Understanding VPN protocols is crucial for maximizing the benefits of your VPN subscription.
Although VPN apps are designed with user-friendly interfaces, delving into protocols like OpenVPN, WireGuard, IPSec, and more can significantly impact your connection’s speed, stability, and security.
This article aims to demystify protocols on VPN, examine their pros and cons, and help you choose the one that aligns with your needs.
What Are Some Common VPN Protocols?
The initial VPN protocol, PPTP, was created in 1996 by Gurdeep Singh-Pall at Microsoft. Since then, VPN technology has advanced significantly, leading to various new protocols.
Now, let’s explore some of the commonly encountered types of VPN protocols.
OpenVPN – The Best VPN Protocol
OpenVPN stands out as the most secure VPN protocol, relying on open-source technology and the OpenSSL security library, boasting an absence of known vulnerabilities.
Using OpenVPN ensures a fully private and secure connection. It finds broad support across capable VPNs on major operating systems like macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Windows.
Additionally, setting up a manual connection for unsupported platforms is hassle-free with an easily downloadable OpenVPN configuration file.
OpenVPN offers two communication protocols, UDP and TCP, that influence data transmission.
While OpenVPN TCP prioritizes stability and firewall bypass, OpenVPN UDP excels in speed.
However, it comes at the cost of higher bandwidth consumption, making it less efficient compared to lightweight protocols like WireGuard.
For users prioritizing security, OpenVPN is an excellent choice.
If bandwidth conservation and faster speeds are your focus, especially for activities like gaming and streaming, exploring the best protocol for VPN alternatives may be worthwhile.
- High security.
- Wide support from VPN services.
- Good compatibility with firewalls.
- Challenging manual configuration.
- High bandwidth consumption.
- Not the fastest protocol.
IKEv2/IPsec –The Best Protocol For Mobile Users
IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange Version 2) is popular for mobile users seeking swift connection speeds.
Its adept handling of connection changes makes it ideal for frequently toggling between WiFi and cellular phone networks.
Notably, IKEv2 doesn’t independently encrypt your activity; instead, it focuses on creating a VPN tunnel and providing authentication, often combined with IPsec.
IPsec, supporting various 256-bit ciphers like ChaCha20, Camellia, and AES, is widely adopted by mobile VPNs. However, it lacks open-source status, potentially impacting trustworthiness due to unknown vulnerabilities.
Some of the best VPN Protocols sources suggest IKEv2/IPsec may have faced compromise by government surveillance agencies.
- Good speed and latency.
- High stability during connection switches.
- Less bandwidth usage.
- Limited to UDP port 500.
- Susceptible to blocking.
- Not open source.
WireGuard – The Fastest VPN Protocol
WireGuard, a more recent protocol designed for efficiency and speed surpassing OpenVPN, debuted in 2019 with ongoing updates from a supportive open-source community.
Notably faster, as evidenced by TechNadu tests, WireGuard is an excellent choice for streaming and gaming, boasting a concise and secure code base with just 4,000 lines, which is contributed to by numerous developers.
Despite its stellar performance, WireGuard is in its early stages and exhibits compatibility issues with tested ciphers like AES-256, opting for the newer ChaCha20.
While one of the least bandwidth-intensive VPN Protocols, it temporarily logs users’ IP addresses by default, a feature absent in other protocols, raising security concerns.
- High speeds.
- Open-source code base.
- Less bandwidth usage.
- Compatibility issues with AES-256.
- Temporary IP address logging.
- Limited to UDP.
SSTP – The Best Firewall-Busting Protocol
Microsoft owns SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) with a closed-source code. It employs SSL/TLS encryption, utilizing TCP Port 443 to effectively navigate firewalls, making it particularly suitable for regions like China.
Despite this advantage, a significant drawback is the potential vulnerability, particularly concerning the “man-in-the-middle” attack known as POODLE, affecting SSL 3.0.
The uncertainty about SSTP’s susceptibility to this attack raises concerns.
Compounding the issue is Microsoft’s historical collaboration with the NSA. As SSTP’s closed code base prevents vulnerability checks, potential security risks remain unverifiable.
While one of the widely popular VPN tunneling protocols, SSTP may be useful in circumventing school or government firewalls when no better option is available.
It is strongly advised against activities requiring high security or privacy.
- Simple to use.
- Effective firewall bypass.
- Integrated into Windows.
- Not open source.
- Limited security.
- Incompatible with non-Windows platforms.
L2TP/IPsec – The Hybrid Protocol
L2TP/IPsec, born as the successor to PPTP, the original VPN protocol, enjoys widespread support from VPN services due to its straightforward implementation.
Like IKEv2/IPsec, it operates as a hybrid protocol, merging L2TP and IPsec. However, this amalgamation raises potential privacy concerns, given the rumored compromises in IPsec’s past.
Considering its lack of distinct advantages and exposure to potential security risks, using L2TP/IPsec is strongly discouraged.
It’s recommended only when no other protocol is available. Common VPNs supporting L2TP/IPsec include CyberGhost, PureVPN, Hotspot Shield, and Private Internet Access.
- Supported by most platforms.
- Easy setup.
- Supports multithreading.
- Lack of trust and security.
- Incompatible with NAT.
- Communicates over UDP only.
PPTP – The Oldest Protocol
PPTP, or Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, marked the inaugural VPN protocol in 1996, emphasizing speed over security.
While it delivers fast speeds, using only 128-bit encryption, compared to the more robust AES 256-bit encryption, renders it less secure.
This prioritization of speed leaves PPTP vulnerable to exploitation by skilled hackers, with rumors suggesting past exploitation by entities like the NSA.
Notable VPNs supporting PPTP include Private Internet Access, Hotspot Shield, and PureVPN. However, caution is urged due to the inherent security risks associated with this aging protocol.
- Fast speeds.
- Compatibility with most platforms.
- Low costs and easy installation.
- Low performance on unstable networks.
- Lack of security.
- Easily blocked by firewalls.
Choosing the right VPN protocol involves considering your priorities: security, speed, or firewall bypass capabilities.
Each protocol has its strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them empowers you to make an informed decision tailored to your needs.
Whether you prioritize security with OpenVPN or speed with WireGuard, choosing VPN Protocols is vital in enhancing your online experience.