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VPN Setup Problem

06/24/2021 8:23 AM

I have a fundamental problem setting up a VPN. Somehow I am not able to Google my way out of it and the VPN vendor’s web site isn’t helpful either.

I have security camera software set-up and cameras connected to a Windows box. The software installed without issue and is working properly. I can access it from my cell phone using my home WiFi and I can access it using other machines on my home network.

I want to safely access the security package while away from home. With a little research ExpressVPN and NordVPN seemed like my top two choices. Without any strong reason I selected ExpressVPN.

I installed ExpressVPN on both my security box (Windows) and my cell phone (Android). Installation was without issue. With VPN turned off web sites that report back my IP address report my local ISP. With VPN turned on both the cell phone and security box report ExpressVPN server addresses. Both devices access web sites without issue. To my current level of knowledge the VPN software is working properly on both devices.

When I am at home with WiFi turned on my cell phone can access the security software on the Windows box.

When I try to connect to the security software with WiFi turned off or when I am away from home I get no response. Accessing other web sites through the VPN software is working properly but accessing the security software is not.

There is a firewall/router between my Windows box and the internet. It is actually a Linksys E4200 but that probably doesn’t matter since I think this is more of a block diagram issue/question. Some Google results suggest that connecting inward into my home network requires I enable VPN Pass Through by opening up ports 1723 and 47 for PPTP. That didn’t work.

From a fundamental, block diagram point of view I don’t know if the VPN software on the Window box will keep a tunnel open to the ExpressVPN server or if it is necessary for me to open up ports. For security reasons I don’t want to open any port I don’t need to. Since the ExpressVPN software on the Windows box promptly reports ExpressVPN server connections lost and reconnected I am thinking I should not have to open up additional ports.

Looking at this from a different point of view I did a “ifconfig” on the cell phone with WiFi on (can access software) and WiFi off (simulating being away from home):

1) With WiFi "on" my cell phone has interfaces tun0 that appears to be my cell phone provider’s IP address and a wlan0 address that matches my home network.

2) With WiFi "off" my cell phone has interfaces rmnet_data0 and tun0 and both have ten-dot addresses that appear to be my cell phone provider’s.

The ExpressVPN web site doesn’t seem to address this configuration. The “24/7 technical assistance chat” appear to be a bot that either is down or replies with various forms of “did you read the instructions?”. Googling this is challenging since ExpressVPN also sells a VPN router and therefore any search with “ExpressVPN” and “router” goes off in that direction.

Thus:

1) When using a VPN service designed to have my cell phone appear to be inside my home network wouldn’t I expect the cell phone to have an IP address inside my home network? This would suggest something isn’t right in the “appears to be right” VPN software installation.

2) Do I need to open ports in my firewall or since the ExpressVPN software promptly reports ExpressVPN server connections lost and reconnected should I assume that a tunnel is already open 24/7?

Thank you,

Bruce

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#1

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 1:35 PM

I'm not sure you can connect to the system without the wi-fi on, you need the bandwidth...

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 1:58 PM

As I understand it when both the home machine and the cell phone are connected to ExpressVPN servers I should have "safe, local IP address" connections between the house and the cell phone no matter where in the world the cell phone is.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 2:44 PM

Yes but how are your security cameras connected to that....?

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 3:45 PM

The same Windows box has ExpressVPN (VPN) and Blue Iris (security). Cameras connect to Blue Iris via the home network.

Hopefully I am understanding ExpressVPN correctly. I think ExpressVPN on my Windows box should receive encrypted traffic thru the VPN tunnel, decrypt it and emit it to my home network as though the cell phone was inside the house. I think my cell phone should be able to see everything in the house.

All of this is a little bit buried in the VPN world. They are so busy highlighting anonymous internet access and defeating region restrictions that the site-to-site capabilities are almost overlooked.

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 5:20 PM

...and how is the home network connected....?

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 6:19 PM

Home equipment connected by copper RJ45s to Linksys router/firewall. When at home cell phone connects to home network via the WiFi in the Linksys router/firewall.

ExpressVPN allows their software to be "installed" on an unlimited number of devices but only five can connect at the same time. If I understand this correctly then my wife and I can both be away from home and safely VPN into the Windows box at home (with two permitted connections to spare).

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 8:14 PM

Do your cameras connect via wi-fi? or are they hardwired?

https://blueirissoftware.com/#support

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 9:07 PM

Hardwired.

This https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-access-my-PC-using-a-remote-desktop-over-the-Internet-using-ExpressVPN?share=1 gives very mixed messages. Mostly (but not all) negative for what I am trying to do.

A one time purchase of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gA_0O4hT_Bc and free OpenVPN apps on cell phones is starting to look like a better way to go.

So far ExpressVPN and NordVPN seem like good services for anonymous browsing and overcoming region restrictions on media. So far ExpressVPN and "normal" NordVPN seem to not support the traditional site-to-site VPN secure tunnels. It looks like there is a NordVPN Teams product that supports secure site-to-cloud-to-site VPN secure tunnels ($$).

The Linksys LRT214 for $145.66 with Prime shipping and free returns seems like the way to go https://www.amazon.com/Linksys-LRT214-Gigabit-VPN-Router/dp/B00GK6402W. In less than an year and a half it will have a break even cost to ExpressVPN.

So far (30 minutes of research) the only negative I can find is that I will need to keep track of the IP address my ISP gives me and I won't have automatic updates if it changes. It does not change very often and I believe I can configure Blue Iris security software to both email and text my cell phone if the address changes.

If ExpressVPN did what I needed then I might have to stop and think about this choice. Since ExpressVPN has already cost me many hours and does not seem to be able to do what I want I'm thinking I will be happy with the Linksys box.

Stay tuned. This adventure is not over yet.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: VPN setup problem

06/24/2021 10:09 PM
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#10
In reply to #9

Re: VPN setup problem

06/25/2021 12:43 AM

This seems like a shortcoming in the software program....only the software provider can fix this issue it seems to me...

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: VPN setup problem

06/25/2021 5:40 AM

I think that is basically true but it might be a little bigger than that.

Once upon a time a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connected two remotely located offices or connected an office to a work-at-home site. That is where my train of thought was and some of the postings I found seem to suggest that these packages still do that.

Now there is a considerable market for the ability to use the internet anonymously and to defeat censorship and region restrictions on media distribution. That is private on one side and public on the other side with an encrypted tunnel in the middle. In my mind being public on the other end does not make this a "private network" but if I had to put a name on this marketed service then I guess I would probably fall back on VPN. So, I guess I am getting old and need to update my terminology.

Thanks for the help Solar Eagle.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: VPN setup problem

06/25/2021 8:15 AM

It seems that your home VPN is providing an IP address that cannot be seen /located by your cellphone VPN?

MWAG, a problem can be due to a differing NAT which does the address translations on each ends.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: VPN setup problem

06/25/2021 1:28 PM

True.

A traditional VPN takes care of encryption for the secure tunnel and NAT activities on both ends.

It seems many "modern" VPN products provide an encrypted and secure tunnel to a server that gives the user anonymous internet access. That is 2/3 of the traditional functional block diagram. Secure office to office, office to home or cell phone to home transmission does not seem to be supported.

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: VPN setup problem

06/25/2021 2:59 PM

In that case, to avoid the crisscrossing /collision problem, why not just disable your cellphone VPN temporarily when outside and trying to access your home system?

Also using the MAC address filtering in your home WiFi router may help you achieve enhancing your home security from any unwanted intrusions..

Your cell phone VPN is only useful l if you are using WiFi calling feature while connected to a public WiFi.. Using regular the airtime should not present any problem in my view.

My thoughts are speculations, hope you don't mind they possibly are antiquated now, it's been 25 years since retired..

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: VPN setup problem

06/25/2021 3:40 PM

I am hopeful that I will be able to use the Linksys LRT214 VPN router and the OpenVPN app on my cell phone to access both the home security system and the internet without the need to turn anything on and off.

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#16

Re: VPN Setup Problem

06/25/2021 9:54 PM

Just a passing thought. With my home set up, all the cat5 cables from router, and the local router wifi......is on a private or home network. This is protected from my VPN internet connection, which is a public network.

Under network and sharing center, you can set the allowable sharing files between the two networks.

Of course this all depends upon your camera interactive software. Does it have webpage access?

My first avenue would be the camera software support. They have probably run in to this before.

One might need to acquire better camera software. An easy fast solution. To keep your security.

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