/configs/<server_ip>/pki/cacert.pem
/etc/ipsec.secrets: add your user.key to the list, e.g. <server_ip> : ECDSA <name>.key
/etc/ipsec.conf: add the connection from ipsec_user.conf and ensure leftcert matches the <name>.crt filename
sudo ipsec restart: pick up config changes
sudo ipsec up <conn-name>: start the ipsec tunnel
sudo ipsec down <conn-name>: shutdown the ipsec tunnel
One common use case is to let your server access your local LAN without going through the VPN. Set up a passthrough connection by adding the following to /etc/ipsec.conf:

conn lan-passthrough
leftsubnet= # Replace with your LAN subnet
rightsubnet= # Replace with your LAN subnet
authby=never # No authentication necessary
type=pass # passthrough
auto=route # no need to ipsec up lan-passthrough
To configure the connection to come up at boot time replace auto=add with auto=start.

Other Devices
Depending on the platform, you may need one or multiple of the following files.

  • cacert.pem: CA Certificate
  • user.mobileconfig: Apple Profile
  • user.p12: User Certificate and Private Key (in PKCS#12 format)
  • ipsec_user.conf: strongSwan client configuration
  • ipsec_user.secrets: strongSwan client configuration
  • windows_user.ps1: Powershell script to help setup a VPN connection on Windows

Setup an SSH Tunnel
If you turned on the optional SSH tunneling role, then local user accounts will be created for each user in config.cfg and SSH authorized_key files for them will be in the configs directory (user.ssh.pem). SSH user accounts do not have shell access, cannot authenticate with a password, and only have limited tunneling options (e.g., ssh -N is required). This ensures that SSH users have the least access required to setup a tunnel and can perform no other actions on the Algo server.

Use the example command below to start an SSH tunnel by replacing user and ip with your own. Once the tunnel is setup, you can configure a browser or other application to use as a SOCKS proxy to route traffic through the Algo server.

ssh -D -f -q -C -N [email protected] -i configs/ip_user.ssh.pem
SSH into Algo Server
To SSH into the Algo server for administrative purposes you can use the example command below by replacing ip with your own:

ssh [email protected] -i ~/.ssh/algo.pem
If you find yourself regularly logging into Algo then it will be useful to load your Algo ssh key automatically. Add the following snippet to the bottom of ~/.bash_profile to add it to your shell environment permanently.

ssh-add ~/.ssh/algo > /dev/null 2>&1

Note the admin username is ubuntu instead of root on providers other than Digital Ocean.

Adding or Removing Users
If you chose to save the CA certificate during the deploy process, then Algo's own scripts can easily add and remove users from the VPN server.

  1. Update the users list in your config.cfg
  2. Open a terminal, cd to the algo directory, and activate the virtual environment with source env/bin/activate
  3. Run the command: ./algo update-users
After this process completes, the Algo VPN server will contain only the users listed in the config.cfg file.

Additional Documentation


Staff member
Windows client manual setup
Automatic installation
To install automatically, use the generated user Powershell script.

  1. Copy the user PowerShell script (windows_USER.ps1) to the client computer.
  2. Open Powershell as Administrator.
  3. Run the following command:
powershell -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -File C:\path\to\windows_USER.ps1 -Add
If you have more than one account on your Windows 10 machine (e.g. one with administrator privileges and one without) and would like to have the VPN connection available to all users, pass the parameter -AllUsers

powershell -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -File C:\path\to\windows_USER.ps1 -Add -AllUsers
  1. The command has help information available. To view its full help, run this from Powershell:
Get-Help -Name .\windows_USER.ps1 -Full | more

Manual installation
  1. Copy the CA certificate (cacert.pem) and user certificate (USER.p12) to the client computer
  2. Open PowerShell as Administrator. Navigate to your copied files.
  3. If you haven't already, you will need to change the Execution Policy to allow unsigned scripts to run.
Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted -Scope Process
  1. In the same window, run the necessary commands to install the certificates and create the VPN configuration. Note the lines at the top defining the VPN address, USER.p12 file location, and CA certificate location - change those lines to the IP address of your Algo server and the location you saved those two files. Also note that it will prompt for the "User p12 password", which is printed at the end of a successful Algo deployment.
If you have more than one account on your Windows 10 machine (e.g. one with administrator privileges and one without) and would like to have the VPN connection available to all users, then insert the line AllUserConnection = $true after $EncryptionLevel = "Required".

$VpnServerAddress = ""
$UserP12Path = "$Home\Downloads\USER.p12"
$CaCertPath = "$Home\Downloads\cacert.pem"
$VpnName = "Algo VPN $VpnServerAddress IKEv2"
$p12Pass = Read-Host -AsSecureString -Prompt "User p12 password"

Import-PfxCertificate -FilePath $UserP12Path -CertStoreLocation Cert:\LocalMachine\My -Password $p12Pass
Import-Certificate -FilePath $CaCertPath -CertStoreLocation Cert:\LocalMachine\Root

$addVpnParams = @{
    Name = $VpnName
    ServerAddress = $VpnServerAddress
    TunnelType = "IKEv2"
    AuthenticationMethod = "MachineCertificate"
    EncryptionLevel = "Required"
Add-VpnConnection @addVpnParams

$setVpnParams = @{
    ConnectionName = $VpnName
    AuthenticationTransformConstants = "GCMAES256"
    CipherTransformConstants = "GCMAES256"
    EncryptionMethod = "AES256"
    IntegrityCheckMethod = "SHA384"
    DHGroup = "ECP384"
    PfsGroup = "ECP384"
    Force = $true
Set-VpnConnectionIPsecConfiguration @setVpnParams
Your VPN is now installed and ready to use.


Staff member
Android client setup
Installation via profiles

Install the WireGuard VPN Client.
Open QR code configs/<ip_address>/wireguard/<username>.png and scan it in the WireGuard app


Staff member
Using the built-in IPSEC VPN on Apple Devices
Configure IPsec
Find the corresponding mobileconfig (Apple Profile) for each user and send it to them over AirDrop or other secure means. Apple Configuration Profiles are all-in-one configuration files for iOS and macOS devices. On macOS, double-clicking a profile to install it will fully configure the VPN. On iOS, users are prompted to install the profile as soon as the AirDrop is accepted.

Enable the VPN
On iOS, connect to the VPN by opening Settings and clicking the toggle next to "VPN" near the top of the list. If using WireGuard you can also enable the VPN from the WireGuard app. On macOS, connect to the VPN by opening System Preferences -> Network, finding the Algo VPN in the left column, and clicking "Connect." Check "Show VPN status in menu bar" to easily connect and disconnect from the menu bar.

Managing "Connect On Demand"
If you enabled "Connect On Demand" the VPN will connect automatically whenever it is able. Most Apple users will want to enable "Connect On Demand", but if you do then simply disabling the VPN will not cause it to stay disabled; it will just "Connect On Demand" again. To disable the VPN you'll need to disable "Connect On Demand".

On iOS, you can turn off "Connect On Demand" in Settings by clicking the (i) next to the entry for your Algo VPN and toggling off "Connect On Demand." On macOS, you can turn off "Connect On Demand" by opening System Preferences -> Network, finding the Algo VPN in the left column, unchecking the box for "Connect on demand", and clicking Apply.


Staff member
This has been well tested on Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04 x64.. (y)

Let me know if anyone needs help setting it up... I can set it up for you for a cup of :coffee:...

I know it looks scary and complicated ... :devilish: