Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client on 64-Bit Ubuntu 9.10

I've been using vpnc as my VPN client on Ubuntu for quite some time now, but vpnc allows for split tunneling (meaning I'm on the VPN but I can still access my local network), and, well, let's just say some network security folks don't like that. ;-) I looked into disabling split tunneling on vpnc and I didn't find any conclusive answers, so it was time to look for an alternative VPN client for Cisco VPNs.

Cisco AnyConnect is a VPN client that can (in theory) be installed from a web browser on any operating system, provided your VPN server is configured to support it. If you want to check, hit your VPN server in a browser. If you see a login screen, log in with your normal VPN credentials and you should be able to install AnyConnect from there.

All isn't rosy with this picture on Linux, however. The browser-based install doesn't work (or didn't for me at least), and while you can download a Linux version of the installer, the installer runs fine but the client throws some errors when you attempt to connect to your VPN. Specifically in my case it was throwing a "no valid certificates" error or something along those lines. As usual there's a relatively simple solution, but it took some digging.

AnyConnect relies on libraries that are distributed with Firefox, but AnyConnect expects these libraries to be located under /usr/local/firefox. On Ubuntu they're located elsewhere so AnyConnect chokes when it's trying to connect.

Once you have AnyConnect installed, go through the following steps to get things working. Also make sure the daemon is running; check using ps -ef | grep vpn and if it isn't running, do sudo /etc/init.d/vpnagentd_init start to fire that up.

  1. Download Firefox from Yes, I know, you already have it installed, but download a fresh copy anyway. Although you may be able to leverage your existing copy, I went this route just to be sure nothing interfered with the copy I use all day every day. I read some things that seemed to indicate you needed to get the 32-bit version if you're on a 64-bit OS, but that wasn't the case for me. I suppose if you have a 32-bit version of AnyConnect you'd want to get the 32-bit version of Firefox.

  2. Untar Firefox into /usr/local/firefox

  3. Create symlinks in /opt/cisco/vpn/lib to the following files, all of which are located in /usr/local/firefox:
    (Thanks to casevh in this thread for the list of libraries)

  4. Launch AnyConnect (/opt/cisco/vpn/bin/vpnui). From what I read you should not be launching AnyConnect as root or by using sudo.

  5. After the client launches, enter the host to which you want to connect.

  6. Accept the certificate provided by the server.

  7. Enter your user name and password as you normally do.

That's it--you should be in. Note that if you're used to using a profile file with a different VPN client, AnyConnect (at least based on my 1/2 day of experience) seems to work differently, so a user name and password should be all you need. If you're using a SecurID token of course you'll use that as your password.

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