Wireless FOB with MikroTik and Wireguard
... or how to watch IPTV through DIY VPN for fun
Posted on 2022-10-09
I moved to Munich almost two years ago, and one of the things that made the transition easier was being able to watch Serbian TV that I used to watch back in Belgrade. However, my IPTV provider only provides a handful of channels when watching from abroad.
I used OpenVPN before to circumvent this restriction, but I’ve been itching to give Wireguard a try for quite some time now. Wireguard is a new VPN protocol that is supposed to be more lightweight, secure and easier to setup than other tunnels.
It had occurred to me that instead of setting up VPN tunnel on my computer, I could set up a FOB1 wireless network, which would act as extension of my home network back in Belgrade. All devices connected to this FOB network would be able to see all devices on my home network. In addition, “teh Internetz” traffic would be routed through my home network, thus using Serbian public IP address.
Folks that know me also know that I’m a big fan of MikroTik. I use their gear for my home networking needs. Coincidentally, Wireguard support was added to RouterOS 7 recently. At my apartment in Belgrade, I have a hAP ac, and here, with me in Munich, I have a hAP lite, though the following should work with any two Routerboards that support RouterOS 7. hAP lite MSRP is ~$25, and used ones go as low as $10.
In the image above, I want to route all traffic going out of FOB network
192.168.86.0/24) through MikroTik router in BEG. This will also allow
bidirectional traffic between hosts in FOB and Home network.
Step One: Wireguard Tunnel Setup
Wireguard is pretty easy to set up: for both sides, one needs to pick a port for Wireguard interface to listen on, generate private/public key pair, assign Wireguard addresses, and have a public IP for one peer. Oh, and incoming Wireguard UDP traffic (yes, UDP2) needs to be NAT-ed through the ISP modem to MikroTiks on both sides.
I picked the same port, for simplicity. RouterOS automatically generates a key
pair when Wireguard interface is created. And, as shown in diagram above, I
10.1.200.1 for BEG, and
10.1.200.2 for MUC as Wireguard IP
addresses. I get down to work:
# On BEG MikroTik # Set up wireguard interface. This will also generate private/public keypair. interface wireguard /add listen-port=13231 mtu=1420 name=wireguard1 # Assign address to the router on the new interface. ip address /add address=10.1.200.1/24 comment="Wireguard" interface=wireguard1 \ network=10.1.200.0 # Allow incoming UDP traffic on listen port. ether1-gateway is connected to # BEG ISP modem (192.168.1.1). ip firewall filter /add action=accept chain=input comment="Wireguard" dst-port=13231 \ in-interface=ether1-gateway protocol=udp # Set up MUC peer. interface wireguard peers /add allowed-address=10.1.200.2/32 comment="FOB" \ endpoint-port=13231 interface=wireguard1 public-key=\ "If7ysNHrNZ2PmoVW1ckVL1FQApOBPORTAWgAq82zXSA="
And on the other side:
# On MUC MikroTik # Set up Wireguard interface. This will also generate private/public keypair. interface wireguard /add listen-port=13231 mtu=1420 name=wireguard1 # Assign address to the router on the new interface. ip address /add address=10.1.200.2/24 comment="Wireguard" interface=wireguard1 \ network=10.1.200.0 # Allow incoming UDP traffic on listen port. ether1-gateway is connected to # MUC ISP modem (192.168.2.1). ip firewall filter /add action=accept chain=input comment="Wireguard" dst-port=13231 \ in-interface=ether1-gateway protocol=udp # Set up BEG peer. interface wireguard peers /add allowed-address=0.0.0.0/0 comment="Home" \ endpoint-address=<domain> endpoint-port=13231 interface=wireguard1 public-key=\ "If7ysNHrNZ2PmoVW1ckVL1FQApOBPORTAWgAq82zXSA="
One peculiarity regarding Wireguard is that it has no concept of client and server. Every Wireguard tunnel is a peer-to-peer network. Wireguard configuration contains interface configuration, and peer configuration stanza for each peer. Hence similar configuration on two sides, using reciprocal values for public keys, and endpoint and listen ports. There are only two notable differences between MUC and BEG:
The public IP of BEG is set as an
endpoint-addresson the MUC side, so that MUC can initiate the connection. Empty endpoint address means that peer is allowed to have any public address. However, if endpoint addresses on both sides were empty, neither side would be able to “dial in” and initiate the connection.
<domain>above refers to dynamic IP domain that is updated with the public IP of the BEG ISP modem every hour or so by a script. This will prove important couple of paragraphs below.
0.0.0.0/0is used as the
allowed-addresson the MUC side. Regardless of MikroTik routing configuration, only traffic that is destined to
allowed-addresscan be routed through the tunnel. BEG side can only send traffic to
10.1.200.2through the tunnel.
A careful reader might have noticed that Wireguard interface MTU is set to 1420 bytes, whereas Ethernet MTU3 is 1500 bytes. The difference comes from Wireguard packet header, which is 60 bytes for IPv4, or 80 for IPv6. See this email for more details.
With Wireguard configured on both routers, I was able to ping each side, as
wireguard1 were automatically added during
# On MUC MikroTik ping count=3 10.1.200.1 /# On BEG MikroTik ping count=3 10.1.200.2/
Step Two: Routing the Traffic
Now I can tell MUC MikroTik to route all traffic through the tunnel, meaning
that default route should be changed to route
But what if Wireguard connection fails, for whatever reason? With default route unresponsive, no Internet traffic would be able to go through. And this means Wireguard tunnel could never be re-established after that point.
There are a couple of options here: I could monitor Wireguard tunnel health, and route all traffic through the tunnel while healthy. When it goes down, I could revert the default route to go through MUC ISP modem. But this sounds too complex, error prone, and would require some scripting.
Another way to go about this is to use a different routing table. I can set up a separate routing table, with its own default route that routes traffic through the tunnel, for all FOB network hosts that connect to MUC MikroTik. The router itself would use the default routing table. Should the tunnel fail, clients on FOB network wouldn’t be able to access the Internet, but the router itself would. The router could self-heal by re-establishing the tunnel once possible. This is much simpler than the option above:
# On MUC MikroTik # Create a new routing table. routing table /add comment="For use by local clients" disabled=no fib name=wireguard # Set up default route for the new routing table that routes all traffic through # the tunnel. ip route /add dst-address=0.0.0.0/0 gateway=wireguard1 routing-table=wireguard # Add a routing rule that makes all hosts on FOB network use the new routing # table. Interface bridge bridges together ethernet and wireless interfaces # (this is the default config). routing rule /add action=lookup-only-in-table \ comment="Local clients should use (only) Wireguard routing table" \ disabled=no interface=bridge src-address=192.168.86.0/24 table=wireguard
Now whenever I connect to MUC MikroTik, either through WiFi or Ethernet, and
check my public IP address with
curl http://myip.dnsomatic.com, I get public
IP from BEG! Great success!
Step Three: DNS
There are a few rough edges left to smooth out. First, MUC MikroTik is still
configured to use
192.168.2.1 (MUC ISP modem) as DNS server. The modem
obtains its DNS settings via DHCP, and will most likely be configured to use
ISP nameservers, which are located in Germany. There are two reasons why
this is not optimal for me:
It’s well known that some authoritative DNS nameservers use IP address of recursive resolvers, along with client subnet, to load balance traffic such that frontends geographically closest to the user are preferred. I might get load-balanced to use servers closer to Germany, rather than servers closer to Serbia, even though packets will flow through BEG MikroTik.
I have a Pi-hole set up in my Home network, and it does a marvellous job at blocking annoying ads. I’d like to make use of this in FOB network as well.
Because of this, I want to use
192.168.88.1 (BEG MikroTik) as DNS server when
resolving domains in FOB network:
# On MUC MikroTik ip dns /set allow-remote-requests=yes servers=192.168.88.1
And this is where things stopped working. I was not able to resolve domains at all. Hmmm, let’s try pinging the resolver:
# On MUC MikroTik ping count=3 192.168.88.1 / SEQ HOST SIZE TTL TIME STATUS 0 <redacted> 56 254 11ms344us net unreachable 1 <redacted> 56 254 9ms832us net unreachable 2 <redacted> 56 254 10ms237us net unreachable sent=3 received=0 packet-loss=100%
Well, that sucks. MUC MikroTik cannot get through BEG MikroTik by using its Home network IP. No wonder DNS queries don’t work. Ah, but this is because the router uses the default routing table which routes all traffic through MUC ISP modem!
All right, let’s add a default route table entry that will route traffic to Home network through the tunnel:
# On MUC MikroTik ip route /add disabled=no dst-address=192.168.88.0/24 gateway=wireguard1 \ routing-table=main ping count=3 192.168.88.1 / SEQ HOST SIZE TTL TIME STATUS 0 192.168.88.1 56 64 45ms398us 1 192.168.88.1 56 64 40ms957us 2 192.168.88.1 56 64 66ms114us sent=3 received=3 packet-loss=0% min-rtt=40ms957us avg-rtt=50ms823us...
Hey, it worked! And DNS queries now work as well.
However, there is a more subtle issue at play here: I’m changing router DNS
server configuration. By default, this setting also affects hosts in FOB
network: DHCP server on MUC MikroTik will set
192.168.86.1 (MUC MikroTik) as
DNS server when it suggests dynamic IP configuration to hosts. MikroTik acts
as a recursive resolver, with its own DNS cache, and will ultimately forward
DNS requests from FOB hosts to whatever its DNS server is.
While I do want hosts on FOB network to use
192.168.88.1 (BEG MikroTik) as
DNS server, I don’t want MUC MikroTik to do that. Why? We go back to the
issue of tunnel going down: if the tunnel is down, and the resolver is reached
through the tunnel, DNS queries will stop working. And since I use a domain
endpoint-address in Wireguard peer config, that domain name will need
to get resolved in order to get the tunnel back online. See the problem? And
yes, I learned this the hard way.
New objective – hosts on FOB network use
192.168.88.1 (BEG MikroTik) as
DNS, the router itself uses
192.168.2.1 (MUC ISP modem) as DNS:
# On MUC MikroTik # Revert back to using MUC ISP modem as DNS server for the router. ip dns /set allow-remote-requests=yes servers=192.168.2.1 ip dhcp-server print / Columns: ADDRESS, GATEWAY, DNS-SERVER# ADDRESS GATEWAY DNS-SERVER 0 192.168.86.0/24 192.168.86.1 192.168.86.1 # Change FOB DHCP network config to use BEG MikroTik as resolver. ip dhcp-server network /set 0 dns-server=192.168.88.1
Noice! Having DNS server specified in DHCP server settings is also aligned with having a custom routing table for FOB hosts, as it will only pertain to FOB hosts, and not the router itself.
Step Four: MTU and MSS
The last part of this saga is about a weird issue I encountered after couple of days of happily using this setup. I noticed that some sites simply did not load. For example, Reddit and Stack Overflow appeared to be plain broken. Browsers would display a loading spinner, and request would eventually timeout.
curl -sv https://redit.com showed the following:
* Trying 22.214.171.124:443... * Connected to reddit.com (126.96.36.199) port 443 (#0) * ALPN, offering h2 * ALPN, offering http/1.1 * successfully set certificate verify locations: * CAfile: /etc/ssl/cert.pem * CApath: none * (304) (OUT), TLS handshake, Client hello (1):} [315 bytes data]
And it would just hang there, waiting to complete TLS handshake. Server Hello message would never come.
This thread was a Google search away, and it suggested to add the following mangle rule:
# On MUC MikroTik ip firewall mangle /add action=change-mss chain=forward \ comment="Reduce outgoing MSS to 1420 (MTU) - 40" disabled=no new-mss=1380 \ out-interface=wireguard1 protocol=tcp tcp-flags=syn tcp-mss=1381-65535
Sure enough, this fixed the issue and both Reddit and Stack Overflow were now loading just fine.
But why? What was the issue, and what is MSS, anyway?
MSS4 stands for maximum segment size, and is a property that applies at TCP, or transport layer (OSI L4). MSS denotes maximum TCP payload size. Packets with payloads that go over MSS are dropped.
MSS is announced independently by both sides during TCP 3-way handshake. It is specified in both SYN and SYN-ACK packets. Each side of TCP connection should honor MSS declared by the other endpoint, by fragmenting application data into multiple TCP packets so that they fit within MSS. When done correctly, it also avoids further fragmentation at the IP layer (OSI L3) due to MTU, which is, as we can see, intimately related to MSS.
The image above5 shows how MSS and MTU are related. In general, MSS should be equal to MTU minus TCP header (20 bytes) minus IP header (20 bytes). For common Ethernet MTU of 1500 bytes, MSS should be 1460 bytes. But Wireguard interface has a smaller MTU – just 1420 bytes, which corresponds to MSS of 1380 bytes. Could it be that some TCP packets were being dropped by the router because MSS was being exceeded? This would explain TLS handshake timeouts I was seeing.
To test my hypothesis, I fired up Wireshark on my laptop, connected via WiFi to MUC MikroTik. Then I set up packet sniffer on BEG MikroTik to capture packets at the same time. Next, I ran the curl command again, captured the packets, and compared the results. Here’s a screenshot of what Wireguard captured:
My laptop is on FOB network with IP of
192.168.86.254. I can see that the
first packet from my laptop to Reddit server is your standard TCP SYN packet
that declares MSS of 1460 bytes. Then I see a SYN ACK packet from Reddit
server to my laptop that declares the same MSS of 1460 bytes. This is followed
by ACK from my laptop, a Client Hello TLS handshake initiation from my laptop,
and ACK from Reddit server letting me know that it has received the Client
And now for the weird thing – the next packet received by my laptop is marked as TCP continuation data, meaning that its TCP payload represents a chunk of data that is to be appended to previously received TCP payload. That I never received.
Now let’s look at what BEG MikroTik captured – note that
192.168.1.2 is BEG
MikroTik address on
ether1-gateway interface. Also note that
is equal to Wireguard packet size minus 14 bytes for Ethernet header:
# On BEG MikroTik tool sniffer packet /print proplist=interface,direction,tcp-flags,ip-packet-size,src-address # INTERFACE DIRECTION TCP-FLAGS IP-PACKET-SIZE SRC-ADDRESS DST-ADDRESS 0 wireguard1 rx syn 64 192.168.86.254:54300 188.8.131.52:443 (https) 1 ether1-gateway tx syn 64 192.168.1.2:54300 184.108.40.206:443 (https) 2 ether1-gateway rx syn 60 220.127.116.11:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 ack 3 wireguard1 tx syn 60 18.104.22.168:443 (https) 192.168.86.254:54300 ack 4 wireguard1 rx ack 52 192.168.86.254:54300 22.214.171.124:443 (https) 5 ether1-gateway tx ack 52 192.168.1.2:54300 126.96.36.199:443 (https) 6 wireguard1 rx psh 372 192.168.86.254:54300 188.8.131.52:443 (https) ack 7 ether1-gateway tx psh 372 192.168.1.2:54300 184.108.40.206:443 (https) ack 8 ether1-gateway rx ack 52 220.127.116.11:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 9 wireguard1 tx ack 52 18.104.22.168:443 (https) 192.168.86.254:54300# Note that packets 10 and 11 do not get transmitted to wireguard1 interface. 10 ether1-gateway rx ack 1500 22.214.171.124:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 11 ether1-gateway rx psh 1500 126.96.36.199:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 ack 12 ether1-gateway rx psh 675 188.8.131.52:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 ack# Packet 13 corresponds to Continuation Data packet on my laptop. 13 wireguard1 tx psh 675 184.108.40.206:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 ack# Packet 14 is duplicate ACK (same as #5) that my laptop sends to Reddit server. 14 wireguard1 rx ack 64 192.168.86.254:54300 220.127.116.11:443 (https) 15 ether1-gateway tx ack 64 192.168.1.2:54300 18.104.22.168:443 (https) 16 ether1-gateway rx ack 1500 22.214.171.124:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 17 ether1-gateway rx ack 1500 126.96.36.199:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 18 ether1-gateway rx ack 1500 188.8.131.52:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 19 ether1-gateway rx ack 1500 184.108.40.206:443 (https) 192.168.1.2:54300 20 wireguard1 rx rst 40 192.168.86.254:54300 220.127.116.11:443 (https) ack 21 ether1-gateway tx rst 40 192.168.1.2:54300 18.104.22.168:443 (https) ack
Because MikroTik BEG is a router (duh), it will masquerade all packets that are destined to go through the default route: their source address is replaced with router’s source address, and when response packets are received, their destination address is replaced with the original source address, and they are forwarded further on. In the excerpt above:
every packet received on
192.168.86.254should be transmitted on
ether1-gateway, with source address changed to
every packet received on
ether1-gatewayinterface from Reddit server should be transmitted on
wireguard1interface, with destination address changed to
This holds true for first three SYN, SYN-ACK and ACK packets (packets #0 to #5), Client Hello packet (packets #6 and #7), and ACK from Reddit server (packets #8 and #9). Their IP packet sizes match what we see in Wireguard, when we add 14 bytes for Ethernet header.
But I can see that packet #10 received from Reddit server is not forwarded
wireguard1. If I look closely at IP packet size, I see that it
is 1500 bytes, which is over Wireguard interface MTU. On the other hand, IP
packet size of 1500 does mean that advertised MSS (by my laptop) of 1460 is
being respected. The same happens to packet #11. Since packet #12 has IP packet
size less than Wireguard MTU, it is transmitted to
corresponds to the continuation data packet that I captured on my laptop. I can
only assume packets #10 through #12 are TCP-segmented packets containing Server
This is enough evidence for me – because client MSS is advertised as 1460, some servers may choose to send packets that are bigger than Wireguard MTU, and will be dropped as result. Now, the mangle rule above changes MSS in outgoing SYN packets to 1380 bytes, meaning that the biggest IP packet size can be 1420, which is equal to Wireguard MTU. As a result, these packets will not be dropped.
Why does router drop packets that are bigger than Wireguard MTU instead of breaking them down into MTU-sized fragments? I assume this is because DF (Don’t Fragment) flag is set in IP header in all packets I inspected.
While reading about this topic, I found out about this nifty algorithm called Path MTU Discovery (PMTUD). I wonder why it did not work here? Had this worked out, Reddit server would have figured out that lowest MTU on packet path to my laptop was 1420, thus adjusting TCP packet size. The alternative to PMTUD is to do MSS clamping, which appears to be a technical term for what I ended up doing.
I learned a bunch of things while setting this up, and some more while writing this post. As usual, if you have any questions, suggestions, corrections, or like, please write to me at email@example.com. I hope you liked the read!
Forward Operating Base is military jargon: “secured forward operational level military position, commonly a military base, that is used to support strategic goals and tactical objectives”. Being able to watch cable TV does sound like a tactical objective.↩︎
“WireGuard explicitly does not support tunneling over TCP, due to the classically terrible network performance of tunneling TCP-over-TCP.” Copied verbatim from here.↩︎
MTU stands for maximum transmission unit. It defines the biggest packet size, in bytes, that data link (OSI L2) layer can accept. If packets are bigger than MTU, fragmenting happens on network layer (OSI L3). Less fragmentation is better: less reassembly needed on receiving side, less probabilty of packet loss etc.↩︎
This article was particularly illuminating.↩︎
I borrowed this illustration from said article, too.↩︎