VPN protocols are instructions that help establish a secure connection between a VPN server and the VPN client. Different VPN protocols have diverse specifications and parameters according to which they work. These range from data packet size, authentication, error codes types, and address format.
When you choose a VPN, it’s crucial that you always look at the protocols used by a VPN. Each protocol offered by your VPN provider has separate specifications and is often designed to serve some specific purpose. Since not all protocols are created equal they impact the VPN’s overall performance.
Therefore, to maintain your security and ensure that you are using your VPN to the best of its capabilities, it is crucial that you have a relevant understanding of VPN protocols.
7 Best Secure VPN Protocols
VPN providers use VPN protocols to establish a secure and stable internet connection. They combine encryption algorithms and transmission protocols to protect your data traffic from snooping eyes. The following section of the article has discussed all protocols VPN providers usually use. So, let’s dive into it.
- Open-source software
- It depends on third parties for functioning
- Uses various secure algorithms
- Extremely reliable and offers the best security
- The setup process may be pretty tricky.
The OpenVPN protocol is the most reliable and secure VPN encryption protocol that most VPN providers support. It is open-source software that uses AES-256 bit encryption via the OpenSSL libraries. You can even configure the OpenVPN protocol on all primary OS and devices. It provides two ports (UDP/TCP) and offers a complete balance between security and speed.
The UDP port allows you to browse the web at a fast speed. It is less reliable and faster. In contrast, the UDP port is more secure but offers relatively low speed than the TCP ports.
- Fast and secure
- Light code
- Limited data consumption
- Privacy concern with default privacy configuration
Despite being relatively new, the WireGuard protocol is ranked as the most secure VPN protocol. The most impressive thing about this protocol is that it keeps a perfect balance between speed and security. It uses the ChaCha20 cipher and thus is more secure than the OpenVPN. If you’re using a VPN for torrenting or gaming, it is best that you use WireGuard because it boosts your internet speed.
It was launched in 2019, but all reliable VPN providers now support WireGuard protocol and ensure a secure browsing experience. However, there are a few issues over the Wire Guards default configuration. The VPN servers need to keep a temporary IP address log, but fortunately, this issue has been fixed now.
- Closed source
- Firewall blocks it
- Supports Perfect Forward Secrecy
- Compatible with various ciphers
- Offers fast speeds
The Internet Key Exchange Version 2 is another secure VPN protocol developed due to collaboration between Microsoft and Cisco. The VPN protocol uses AES cipher to ensure robust security. Moreover, the protocol uses a Mobile protocol that works perfectly well with mobile devices. When users switch between WiFi networks and cellular data, it offers fast connection speed.
However, there is a slight issue that it fails to provide any encryption on its own. Thus, it combines with IPSec, which acts as an authentication suite and uses various secure 256-bit ciphers like Camellia, AES, or ChaCha20. Once it mixes with IPSec, it encrypts the data traffic using any of the secure ciphers such as the AES-256 bit cipher and makes it challenging for anyone to compromise your security. However, since the IKEv2 uses a UDP port, it can’t bypass firewalls, making it difficult for users to use it in authoritarian regimes. Moreover, it is closed-source software and is suspected that the IPSec protocol has been compromised by NSA.
- Bypasses firewall
- Reliability is high
- Slow internet speeds
- Impressive double encapsulation feature
- Susceptible to man-in-the-middle-attacks
Like IKEv2, Layer-to-Layer-tunneling protocol (L2TP) combines with IPSec to safeguard the data from snooping uses. It uses AES or 3DES ciphers for encrypting the data traffic. The VPN protocol is easily configured and supportive on all operating systems. Unlike IKEv2/IPSec, it gets around firewalls, and thus you can use it in China and Russia.
Also, it offers a unique double encapsulation feature that routes your data into two secure layers and increases your online security. However, it does slow down the overall internet speed in doing so. The significant drawback of using this VPN protocol is that NSA has compromised IPSec, and despite using AES ciphers, it’s vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. So, be careful while using this protocol.
- Bypasses firewalls
- Offers fast speed
- Requires manual configurations
- Natively isn’t supported by the OS.
Another open-source VPN protocol that offers exceptional security and privacy to the users is SoftEther. The Masters’ students developed this protocol as part of their thesis study. The protocol uses AES-256 bit encryption and RSA-4096 authentication keys to keep your data secure and protected. The speeds offered were also fast and consistent and guarantee a stable internet connection.
However, the protocol is considered unreliable because university students created it. Also, in 2018, it underwent a security audit that lasted for 80 long hours and found 11 vulnerabilities. Later, in a security patch, the flaws were fixed. Moreover, it’s not supported by any operating system, and few VPN providers support this protocol.
- Easily bypasses firewalls
- Close association with NSA
- Good at bypassing censorship
- Notable privacy and security concerns
The Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is a closed-source VPN protocol that Microsoft operates. It uses strong AES-256 bit encryption and TCP port 443 that allows the traffic to flow like the regular internet traffic. For this reason, it is difficult for the firewalls to detect and block the VPN traffic. It is an effective VPN protocol used for bypassing censorship and works best in China. Even if you want to circumvent restrictions imposed by your office, school, or government, this protocol will always help you.
However, it comes with particular privacy concerns. The SSL 3.0 version is vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack, and even has links with NSA because Microsoft develops it. So, if you value your privacy, it is best that you avoid using this protocol.
- Easy to set up and use
- Supported by all operating system
- Won’t help in bypassing censorship
- Cracked by NSA
- Doesn’t support AES-256 bit encryption keys
Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the original yet the most outdated and unsafe VPN protocol. Previously, it offered fast speed but because of poor security couldn’t bypass firewalls. It uses AES-128 bit encryption and is not compatible with the advanced encryption standard.
The protocol is famous for its vulnerabilities. For any skilled hacker, exploiting these PPTP vulnerabilities is a piece of cake. This is probably why the NSA also reportedly hacked into PPTP to collect users’ data. Moreover, any hacker can break into the PPTP encryption and can compromise users’ data. Thus, for the sake of robust online security, avoiding this protocol must be absolutely crucial.
How Does VPN Encryption Work?
A reliable VPN provider uses encryption to secure your data. VPN encryption uses VPN protocols, authentication keys, and robust algorithms to protect your data from prying eyes. When you connect to any legitimate VPN provider, it first converts your data into encrypted packets. During this stage, your data is in plain readable form and is changed into encrypted and ciphertext.
The data packets are in scrambled forms and travel through an encrypted tunnel where different encryption protocols help transfer the data to the remote VPN server. The server at the other end decrypts the data and sends your request to the hosted website. Your data faces conversion into plain text from the encrypted form so that it is readable and in an understandable form.
Hence, in this way, the VPN encryption process works, and you’re able to surf the web privately and anonymously. However, make sure that you choose the right VPN protocol because you might risk your online security and privacy if not.
Why Is VPN Encryption Important?
A VPN is an excellent anonymity tool that encrypts your data traffic to become invisible and unreadable for the prying eyes. Because of strong VPN encryption, no one, including your ISP, can view your online activities. As all the data traffic contents are encrypted, none of your sensitive information like login details, banking credentials, browsing data, and other browsing data is completely hidden in deep encrypted packets. As a result, you can browse the web with complete anonymity and privacy.
A VPN’s encryption also hides your online activities from the ISPs, and thus you can bypass internet restrictions and can access the deep internet world. Moreover, when ISPs don’t know your online activities, they won’t throttle your connection even if you access the blocked streaming content or download torrents. In this way, they even protect you from the eyes of copyright holders and the legal consequences of torrenting.
Another use of VPN encryption is when you use public WiFi networks. Hackers and other malicious actors monitor such networks and look for new targets. When you use such networks with a VPN, your data is first encrypted, making you private over the web. No matter whatever you do over the internet, these threat actors won’t ever know about your activities, nor by any means can they invade your network.
What VPN Protocol Should I Use?
The type of protocol to be used depends on your activities. For instance, if you use a VPN for streaming, your prime focus is fast speeds. However, if you are downloading torrents, make sure that you use a VPN that provides fast speeds along with robust security. Here’s a brief overview of when to use different VPN protocols:
- OpenVPN: If you want to enjoy a secure and stable internet connection, use OpenVPN. The TCP port increases security while UDP ensures better internet speed.
- IKEv2: If you’re a mobile phone user, this protocol will ensure a stable online connection.
- L2TP/IPSec: If you’re interested in streaming the geo-blocked content or want to download torrents, choose L2TP/IPSec. However, you might experience a slow internet speed within this protocol.
- WireGuard is a recently launched protocol that uses modern encryption ciphers and authentication to ensure a safe and fast connection. Use it to enjoy an ultra-fast and highly secure online connection on all major devices and platforms.
- SoftEther: You can use it as an alternative to OpenVPN. This protocol also ensures a safe, stable, and fast internet connection.
- PPTP is the oldest VPN protocols used to access blocked streaming content quickly. But since now it has security loopholes, it is better to avoid using it.
- SSTP: If you’re a Windows user, you can use it to enjoy decent security while surfing the internet. But since it is vulnerable to cyber-attacks, you shouldn’t use it to risk your online security and privacy.
Hopefully, by now, you’d have got a clear idea about which VPN protocols are secure to use and for what tasks which protocol will be the best.
Which VPN Protocol Is Least Secure?
The conventional SSTP and the PPTP are the least secure VPN protocols, for valid reasons. Both come with severe security flaws and vulnerabilities that hackers can easily exploit. For example, Microsoft owns the SSTP but has been associated with NSA in the past. Also, it’s involved in targeting users with a man-in-the-middle-attack known as POODLE attack.
Similarly, PPTP also offers poor security that sometimes fails to bypass the firewalls. Moreover, the NSA cracked the protocol, and thus, it is no longer reliable to use.
VPN uses strong encryption and security protocols to encrypt your data traffic and enhance your online data security. A VPN uses various tunneling protocols, but not all of them are secure to use. OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEV2 are the most secure VPN protocols that are likely to provide a top-notch level of online security.
These protocols ensure that you browse the web with ultimate security and fast speed, so your activities are not interrupted. Check the protocols while selecting a VPN for yourself to enjoy a safe and secure web browsing experience.