Saturday, May 21, 2011

Use a school (Cisco) VPN without the Cisco client

This may seem obvious for some, but for others, like myself, who really don't use VPNs that much, this might help. I know for my school, at least, they provide the Cisco client, but really, I would much more like the ability to integrate the VPN into the system more, especially in Linux. So here we go.

1. Install whatever software you need.
I can't remember if I ever got it working on Windows, but as for Linux, in order to use a Cisco VPN, you need vpnc, and to integrate into KDE (I believe network-manager-vpnc) or probably some other little package for GNOME integration. You might have to reboot after installing them.

2. Snag the Cisco client your school provides.
My school actually provides a TAR which is wonderful but if you aren't so lucky, you might need to download the installer and install it on a Windows PC (or use Universal Extractor, though I haven't tried that so no promises). So download that, find the PCF file that you need. (There should be a PCF file for every different connection that the school offers. For me, there was one for the main campus and one for the medical campus.) Inside this file is all the information you need, so go ahead and open it.

3. Decrypt the group password.
I think it's just a VPNC thing, but my school has a user password and a group password, the latter of which is given to you, encrypted. So use this website by The Campus Geeks to easily and quickly decrypt the group password. Thanks so much, Geeks of the Campus!

3. Add a new VPNC connection.
It's difficult to explain this for for Windows, GNOME, KDE and OS X....all I know for KDE is that it's in Network Management settings under the VPN tab. If VPNC doesn't show up as an option, you're probably missing a package. But if you can add one, it's a simple matter of copy-pasting all the info in. So here's what's what, for KDE anyway: (PCF on left, KDE on right)
  • Host = Gateway
  • GroupName = Group name
  • env_GroupPwd = Group Password (decrypt it first, skimmer!)
 Also make sure you fill in User Password and Username, which you should know, silly!

That should do it! It works for me anyway. The only problem is I don't exactly know how to access my shared network drive yet. I think that on Windows, it's as easy as browsing the network after connecting to the VPN, but for me, no network drives are available. Maybe it's because I'm not logged in with my school username and password on a Windows machine, but meh


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