IPsec VPN on pfSense to replace OpenVPN Connect on IOS

My OpenVPN Connect app on my iPhone just quit working.  This is how I kicked its ass.

I have been a big fan of Virtual Private Networks for YEARS.  If you are on an untrusted connection such as Airport or Hotel or Coffee Shop the safe play is to connect to a VPN which encrypts your communications in a tunnel between your computer and your VPN server.  It wildly increases security.

So for years I have run an OpenVPN server on my hardwire firewall which runs an OS called pfSense.   If you have any inkling of security at all you should run a hardware firewall.  But that is a discussion for another day.  Anyway pfSense has an easy configuration for OpenVPN with a client export feature that is second to none.

However, the IOS OpenVPN app JUST QUIT WORKING.  I can connect to my VPN but traffic doesn’t seem to move.  I can’t do anything with it at all.  So I hit the OpenVPN IOS forum and sure enough……..this is a thing.  Since October 2018 as well!  To confirm this is the problem I can connect to my OpenVPN server JUST FINE with my iPads which have the older app.

I am at the mercy of OpenVPN to fix this.  However, I have pretty extensive home automation and I just poured my heart and soul into controlling such things as the garage door from afar and now I can’t.

Okay.  John is fed up.  I tried everything to make OpenVPN Connect app work and it just won’t.

I will just set up another VPN!

In pfSense there is the option of creating an IPsec VPN which is also very secure, and very fast.


Let’s do this.  In pfSense navigate to VPN > IPsec > Mobile Clients


Now fill out the Mobile Clients page like below and realize that if I didn’t mention it to leave it as the default setting.


IKE Extensions Enable IPsec Mobile Client Support = checked

User Authentication = Local Database

Group Authentication = none

Virtual Address Pool = checked

All others unchecked

Login Banner (optional) = Success

Now it should tell you to apply and to create a Phase 1.  Here are the Phase 1 settings under VPN > IPsec



Key Exchange version = IKEv1

Internet Protocol = IPv4

Interface = WAN

Authentication Method = Mutual PSK + Xauth

Negotiation Mode = Aggressive

My identifier = My IP address

Peer Identifier = User distinguished name
 (I just used my email here)

Pre-Shared Key = You make it up.  Make a long random string of characters. 

Encryption Algorithm = AES, 128 bits, SHA1, 2(1024 bit)

Lifetime  = (3600)

NAT Traversal = Auto 

Dead Peer Detection = checked 

Delay 10

Max Failures = 5

Now at the end of Phase 1 create a Phase 2


Mode = Tunnel IPv4

Local Network = Network

Address =

NAT/BINAT translation = None

Description IOS

Protocol = ESP

Encryption Algorithms = AES checked, set to Auto

Hash Algorithms = SHA1 checked

PFS key group = off

Lifetime 86400

On to the User Manager (System > User Manager)


Create a User that has the following effective Privileges.  I used my existing account which already had the WebCfg stuff and just added the VPN IPsec xauth Dialin

admins WebCfg – All pages Allow access to all pages (admin privilege)
User – VPN: IPsec xauth Dialin Indicates whether the user is allowed to dial in via IPsec xauth (Note: Does not allow shell access, but may allow the user to create SSH tunnels)

Now for the iPhone.  Navigate to VPN under general and add a VPN with the following settings:

Type = IPsec
Server  = IP address of server or FQDN
Account = User name 
Password = the account user above’s password
Group Name = Peer Identifier in Phase 1 ()
Secret = Pre Shared Key (PSK) in Phase 1 above (long string of random characters).

Try to connect!













And there we have it!  VPN ON!















F Yeah!

3 thoughts on “IPsec VPN on pfSense to replace OpenVPN Connect on IOS

  1. Devon Koudijs

    I followed, and it worked. However I did have to make two changes, which you may want to note for others.
    1) The network should be something different than your local (up one subnet)
    2) You need a firewall rule to allow traffic from ipsec to you lan

    Thanks for the write up

  2. David Reitz

    Thank you for the write up! Everything worked for me with the exception that I had to enable “Provide a DNS server list to clients” in the mobile client options, and then had to set two DNS servers. Anyone else experience that?


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