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Last updated: 16 Nov 2020

GOV.UK and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

GOV.UK uses several VPNs to connect environments. This page explains what they are and what happens if they stop working.

VPN between live organisation and disaster recovery organisation

There's a VPN in each Carrenza environment (currently staging and production) which connects the live organisation to the disaster recovery organisation. It's used for monitoring the disaster recovery machines and for syncing data to them. The VPNs are managed by Carrenza.

If it goes down, these things will happen:

  1. The machines on the disaster recovery side of the connection will appear as unreachable hosts in GOV.UK monitoring
  2. Data replication will pause

VPN between AWS and UKCloud for Licensify Civica payment status requests

There's a VPN between AWS Production (only) and UKCloud Production which exists only as a workaround for routing certain requests from Licensify to Civica, one of Licensify's payment gateways.

If this VPN is down:

  • The check_uk_cloud_vpn_up alert will fire in Icinga.
  • Users who are paying for licence applications to certain licencing authorities will still be able to complete their application but the last step of their journey will display a message saying "We have received your application, but were unable to confirm payment with the authority." (source)
  • The page still gives the user a reference number for their transaction and asks the user to contact the licencing authority to confirm that they have received the payment.
  • Payments will still be processed as normal. The only difference is that Licensify is unable to tell the user whether the payment went through or not.
  • Only those licencing authorities which use Civica as their payment processor are affected. This is a small but significant minority.
  • Licencing authorities who do not use Civica are not affected.

Troubleshooting Steps

Troubleshooting steps (aim is to switch off and on the VPN):

  1. Go to Production Skyscape portal, the credentials are in GOV.UK 2ndline Pass under: ukcloud/portal.
  2. Once you logged in, you have to log into the Production organization by selecting: VMWARE CLOUD and then GOV.UK Production. You will be asked for the password again.
  3. In the Production organization, go to the GOV.UK Management virtual datacenter.
  4. Click edges in the left column to bring the list of edges.
  5. Click on the GOV.UK Management edges in the right main frame and Configure Services above it.
  6. In the pop-up window, click on VPN in the menu bar and then IPsec VPN Sites
  7. In the list of VPN sites, select UKC Licensify to AWS VPN and click on the edit icon above.
  8. In the new pop-up window, turn the VPN off by toggling the enable switch and clicking KEEP
  9. The pop-up window will disappear and you need to click save changes in put into effect the VPN being now disabled.
  10. Wait a few minutes and repeat step 7-9 to re-enable the VPN again.

VPN between live organisation in Carrenza and AWS during AWS migration

During the staged migration of the GOV.UK from Carrenza to AWS, there is a VPN tunnel to connect the 2 private clouds so that migrated and un-migrated services can still access each other during the migration.

If the VPN goes down, these things will happen:

  1. the ping probes between certain virtual machines in AWS and Carrenza will fail and these will appear in the Icinga dashboard of GOV.UK

  2. services which makes use of the VPN will fail and the relevant alerts will appear in Icinga

Troubleshooting Steps

  1. Check that the VPN is UP in the AWS Console by:

    1. log in into the AWS console and assume your role for the given GOV.UK environment

    2. go to the VPC service dashboard, as pictured in Figure 1.0 Figure 1.0 Figure 1.0: VPC dashboard in AWS showing the VPN site-to-site status.

    3. scroll on the left pane of the dashboard and click Site-to-Site VPN Connections as shown in step 1 in Figure 1.0

    4. select the Staging AWS VPN connection as shown in step 2 in Figure 1.0

    5. select the tab Tunnel Details as shown in step 3 in Figure 1.0

    6. check the status of the VPN tunnel, in the normal scenario, only one tunnel will be UP as shown in step 4 in Figure 1.0. The other tunnel is DOWN by default.

      If all tunnels are down this means there is a VPN issue and you may have to swap to the secondary VPN tunnel.

  2. Switching to the secondary VPN tunnel:

    1. log in the Carrenza vCloud interface as described here

    2. click on the "Administration" button on the interface as shown in step 1 in Figure 2.0 Figure 2.0 Figure 2.0: Carrenza vCloud interface showing the vEdge gateways list

    3. select the GOV.UK Management virtual data centre and the data centre should appear as shown in step 2 in Figure 2.0

    4. select the Edge Gateways tab as shown in step 3 in Figure 2.0

    5. right-click the only edge gateway in the list as shown in step 4 in Figure 2.0 and select Edge Gateway Service.... A new pop-up window will appear as shown in Figure 2.1. Figure 2.1

    6. select the enabled (shown by a green tick in the enabled column) AWS VPN as shown in step 1 in Figure 2.1. Make a note of it so you remember which VPN you are going to disable. Do not select the UKCloud VPN

    7. click on the edit button as shown in step 2 in Figure 2.1. A new pop-up window will appear where you can uncheck the Enable this VPN configuration option so that this VPN is disabled. Finally select ok to return to the previous pop-up window.

    8. in the list of VPN connections, select the second AWS VPN tunnel and click edit as in step 2 in Figure 2.1 and enable the VPN configuration in the new pop-up window.

    9. finally click on ok as shown in step 3 in Figure 2.1.

    10. go to the AWS console and check if the other VPN tunnel is now UP and the previously active VPN tunnel is DOWN.

      In addition, check that the Icinga ping alerts across the Carrenza-AWS VPN has now been cleared.