What are VPN protocols

Encryption protocols (also known as cryptographic protocols) are protocols which determine the level of encryption.

VPN protocols help secure data between your device and a selected remote server so that no one can eavesdrop on your browsing activities.

What is the difference between protocols

VPN, or a Virtual private network, is a security tool engineered to protect you from various online security threats.

To put it simply, when it comes to VPNs, all of the protocols have different advantages. Some protocols guarantee a better speed, others – a higher level of privacy, etc.

Moreover, some of the protocols are considered as outdated, and security technologists recommend not to entrust your online security to unreliable technology, especially since a number of trusted VPN providers, like Surfshark, offer the latest security solutions.

What tunneling protocols are used in VPNs

There is a list of the most popular VPN protocols. Just bear with us, although these names might seem complicated, we will try to explain all of the primary features of each of them.

Best known VPN tunneling protocols:

  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2
  • SSTP

Which VPN protocols are considered outdated and unreliable?

These VPN protocols are regarded as old and vulnerable:

  • PPTP
  • SSTP
  • L2TP/IPSec

We recommend, while choosing your VPN provider, make sure it does not use these protocols. Surfshark’s technologists implemented acknowledged IKEv2 and OpenVPN to keep your online activities safe.

IKEv2 protocol

Internet Key Exchange is an authentication method and a secure tunneling protocol developed by Microsoft and Cisco. Designed to be a secure method of tunneling for both consumer and enterprise use, IKEv2 offers low-security overhead and strong encryption, with a variety of options for security and connection customization. Version 2 fixed a number of issues present in IKEv1, including traversal through firewalls running Network Address Translation (NAT) and specifications that allow for easier standardization across IKEv2 implementations.

Like OpenVPN, IKEv2 enjoys many of the benefits of an open-source library. While vendor-specific IKE implementations need to be licensed, anyone can attain and contribute to the IKEv2 protocol. This gives IKEv2 a high degree of security through consistent maintenance and patching of found vulnerabilities. IKE relies upon the IPSec suite for network stack functions.

Relying upon IPSec means that the IKE protocol utilizes both a user-space application as well as kernel-level processing. While this is still a safe way to process encryption, it’s worth noting that placing security exchanges so close to the machine level does potentially provide more routes for attackers to find vulnerabilities in. From a consumer standpoint, this is unlikely to ever be a major concern.

As a Microsoft developed protocol, IKE implementations tend to play nicely with various versions of Windows and can be easier for end-users to setup than OpenVPN. IKEv2 is quickly being adopted by many VPN platforms thanks to its ease-of-use features, strong security, and wireless performance.

Encryption itself is done by AES-256, a secure encryption method currently used as a standard across the globe.

OpenVPN protocol

OpenVPN is an open source tunneling protocol. As an open source project, its code is freely available on the internet and it consistently receives updates and maintenance from security and networking experts from across the globe.

OpenVPN uses the OpenSSL library for security encryption. OpenSSL allows for a variety of encryption methods and security levels, with up to 256-bit encryption being possible. Exactly how much encryption is set will vary from provider to provider, with higher encryption rates having more security overhead. The more overhead a security implementation has, the slower the connection will be, so it’s not uncommon for providers to find a balance between security and speed.

The OpenSSL library itself sees frequent and consistent updates – a critical part of strong security. For all intents and purposes, the OpenVPN protocol can be viewed as nearly impenetrable.

OpenVPN offers other enhanced security features that will usually only be seen at the enterprise level, or for users who require absolutely uncompromising security for their data, like smart card support.

What is PPTP protocol

PPTP (or Point-to-Point Tunneling) is an obsolete VPN security protocol, which has been considered insecure for over a decade, new people in IT probably have never even heard of it. In fact, too many security vulnerabilities of PPTP have also been found to consider this protocol for a reliable VPN service.

PPTP is like an ancestor of other security protocols. PPTP was engineered by Microsoft almost two decades ago and was one of the first VPN protocols.

Now, succeeded by stronger and therefore more secure protocols, PPTP can go to a well-deserved retirement.

L2TP/IPSec protocol

L2TP/IPSec is a composition of tunneling protocols L2TP (also known as Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol), and IPSec (or Internet Protocol Security) used to support VPNs. Since L2TP doesn’t have encryption, it is combined with IPSec.

L2TP/IPSec encapsulates your data twice, and that might notably slow down the speed of VPN connection.

Leading VPN service providers avoid using L2TP/IPSec. Whistleblower Edward Snowden criticized the protocol because security agencies, like U. S. National Security Agency, NSA, can compromise the protocol.

So if a VPN uses L2TP/IPSec most likely NSA can crack it and spy on your online activities. 

What is SSTP protocol

SSTP (or Secure Socket Tunneling) is a VPN protocol for various Windows platforms. Also designed by Microsoft, security experts do not recommend this protocol.

The main reason why SSTP is not a trusted tunneling protocol is that it is defenseless against so-called man-in-the-middle (or MITM) attacks. This is primarily due to different levels of authentication.

MITM happens when scammers create a fake public network. Then, use it to snoop on your private information and target data on your devices.

To summarise VPN tunneling protocols

Although there are many protocols used by VPN providers, some of them are outdated and vulnerable to breaches.

Tools to breach your privacy get more sophisticated every day, a robust VPN service must always be ahead of security risks. If some protocols are infamous for their weaknesses, using them is a terrible idea.

Since your online security and privacy is our top priority, we highly recommend only select VPN providers who rely on IKEv2 and OpenVPN.

We recommend:

  • IKEv2 – because by far it is the latest and most popular VPN tunneling protocol.
  • OpenVPN – because it is a reliable and fast tunneling protocol.

What do I do if I want my identity to be protected

Sign up for Surfshark, because we use topmost security protocols, IKEv2 and OpenVPN, to protect your online privacy and identity. We offer generous discounts and 30-day money back guarantee.