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All Of The VPN Protocols Explained

Michael Gargiulo - CEO, VPN.com

By: Michael Gargiulo, CEO at VPN.com

Updated: 2:00 PM ET Wed, July 15th 2020

VPNs provide a secure tunnel through which a user can connect to the Internet. They allow users to send and receive encrypted information without worrying about unauthorized intrusions. In this day and age, every bit of protection is essential. 

However, there are various VPN protocols that provide different levels of protection. Here’s everything you need to know when selecting an encryption protocol to protect your online activity.​​

What Is A VPN?

VPNs deliver a secure, anonymous connection for users to access the Internet. Every piece of data a VPN-protected device sends is encrypted and secured from hackers, snoops, and nosy Internet service providers. According to a 2017 report from the Global Web Index, 30% of VPN users access files and services for work.

What Is A VPN Protocol?

VPN protocols determine how data is routed and encrypted between the VPN server and your device. Various protocols offer different levels of encryption and authentication. For example, some protocols emphasize speed, while others prioritize security and privacy. There are five common VPN protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, IKEv2, and PPTP.

Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

PPTP is one of the oldest VPN protocols. As a result, it’s been phased out of most systems in favor of more secure options. PPTP first hit the scene in 1995. Microsoft originally designed PPTP to work with dial-up connections. With over 20 years on the market, it’s little wonder that criminals and governments have cracked this form of encryption. It’s important to note that any data sent over PPTP is considered vulnerable.

However, does PPTP provide fast, stable connection speeds. It’s still useful for low-risk activities such as streaming, but it’s not ideal as an everyday VPN protocol.

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)

Microsoft also developed SSTP. It’s fully integrated with Microsoft’s operating systems, so it can be used with a smart chip or Winlogon for added security. SSTP is quite secure with 256-bit SSL keys for encryption and 2048-bit SSL/TLS certificates for authentication. Most operating systems provide support for SSTP, making it one of the most useful VPN protocols.

Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol (L2TP/IPsec)

Cisco developed L2TP as the successor to PPTP. However, it doesn’t provide any actual privacy or encryption on its own. L2TP is generally bundled with security protocol IPsec, which uses AES-256-bit encryption. L2TP/IPsec is widely used and doesn’t have any proven vulnerabilities, but it is easy to spot and block. If the ability to access sites that actively block VPN servers (such as Netflix) is crucial, it may not be the right protocol for you.

Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2)

IKEv2 is another one of the VPN protocols developed by Microsoft and Cisco. It provides a secure key exchange session. However, IKEv2 needs to be paired with IPsec for authentication and encryption. You will find it featured prominently in many mobile VPN solutions.

IKEv2 is adept at restoring connections quickly during network switches and temporary connection losses. Unfortunately, the NSA has cracked IKEv2 security protocols and is actively using it to further undermine IPSec traffic. As a result, using it is a security risk for most people.

OpenVPN

Of all the VPN protocols, OpenVPN is the only one that is open-source. As such, users can inspect its source code for vulnerabilities or use the code in other projects. The constant development has made OpenVPN one of the most secure protocols on the market. It utilizes a nearly unbreakable AES-256-bit key encryption, a 160-bit SHA1 hash algorithm, and a 2048-bit authentication. In addition, OpenVPN is compatible with nearly every platform.

One of the few criticisms of OpenVPN is that all of its security measures can noticeably affect speeds. While it’s still plenty fast enough for daily Internet use, users trying to stream in 4K or game online may notice more buffering/lag than normal.

Wrapping Up

The most important aspect of a VPN protocol is the security of its encryption. Exposure to hackers, data miners, and others who can compromise your sensitive data is something that everyone wants to avoid. Browse VPN.com’s reviews of over 900 VPN providers to find the right solution for your business today.

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