VPN server with IPsec/L2TP, Cisco IPsec and IKEv2
16.5 MB
9 days ago
Last update
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IPsec VPN Server on Docker

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Docker image to run an IPsec VPN server, with IPsec/L2TP, Cisco IPsec and IKEv2.

Based on Alpine 3.15 or Debian 11 with Libreswan (IPsec VPN software) and xl2tpd (L2TP daemon).

» See also: IPsec VPN Server on Ubuntu, Debian and CentOS

Read this in other languages: English, 简体中文.

Table of Contents

Quick start

Use this command to set up an IPsec VPN server on Docker:

docker run \
    --name ipsec-vpn-server \
    --restart=always \
    -v ikev2-vpn-data:/etc/ipsec.d \
    -v /lib/modules:/lib/modules:ro \
    -p 500:500/udp \
    -p 4500:4500/udp \
    -d --privileged \

Your VPN login details will be randomly generated. See Retrieve VPN login details.

To learn more about how to use this image, read the sections below.

Install Docker

First, install Docker on your Linux server. You may also use Podman to run this image, after creating an alias for docker.

Advanced users can use this image on macOS with Docker for Mac. Before using IPsec/L2TP mode, you may need to restart the Docker container once with docker restart ipsec-vpn-server. This image does not support Docker for Windows.


Get the trusted build from the Docker Hub registry:

docker pull hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server

Alternatively, you may download from Quay.io:

docker pull quay.io/hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server
docker image tag quay.io/hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server

Supported platforms: linux/amd64, linux/arm64 and linux/arm/v7.

Advanced users can build from source code on GitHub.

Image comparison

Two pre-built images are available. The default Alpine-based image is only ~16MB.

Image namehwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-serverhwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server:debian
Compressed size~ 16 MB~ 61 MB
Base imageAlpine Linux 3.15Debian Linux 11
Platformsamd64, arm64, arm/v7amd64, arm64, arm/v7
Libreswan version4.64.6
Cisco IPsec

Note: To use the Debian-based image, replace every hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server with hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server:debian in this README.

How to use this image

Environment variables

Note: All the variables to this image are optional, which means you don't have to type in any variable, and you can have an IPsec VPN server out of the box! To do that, create an empty env file using touch vpn.env, and skip to the next section.

This Docker image uses the following variables, that can be declared in an env file (see example):


This will create a user account for VPN login, which can be used by your multiple devices*. The IPsec PSK (pre-shared key) is specified by the VPN_IPSEC_PSK environment variable. The VPN username is defined in VPN_USER, and VPN password is specified by VPN_PASSWORD.

Additional VPN users are supported, and can be optionally declared in your env file like this. Usernames and passwords must be separated by spaces, and usernames cannot contain duplicates. All VPN users will share the same IPsec PSK.

VPN_ADDL_USERS=additional_username_1 additional_username_2
VPN_ADDL_PASSWORDS=additional_password_1 additional_password_2

Note: In your env file, DO NOT put "" or '' around values, or add space around =. DO NOT use these special characters within values: \ " '. A secure IPsec PSK should consist of at least 20 random characters.

Advanced users can optionally specify a DNS name for the IKEv2 server address. The DNS name must be a fully qualified domain name (FQDN). Example:


You may specify a name for the first IKEv2 client. Use one word only, no special characters except - and _. The default is vpnclient if not specified.


By default, clients are set to use Google Public DNS when the VPN is active. You may specify custom DNS server(s) for all VPN modes. Example:


By default, no password is required when importing IKEv2 client configuration. You can choose to protect client config files using a random password.


Note: The variables above have no effect if IKEv2 is already set up in the Docker container.

Start the IPsec VPN server

Create a new Docker container from this image (replace ./vpn.env with your own env file):

docker run \
    --name ipsec-vpn-server \
    --env-file ./vpn.env \
    --restart=always \
    -v ikev2-vpn-data:/etc/ipsec.d \
    -v /lib/modules:/lib/modules:ro \
    -p 500:500/udp \
    -p 4500:4500/udp \
    -d --privileged \

In this command, we use the -v option of docker run to create a new Docker volume named ikev2-vpn-data, and mount it into /etc/ipsec.d in the container. IKEv2 related data such as certificates and keys will persist in the volume, and later when you need to re-create the Docker container, just specify the same volume again.

It is recommended to enable IKEv2 when using this image. However, if you prefer not to enable IKEv2 and use only the IPsec/L2TP and IPsec/XAuth ("Cisco IPsec") modes to connect to the VPN, remove the first -v option from the docker run command above.

Note: Advanced users can also run without privileged mode.

Retrieve VPN login details

If you did not specify an env file in the docker run command above, VPN_USER will default to vpnuser and both VPN_IPSEC_PSK and VPN_PASSWORD will be randomly generated. To retrieve them, view the container logs:

docker logs ipsec-vpn-server

Search for these lines in the output:

Connect to your new VPN with these details:

Server IP: your_vpn_server_ip
IPsec PSK: your_ipsec_pre_shared_key
Username: your_vpn_username
Password: your_vpn_password

The output will also include details for IKEv2 mode, if enabled. To start using IKEv2, see Configure and use IKEv2 VPN.

(Optional) Backup the generated VPN login details (if any) to the current directory:

docker cp ipsec-vpn-server:/etc/ipsec.d/vpn-gen.env ./

Next steps

Get your computer or device to use the VPN. Please refer to:

Configure and use IKEv2 VPN

Configure IPsec/L2TP VPN Clients

Configure IPsec/XAuth ("Cisco IPsec") VPN Clients

If you get an error when trying to connect, see Troubleshooting.

Enjoy your very own VPN!

Important notes

Read this in other languages: English, 简体中文.

Windows users: For IPsec/L2TP mode, a one-time registry change is required if the VPN server or client is behind NAT (e.g. home router).

The same VPN account can be used by your multiple devices. However, due to an IPsec/L2TP limitation, if you wish to connect multiple devices from behind the same NAT (e.g. home router), you must use IKEv2 or IPsec/XAuth mode.

If you wish to add, edit or remove VPN user accounts, first update your env file, then you must remove and re-create the Docker container using instructions from the next section. Advanced users can bind mount the env file.

For servers with an external firewall (e.g. EC2/GCE), open UDP ports 500 and 4500 for the VPN. Aliyun users, see #433.

Clients are set to use Google Public DNS when the VPN is active. If another DNS provider is preferred, read this section.

Update Docker image

To update the Docker image and container, first download the latest version:

docker pull hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server

If the Docker image is already up to date, you should see:

Status: Image is up to date for hwdsl2/ipsec-vpn-server:latest

Otherwise, it will download the latest version. To update your Docker container, first write down all your VPN login details. Then remove the Docker container with docker rm -f ipsec-vpn-server. Finally, re-create it using instructions from How to use this image.

Configure and use IKEv2 VPN

See Configure and use IKEv2 VPN.

Advanced usage

See Advanced usage.

Technical details

There are two services running: Libreswan (pluto) for the IPsec VPN, and xl2tpd for L2TP support.

The default IPsec configuration supports:

  • IPsec/L2TP with PSK
  • IKEv1 with PSK and XAuth ("Cisco IPsec")
  • IKEv2

The ports that are exposed for this container to work are:

  • 4500/udp and 500/udp for IPsec


See License.