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Reestablishing an IPsec tunnel between OPNsense and UniFi Security Gateway after your IP address changes

On Friday, September 4, 2020, Comcast Xfinity experienced an outage here at home from about 1 PM to about 9 PM. Whatever happened was so severe that even my mobile service lost all data networking as well, meaning, I was only able to call and text using regular SMS. My current, unsubstantiated theory is that somebody, somewhere managed to cut a fiber line that serviced both and managed to knock out everything. The outage appeared to be localized around where I live as others in the city did not have an interruption but lasted long enough that my normally stable public IP address changed when service was restored. This post covers reestablishing my IPsec tunnel between my colocated server and my home network and really exists, so I have an easy to follow guide™ in connecting the tunnel after my public IP address changed.

In a yet-to-be-written post detailing my current local and hosted setup, this post covers the steps I took to get the IPsec tunnel back up and working. The examples below are removing an old IP address of and replacing it with the new IP address of

Granting access to VMWare ESXi

The ESXi server is set up to allow SSH access with public key authentication only, so it does not have an IP allow list configured. This is quite fortuitous as it gives me a steppingstone to get back in without opening a support ticket with my hosting service. The main step here was to SSH in to the ESXi host, remove the old IP address and add the new IP address to grant access to the web services. The ESXi host is running 6.7, so the steps may be different on ESXi 5 or 7.

[home]% ssh
# authenticate via public key

[esxi]% esxcli network firewall ruleset allowedip list --ruleset-id=vSphereClient
Ruleset        Allowed IP Addresses
-------------  --------------------

[esxi]% esxcli network firewall ruleset allowedip remove --ruleset-id=vSphereClient --ip-address=
[esxi]% esxcli network firewall ruleset allowedip add --ruleset-id=vSphereClient --ip-address=

# no output is produced with the add/remove commands, so verify the
# change took place
[esxi]% esxcli network firewall ruleset allowedip list --ruleset-id=vSphereClient
Ruleset        Allowed IP Addresses
-------------  --------------------

With that, you can access the ESXi web interface.

Granting access to the OPNsense router

Another appliance in my setup needing an update to the IP allow list is my OPNsense router, so I can access the configuration interface and update the IPsec tunnel settings. This requires access to the ESXi web interface to get console access to OPNsense. Once in the shell, adding the public IP address to the allowed_config PF table is quite straightforward.

[opnsense]% pfctl -t allowed_config -T add

Do not bother removing the old IP address as any change in OPNsense will replace any changes here, so immediately go and update the rule alias and swap out the IP addresses.

Firewall > Aliases > Edit allowed_config entry

Edit the alias and remove the old address and add the address and apply the changes. Clear the console and log out. You are done with ESXi at this point.


Alternatively, if you do not have a pre-defined alias like I do, you can temporarily disable PF entirely to jump in and grant access. Obviously, this would allow anyone access to the configuration interface, but it would only be exposed for a brief time until you apply the rule update. Naturally, this causes a disruption in any services you are hosting behind the firewall.

Updating configured WAN IP on the UniFi Security Gateway

Due to an incomplete configuration (more on that on the future IPsec setup post) I decided updating the UniFi Security Gateway (USG) would be next on the list since the USG is unable to successfully connect the IPsec tunnel when initiated from the USG to the OPNsense router.

I loaded up the local UniFi Network Controller interface, jumped into the settings section, and updated the "Local WAN IP" with the new public IP address.

Settings > VPN > VPN Connections > Remote Network

Screenshot of the UniFi Network Controller remote network VPN connection settings with the cursor focused in the Local WAN IP input field with an updated IP address of

Replace the old WAN IP Address field with the new one and click "Done" at the bottom of the page. While you are working on the other steps, the USG will provision the changes and be ready for incoming IPsec tunnels.

Changing the Remote Gateway address in OPNsense IPsec Tunnel Settings

The last piece of the IPsec tunnel puzzle is to update the Remote Gateway IP address configured in the OPNsense IPsec tunnel settings. You will need to edit the Phase 1 entry for the IPsec configuration you are updating.

VPN > IPsec > Tunnel Settings > Edit the Phase 1 rule entry

Screenshot of the OPNsense VPN IPsec Phase 1 settings configuration page with the cursor focused in the "Remote Gateway" input field with an updated IP address of

Update the "Remote Gateway" field with your new public IP address, click "Save" at the bottom of the page, and then click "Apply changes" in the upper right of the next page in the notification banner.

Probably Unnecessary Steps

At this point, you are pretty much good to go. With my current configuration, the USG cannot initiate the connection to OPNsense (for some reason, it attempts to use a certificate to authenticate when it should be using a Pre-Shared Key) so I initiate the connection from OPNsense by navigating to VPN > IPsec > Status Overview and clicking the play icon on the IPsec tunnel to restart the connection. Now, since everything is reconfigured correctly it should work.

In my case, the tunnel was set up, but no traffic would route through the tunnel. I could see IPsec packets passing by in the live firewall logs, but no responses were coming back. I double checked other areas to ensure the public IP address did not appear in other potential configuration areas: the configured gateway, and static routes. Everything seemed fine. Since the USG has issues connecting, I tried forcing a provision of the configuration profile, and when that did not fix the issue, I restarted the USG. Much to my surprise, restarting the USG did not fix the issue either.

I double checked the strongSwan configuration on both sides with the --list-conns and --list-sas and confirmed they had identical settings (this was a sticking point that will most likely be detailed in the future post) and monitored the connection setup with --log, everything appeared to be configured correctly and the two endpoints were talking and able to ping the endpoint address on the other side of the tunnel. Running out of options and about to pull my hair out in frustration, I tried the final thing I could think of: I restarted OPNsense.

It worked and my IPsec tunnel is back up and operational! My only guess is that there was some residual routing or other configuration left over in OPNsense that even restarting the strongSwan service did not fix. Maybe there was a route left over that could not update? I have no idea. Either way, I hope you will find this guide helpful, and that my future self will check back here the next time my house's public IP address changes.