By now, you’ve already delved into the many reasons why Virtual Private Networks are indispensable to the modern-day user. A VPN is a multi-faceted service that allows you to get the best out of your Internet usage while protecting your data, identity, and anonymity.
In a sea of providers, you may now wonder which protocol to choose. Like any other service, VPNs have many layers of features that support its function. From encryption standards, to ease of setup and server choices, there are countless reasons why one provider may stick out more than another.
What to look out for?
You can find many VPN protocols developed over the years. Even though proprietary solutions from Microsoft and Cisco have pioneered VPN development, we are seeing a downfall in confidence for many of these types of protocols. Open source solutions have risen in popularity since the early 2000s. Recent news regarding government-mandated data handover has left the rest to also jump boat for open-source solutions.
On top of opting for an open-source protocol, you should also look out for encryption type and speed. These two aspects are closely correlated. The more complex the encryption type is , the slower the speed provided gets.
Furthermore, the ease of set-up is key. Many protocols are not built-in to your devices. Even when they are, you sometimes have to be a bit tech-savvy to deal with system-embedded firewall restrictions and updates. Thankfully many of the provider solutions do offer easy client-facing automated installations.
As you can see, there are many facets to look out for when settling for a VPN protocol. To help your case, we narrowed down and compared 6 of the most popular VPNs (and most likely to encounter) : OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, and IKEv2.
Even though OpenVPN was released in 2001, it is still considered as one of the most reliable and newest protocols in our list. The technology has aged well over the years. This is largely due to the fact that it is an open-source protocol that is consistently updated and maintained by its dedicated community. OpenVPN is highly configurable and compatible with most devices. This makes it the most popular client-facing protocol for general use.
While it doesn’t come built-in to your devices, its set-up is fairly straightforward. Most VPN providers offering OpenVPN will supply you with an automated way to install their client-side. Hence, you will require minimal effort up front to get this protocol type up and running.
In terms of speed, OpenVPN can vary immensely. Like most VPNs, the speed is highly dependent on the security level. OpenVPN is one of the few that offers a wide array of security protocols (corresponding to its broad range of speeds). We recommend diving into the specifics when picking your provider. Find a balance between speed and security that fits best your routine.
Point-to-point tunneling is one of the pioneering solutions developed by Microsoft for the early days of the Internet. Integrated with Windows 95, this was (at the time) revolutionary addition for everyday users.
While PPTP is the fastest protocol on this list, it is also the least secure. Hackers and government have long been able to decrypt the security algorithms it provides. The NSA is known to regularly take advantage of the lack of security to monitor PPTP traffic.
We obviously highly discourage you from relying on this protocol. However, we leave PPTP on this list purely for historic and symbolic appreciation.
L2TP stands for Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol. It is a protocol born from Cisco and Microsoft’s collaboration. L2TP is a tunneling method and does not offer its own security protocol. That is why it usually comes paired with IPSec for security.
While L2TP/IPSec has no known major security vulnerabilities, it is a proprietary technology. IPSec is also known for being compromised by the NSA, leaving many to drop their trust on this pair.
The one advantage is that you will find L2TP/IPSec pre-installed in most devices. The protocol defaults to UDP port 500, which makes it easy to spot traffic. Speed-wise, it stands mid-range to the rest of the protocols listed.
Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is another VPN protocol by Microsoft for Windows Vista. Nowadays, you have it integrated with most Windows products.
For our Mac lovers, this is obviously not the protocol for you. However, it is possible to get Mac SSTP compatibility support via third party clients.
As a default service for Windows, SSTP is relatively secure as it uses AES encryption. It can easily bypass most firewalls. Even though it is proprietary, many will consider this secure enough for their everyday activity.
IKEv2 stands for Internet Key Exchange version 2. It is another product born from the collaboration between Microsoft and Cisco following L2TP. Just like its predecessor, IKEv2 is only a tunneling protocol and does not provide any encryption by itself. That is why it is also paired with IPSec for security and authentication purposes.
IKEv2 offers high stability and automatic re-connection capabilities. This makes it a popular solution for mobile devices where momentary connection losses are common.
Even though this is a proprietary solution, you will find open-source versions of it.
VPN technologies are broad and with an ever-evolving landscape. Depending on the nature of your needs, you may opt for one solution over another.
Regardless of the protocol you decide to choose, we want to leave you with the following advice: choose an option that is open-source, stable, and continuously keeping up with state of the art security protocols.
At PrivadoVPN, we make sure that your security is our number one priority!