Love it or hate it, many enterprise users and companies use Cisco VPN devices to manage remote logins for their users. Some Cisco VPN clients are good, and some are plagued with issues. Thankfully, with Linux, vpnc is available to manage the client connection to a Cisco VPN, and it works fairly well. Using Network Manager to manage the configuration and connection to a Cisco VPN takes almost all of the sting out of having to use it over other solutions.
While this tip mentions Fedora specifically, it should work similarly in other distributions that also use Network Manager. To begin, you must have the Network Manager vpnc plugin. On Fedora, this means installing theNetworkManager-vpnc package (it should be similarly named in Ubuntu and others, perhaps with all lower-case letters). Installing this package with yum (or apt, etc.) should pull in all required dependencies, including vpnc itself.
Once the plugin is installed, go to the top GNOME panel and look for the Network Manager applet. Click it and highlight VPN Connections in the pulldown menu. Move over and click on Configure VPN.
To add a new VPN connection, click the Add button, which will take you through a configuration wizard. Select the Cisco Compatible VPN (vpnc) option and then click Create. You can now fill in the entries for your particular VPN connection.
You will need to provide the VPN gateway address, group name, and group password. Select NAT-T for the traversal method and ensure that the encryption method is set to Secure. These few bits of information are all that is required to set up the connection. Click Apply and exit the configuration screen.
Now you can click on the Network Manager applet again and go down to VPN Connections and select the VPN that you just created. Click the name of the connection and you should be prompted for a password shortly. Once you provide it, the VPN connection will be established, and the Network Manager icon will change to have a little golden lock on it, indicating the VPN session is active.
If you happen to be using OpenVPN instead, Network Manager can handle that as well. Install the Network Manager plugin for OpenVPN (NetworkManager-openvpn on Fedora), and go about configuring it in the same fashion.
Get the PDF version of this tip here.
Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.