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VPN protocols by Surfshark

Advanced technologies for secure internet connection

  • IKEv2 - the fast favorite on mobile OS
  • OpenVPN - a reliable open-source classic
  • Shadowsocks - top choice in restrictive countries
  • WireGuard® - modern and secure solution
VPN protocols by Surfshark

What are VPN protocols?

VPN tunneling protocols are a technology that helps VPNs safely send your data through the internet, which is necessary if you want to browse websites, use social media, or do just about anything else online.

Different protocols vary in their speed and security. Many are considered obsolete and not secure, which is why they are rarely used – like PPTP or L2TP, which we do not offer in any of our apps. 

VPN protocol vs. tunneling protocol

A tunneling protocol is simply a way to transfer information from point A to point B. It may offer an underlying layer of encryption, but it is not considered secure.

A VPN protocol does so much more – it makes sure to authenticate data, offers end-to-end encryption. It may even hide VPN traffic with the help of obfuscation, as well as offers perfect forward secrecy, and key exchange via secure channels, among other things. While it may have a tunneling protocol inside of these operations, it handles most of what you need your VPN to do and does it safely.

Surfshark VPN supports these protocols: 


IKEv2 (short for Internet Key Exchange version 2) is a fast and secure protocol that tends to work best when the server you’re connecting to is physically nearby. It was developed by Cisco and Microsoft security engineers and it is very popular among mobile users.

Availability: MacOS, Android, Windows, iOS and Fire TV applications.


OpenVPN is an open-source protocol, which means that it is constantly being developed and improved by security professionals around the world. It’s fast, secure, and often works best for long-distance connections or desktop operating systems.

Availability: macOS, Android, Windows, iOS, Fire TV and Linux applications.


WireGuard is a relatively new VPN protocol designed to be simpler than its predecessors. With only 4,000 lines of code, WireGuard is less susceptible to security vulnerabilities as it’s easier to manage and audit. It also uses high-speed cryptographic primitives for better performance.

Availability: Android, Windows, iOS, and macOS.


Shadowsocks is an encrypted proxy that was designed specifically to help people overcome the restrictions of the so-called Great Firewall of China. It works great for that purpose, but if you are not in a restricted country, you’re better off using either OpenVPN or IKEv2.

Availability: Android and Windows applications.

How to set up the VPN protocol of your choice in any Surfshark app


Open your app’s Settings


Go to the Advanced section


Select your protocol. That’s it!

What about others?

L2tp and PPTP banner graphic


Outdated and not secure tunneling protocols

L2TP, sometimes available as a slightly improved L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP are both old-school tunneling protocols. They are obsolete and do not offer adequate security, which is why we highly recommend to avoid both of them.


What is the fastest VPN protocol?

Currently, WireGuard is considered to be the fastest protocol. It uses advanced cryptographic primitives and lives inside the Linux kernel (kernel is a computer program at the core of an operating system), ensuring high-speed, secure networking.

What is the safest VPN protocol?

A VPN protocol needs quite many additional security elements in order to achieve the level of security that can be considered adequate. Therefore no VPN protocol on its own can be crowned as “the most secure”, simply because there are a lot of moving parts to it.

How do I know which protocol is the best for me?

As long as you’re not using old, outdated protocols, you’re good! If you want the best protocol for a specific scenario, let the apps handle it and opt for automatic protocol selection.

Protect yourself with the latest security protocols

“WireGuard” is a registered trademark of Jason A. Donenfeld