Numbering private subnets

Setting up a VPN often entails linking together private subnets from different locations.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has reserved the following three blocks of the IP address space for private internets (codified in RFC 1918):

10.0.0.0 10.255.255.255 (10/8 prefix)
172.16.0.0 172.31.255.255 (172.16/12 prefix)
192.168.0.0 192.168.255.255 (192.168/16 prefix)

While addresses from these netblocks should normally be used in VPN configurations, it’s important to select addresses that minimize the probability of IP address or subnet conflicts. The types of conflicts that need to be avoided are:

For example, suppose you use the popular 192.168.0.0/24 subnet as your private LAN subnet. Now you are trying to connect to the VPN from an internet cafe which is using the same subnet for its WiFi LAN. You will have a routing conflict because your machine won’t know if 192.168.0.1 refers to the local WiFi gateway or to the same address on the VPN.

As another example, suppose you want to link together multiple sites by VPN, but each site is using 192.168.0.0/24 as its LAN subnet. This won’t work without adding a complexifying layer of NAT translation, because the VPN won’t know how to route packets between multiple sites if those sites don’t use a subnet which uniquely identifies them.

The best solution is to avoid using 10.0.0.0/24 or 192.168.0.0/24 as private LAN network addresses. Instead, use something that has a lower probability of being used in a WiFi cafe, airport, or hotel where you might expect to connect from remotely. The best candidates are subnets in the middle of the vast 10.0.0.0/8 netblock (for example 10.66.77.0/24).

And to avoid cross-site IP numbering conflicts, always use unique numbering for your LAN subnets.

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