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Integrating Active Directory with Client VPN

The Cisco Meraki MX Security Appliance supports Active Directory authentication with Client VPN, so a client will be required to provide domain credentials in order to connect via VPN. This article outlines the configuration steps required  to integrate Active Directory with Client VPN on the MX security appliance.


When a user attempts to connect to Client VPN, the following process occurs:

  1. The user's device attempts to establish a VPN tunnel using L2TP over IP.
  2. User provides their valid domain credentials.
  3. The MX, from its LAN IP, queries the Global Catalog over TCP port 3268 (encrypted using TLS) to the AD server configured in Dashboard.
  4. If the user's credentials are valid, the AD server will send its response to the MX, completing authentication.
  5. The MX offers the client an IP configuration on the Client VPN subnet, and the client can start communicating on the network.

Note: At this time, the MX does not support mapping group policies via Active Directory for users connecting through the Client VPN.  

Configuration Details

In order to configure Active Directory authentication for Client VPN, configuration steps must be completed on both Dashboard and Active Directory, outlined below:

Active Directory Configuration

The following requirements must be configured on each AD server being used for authentication:

  • Every AD server specified in Dashboard must hold the Global Catalog role. Please refer to Microsoft documentation for specific configuration steps.
  • Since communication between the MX and AD server will be encrypted using TLS, a valid certificate with the appropriate parameters must be configured on the server.
  • The MX will communicate from its LAN IP with each AD server over TCP port 3268, so ensure that no firewalls or ACLs on the network or server will block that communication.

When Active Directory authentication is configured, the MX queries the Global Catalog over TCP port 3268. Therefore the Active Directory server (Domain Controller) specified in Dashboard must also hold the Global Catalog role.

Dashboard Configuration

Once the AD servers have been primed with the configuration requirements outlined above, the following steps outline how to set up AD authentication for Client VPN:

  1. In Dashboard, navigate to Security appliance > Configure > Client VPN
  2. If Client VPN has not yet been enabled, please refer to our Client VPN documentation for info on initial configuration.
    Note: In order for Client VPN users to be able to resolve internal DNS entries, the Custom nameservers option should be configured with an internal DNS server. The server's firewall may need to be adjusted to allow queries from the Client VPN subnet, and best practices dictate that a public DNS server should be listed as a secondary option.
  3. Set Authentication to Active Directory.
  4. Under Active Directory server, provide the short domain name and server IP, as well as the credentials for an AD domain admin.
    Note: If the credentials provided do not have domain admin permissions, the MX will be unable to query the AD server.
  5. Click Save Changes.

Client Configuration

Clients can use their native VPN client to connect to Client VPN, with or without Active Directory.

Please refer to our Client VPN documentation for OS-specific configuration steps.

(Optional) Client Scoping

Due to the nature of Active Directory authentication for Client VPN, all domain users will be able to authenticate and connect to Client VPN. There is no Dashboard-native way to limit which users can authenticate, however there is a workaround in Active Directory that allows the scope of users to be limited by specifying a domain administrator with limited group visibility.

The following article outlines how to configure this workaround for wireless networks, but the same principles can be applied to Client VPN: Scoping Active Directory per SSID

Note: As the article states, this configuration is entirely reliant on Active Directory. Depending on how domain groups are managed, this may not work some environments - please refer to Microsoft documentation and support for assistance with Active Directory confguration.


Once the configuration above has been completed, the Meraki device should be able to communicate with the Active Directory server using TLS. If this fails, Microsoft offers the Ldp.exe tool to ensure that the LDAP service is running and compatible with the current certificate.

Please reference Microsoft documentation for error code details and troubleshooting assistance.

Additional Resources

For more information about both Client VPN and Active Directory integration, please refer to the following articles:

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