You need to connect to a VPN, but you cannot install a VPN client. How can you solve this problem?

In software engineering adding just another layer of indirection is always the answer. Instead of making a VPN connection on the device you can make it on the router and share WiFi which gives you a private internet connection.

Sounds easy enough, but what do you need to make it happen?

  1. Router needs to use WiFi as its WAN interface. In other words we can connect to any WiFI network and use it as a internet source. Why? We do not always have an physical access to the access point, where we can plug in an RJ-45 cable.
  2. Router must be able to talk OpenVPN or WireGuard protocols. Most VPN providers don’t allow L2TP/PPTP, because security reasons.
  3. We cannot change anything on the Access Point WiFi as we don’t have admin rights.

Architecture of the solution looks like this:

Internet <----> Access Point (AP) <--WiFi--> VPN Router (VP) <--VPN-enabled WiFi--> Any Device  

Picking a router

What I did is a somewhat exotic solution and doing this on a stock firmware is not possible according to my 30 minute research. I needed a router that can be flashed with OpenWRT and preferably under 100$. I live in Poland and needed it ASAP, so I browsed through the websites of local electronics stores. I sorted by price, went one by one and checked OpenWRT compatibility. The lucky winner is: Asus RT-AX53U which I bought here for roughly $60.

Stock firmware

Just to be double sure, I tried to make this work on stock firmware once I got the router. As a base case I plugged in the device to my home router via WAN port and tried to configure VPN. So skipping the WiFi connection entirely. This has been disqualified as it required setting up port forwarding on the root AP and as per 3., we assume we do not have access to configure the root AP.

Configuring VPN on a access point network (OpenWRT)

Based on:


  • Router using an existing WiFi (2.4GHz) network as internet provider (wireless WAN)
  • Exposing a new WiFi (5GHz) network with transparent VPN connection (clients do not know that it is using VPN)
  • Connecting to the ProtonVPN via OpenVPN on the router

Basic Configuration

Router configuration starts with factory defaults of OpenWRT. My router is connected to the computer on LAN1 port via cable. Default OpenWRT configuration does not have WiFI enabled.

  1. Log into the router ( with username: root, and an empty password. openwrt-login-screen openwrt-welcome
  2. Set the root password in System -> Administration -> Router Password

note: It is used to change the configuration of the router, set it wisely. openwrt-root-password

  1. Change the default network from to in Network -> Interfaces.

note: Most of the default router networks are, this router may receive WAN access from such network. We change it to avoid IP address conflicts. It can be changed to whatever you prefer, just make it kind of non-default.

  • Click Edit button on br-lan interface openwrt-network-interfaces-1
  • Change IPv4 address to openwrt-network-interfaces-2
  • Click Save, Save & Apply and Apply with revert after connectivity loss.

    After saving, you’ll need to connect to the web interface on again and re-login to double confirm your changes. If you fail to do that, router will revert configuration back to openwrt-network-interfaces-3 openwrt-network-interfaces-4 openwrt-network-interfaces-5

Connecting to the Internet (via 2.4GHz interface)

  1. Open Network -> Wireless and remove the 2.4 GHz network, it is the one under MediaTek MT7915E 802.11axbgn. We will use it as a WWAN. openwrt-network-wireless openwrt-network-wireless-2

  2. Click Scan on 2.4GHz interface (radio0) and connect to your provider network (Join Network). openwrt-network-wireless-3
  3. Enter network password in WPA passphrase field, leave everything else as default and click Submit. openwrt-network-wireless-4
  4. You will be presented with confirmation screen. In the Interface Configuration add lan to the Network field. It will connect WAN and LAN, so you will also have VPN on LAN ports. openwrt-network-wireless-5
  5. Go to Advaned Settings and set appropriate Country Code to be compliant with local regulations. openwrt-network-wireless-6.
  6. Click Save, there should be around 20 UNSAVED CHANGES. Click Save & Apply and wait. openwrt-network-wireless-7.
  7. Your router is now connected to the WiFi and exposes Internet via LAN!

Exposing a new WiFi (via 5GHz interface)

  1. Go to Network -> Wireless. Click Enable on OpenWrt network. openwrt-network-wireless-8.
  2. After a while, the router will expose the 5GHz network, but its not secure. Click Edit and change its name (I changed it to Pizza), then go to Wireless Security and set the encryption to WPA2-PSK and set a good password (key) for your new WiFi network. openwrt-network-wireless-9. openwrt-network-wireless-10.
  3. Click Save then Save and Apply.
  4. Your router now exposes a secure 5Ghz WiFi!

Connecting to ProtonVPN

  1. Install OpenWRT OpenVPN extensions. Go to System -> Software and click Update lists. After updating lists install 2 packages: openvpn-openssl and luci-app-openvpn. openwrt-network-wireless-11 openwrt-network-wireless-12 openwrt-network-wireless-13
  2. Go to the homepage of OpenWrt web configuration. There is a new tab (VPN). Go to VPN -> OpenVPN. openwrt-network-wireless-14 openwrt-network-wireless-15
  3. Log in into your Proton VPN account and download OpenVPN configurations for your desired country.
  4. Upload your configuration in the OVPN configuration file upload section by selecting a conf file, setting the instance name and clicking Upload. openwrt-network-wireless-16
  5. After uploading a new OpenVPN instance will show up (in my case it is Poland). Click Edit. openwrt-network-wireless-17
  6. Find line auth-user-pass and set it to accordingly (e.g. /etc/openvpn/Poland.auth). In the field below specify your ProtonVPN username and password (ProtonVPN -> Account -> OpenVPN / IKEv2 Username). openwrt-network-wireless-18
  7. Click Save and go back to VPN -> OpenVPN. Click Enabled to yes, then Save & Apply and start. openwrt-network-wireless-19
  8. At this point, the VPN is set up and your router can use it. However, the devices in the LAN of your router won’t be able to access the Internet anymore. To do this, you need to set the VPN network interface as public by assigning a VPN interface to WAN zone.
  9. Go to Network -> Firewall and select Edit on wan => reject section. openwrt-network-wireless-19
    • Select Advanced Settings, then in the Covered devices field, select tun0. openwrt-network-wireless-19
  10. Save -> Save & Apply and wait.
  11. Voila! You now have a WiFi and LAN ports secured by VPN. You can test it on a site like openwrt-network-wireless-19


  1. How do I start over the configuration?
    • Factory reset OpenWRT by going into `System -> Backup / Flash Firmware -> Perform reset.
    • OR Turn off the router; turn it on; press Reset button for 10 seconds and wait for a few minutes.
  2. How can I change my Access Point network?

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