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OpenVPN 3 Linux client overview

Manual section:7
Manual group:OpenVPN 3 Linux


The OpenVPN 3 Linux client is a completely different VPN client compared to the more classic OpenVPN 2.x generation. Where OpenVPN 2.x is very simplistic in all kind of integration aspects, it carries several challenges due to the security enhancements on more modern Linux distributions.

The OpenVPN 3 Linux client is a complete rewrite and makes use of the facilities available on modern Linux distributions, which enables a safer execution model with lesser security traps and obstacles caused by security modules on the system. This allows unprivileged users to start VPN sessions out-of-the-box, which also takes care of the complete VPN configuration, including DNS setup. In addition, OpenVPN 3 Linux will run with as few privileges as possible in every aspect of the application layers.

To make this possible, OpenVPN 3 Linux is split up into several parts.


  • Configuration Manager (openvpn3-service-configmgr)

    This provides a D-Bus service which only takes care of managing VPN configuration profiles for all users on the system. It has a built in Access Control mechanism, which ensures only users granted access can access the information they should have.

  • Session Manager (openvpn3-service-sessionmgr)

    This provides a D-Bus service which only takes care of managing VPN sessions on the system. This has also its own set of Access Control mechanisms, which restricts access to VPN sessions might be running in parallel across users accounts.

  • Backend VPN Client (openvpn3-service-client)

    This is the core VPN client, where it will exist one such process per active VPN session.

  • Backend VPN Client Starter (openvpn3-service-backendstart)

    This is is a D-Bus service which starts automatically when a new Backend VPN Client process is needed. This is only used by the Session Manager.

  • Network Configuration (openvpn3-service-netcfg)

    This is the most privileged D-Bus service, and is only used by the Backend VPN Client processes. This is responsible for creating and manage virtual network interfaces, configure IP addresses, routes in addition to handling the DNS setup.

  • Logging (openvpn3-service-logger)

    This is responsible to receive log events from all the services above and ensure they get logged properly. Whether that is to a terminal, a log file or syslog, depends on the configuration of it. The default is to start this service using the syslog integration.

All of these services above are D-Bus services. They are all automatically started when needed, with the bare minimum of privileges they need.


To make use of these D-Bus services, the OpenVPN 3 Linux project ships with three different front-ends targeting users.

  • openvpn2

    This aims to be fairly similar to the more classic openvpn(8) command line, with the exception that it only processes client related options.

  • openvpn3

    This is the main utility for managing all the features available in OpenVPN 3 Linux and has a very different user interface than openvpn2(1) or openvpn(8). On systems with the bash-completion integration installed, almost every command, option and argument used by openvpn3 will get auto-completion help.

  • openvpn3-autoload

    This is not strictly a utility most users will use too often. But it can be used to automatically load VPN configuration profiles as well as starting them during boot or login.

In addition, a Python 3 module is also available making it possible to write your own OpenVPN 3 front-ends with little extra efforts. In fact, both openvpn2 and openvpn3-autoload are just Python 3 scripts.


D-Bus enforces usage of a policy which defines who can access which D-Bus service and which features, objects and properties provided by a D-Bus service. This is defined in /etc/dbus-1/systemd.d/net.openvpn.v3.conf on most systems. The default policy provided by OpenVPN 3 Linux allows all users on the system to load, start and manage their own OpenVPN configuration profiles and VPN sessions.

All D-Bus services are started on-demand and will also exit automatically if being idle for too long. How long differs quite a bit between each service. The auto-start configurations can usually be found in these files: /usr/share/dbus-1/system-services/net.openvpn.v3.*.service.


OpenVPN 3 is mostly compatible with most of the client options found in OpenVPN 2.x. But there are some important details where it differs.

  • No TAP support

    OpenVPN 3 does not support TAP interfaces, only TUN interfaces. This is by design, as all OS platforms which provides a VPN API (Apple iOS, macOS, Android, Microsoft Universal Windows Platform) does only support TUN interfaces.

  • --fragment is unsupported

    While the use-cases for this feature is acknowledged, it is not considered an easy feature to implement and it is being worked on alternatives which gives a reasonably equivalent user experience without using --fragment where this will be automatically configured. If it turns out an alternative approch is impossible, this feature might be implemented in the very end.

  • Currently no PKCS#11 support

    This is a bigger task which will be worked on later, but it will attempt to integrate better on the overall Linux platform instead of providing an OpenVPN specific implementation.

These are the most obvious features users will notice. This list might be extended as we receive more feedback.


openvpn2(1) openvpn3(1) openvpn3-autoload(8) openvpn3-service-backendstart(8) openvpn3-service-client(8) openvpn3-service-configmgr(8) openvpn3-service-logger(8) openvpn3-service-netcfg(8) openvpn3-service-sessionmgr(8)

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