Our Guide to the 6 Most Common VPN Protocols
Over 30% of internet users in the US and UK use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) every day, and over 40% use them at least once a week. VPNs keep you and your internet habits private and safe from third parties looking to exploit that data.
There are many VPN providers out there, and one way to distinguish one from the other is to look at what VPN protocols they offer.
What Are VPN Protocols?
VPNs transmit your data through encrypted tunnels to VPN servers. VPN protocols are the processes that determine how that tunnel is formed. Each protocol provides different solutions to all the privacy problems that come with connecting to the internet.
Some protocols prioritize speed of access, while others are centered on encrypting data. VPNs use different protocols depending on what you want to do and what device you use.
This guide to VPN protocols will help you decide which VPN software and provider are best for you and your needs.
6 Most Common VPN Protocols
1) Open VPN
OpenVPN is a highly secure and very popular protocol commonly used by many VPN providers. It’s open-source, so you can choose to inspect the code for any vulnerabilities. It’s flexible, so you can use it for different encryption purposes. It can also bypass most firewalls.
OpenVPN uses a virtually unbreakable AES-256 bit encryption with a 160-bit SHA1 hash algorithm and 2048-bit RSA authentication.
2) Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)
This is a VPN protocol created by Microsoft, and it’s supported by nearly all modern Microsoft devices. It can get through most firewalls and supports AES-256 encryption, which means it’s very secure. But because Microsoft owns it, developers don’t have access to the code. There may be vulnerabilities that aren’t disclosed to users.
3) Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2)
IKEv2 establishes an authenticated and encrypted connection to your network. Its stability ensures that you can maintain a VPN connection as you switch between internet connections, so it’s a great choice if you need a mobile VPN. It’s also secure and fast.
4) Wire Guard
This is the newest protocol that uses state-of-the-art cryptography. It’s free, open-source, and extremely fast. It only consists of 4,000 lines of code, which makes it easy to implement (in comparison, OpenVPN has 40,000 lines of code).
Because it’s so new, implementation is still in very early stages, and it is not yet available through most consumer VPN providers.
5) Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
Microsoft developed PPTP in the mid-90s, and it was the first widely available VPN protocol. Because it’s so old, most modern devices can run it efficiently. It provides the fastest speed, so it’s very popular for people who are focused on streaming content.
The main downside to PPTP is that its many vulnerabilities have already been cracked and identified. It’s not the most secure or most reliable protocol out there.
6) Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
This is a VPN tunneling protocol that creates a secure connection between your device and a VPN server. It is widely available and can accept many different encryption protocols. However, it is one of the slowest protocols available because it encapsulates data twice. This protocol is also easily blocked by some firewalls.
VPN protocols create secure connections that keep your data and your browsing habits safe from prying eyes. The best VPN protocol depends on your specific needs—there’s no one protocol perfect for everyone. While choosing a VPN provider, take a look at the VPN protocols included in their features and use this guide to see if they will give you what you need.
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