6 VPN Protocols: What Are They And How Are They Used?

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VPN Protocols are a key component to VPNs, Virtual Private Networks. VPNs are a tool that allows users to layer traffic among multiple networks within a secured encrypted tunnel, which gives a number of benefits. VPN Protocols are required to use VPNs, as they provide many key aspects of encryption and decryption.

VPN Protocols are essentially a set of standards for encoding information that travels between one’s device and the web. Each VPN Protocol has different attributes, and certainly, not all VPN Protocols are created equally. Some VPN Protocols are restricted to platforms, or are for a specific use, or are for general purposes use, such as OpenVPN.

Something often mentioned with VPN Protocols is Encryption. Encryption is a technology that encrypts data, and is often the ‘how-to’ directions a VPN takes into account encrypting and decrypting data. We have spoken at length about Encryption in other articles, and so for the purpose of this one, we won’t be looking at it.

So, what VPN Protocols are there? Which should I use? Which is the best? Let’s get into it!

VPN Protocols

PPTP

Though mostly obsolete, PPTP is worth discussing for its historical relevance when looking at VPN Protocols. PPTP was first published in July 1999, and was developed by a consortium consisting of Microsoft, 3Com, Ascend, and some others.

PPTP encapsulates network protocol datagrams within an IP envelope. Following encapsulation, all encounters from that point will it as an IP packet. This encapsulation allows transfer across an IP-only medium, namely the Internet.

PPTP largely revolves around Microsoft RAS and Windows NT. RAS allows for network admins to configure an NT server for remote employees over a dial-in point. Authentication for the RAS users occurs on the NT server, which is governed by a PPP protocol.

PPTP was designed to streamline this process. It allowed users to connect to a RAS server from anywhere while having the same authentication, security, and encryption they’d get when manually dialing in. PPTP and RAS worked in tandem to create a VPN.

Though rarely used anymore, PPTP provided a blueprint for later models. Microsoft went on to engineer many more VPN Protocols, some of which are covered in this article.

L2TP/IPSec

L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol) by itself is a VPN protocol with an unusual downside in that there is no encryption offered at all. This is why its bundled with IPSec, a suite of tools focusing on encryption. Thus, the two are often discussed together.

L2TP and IPsec are two different VPN Protocols technically. L2TP is a tunneling VPN Protocol. This means it creates a separate tunnel for data to travel through.

IPSec provides the encryption aspect for the network layer, so all traffic running with the L2TP VPN Protocol is kept secure

L2TP/IPSec is a successor to the PPTP VPN protocol. L2TP/IPSec is a joining of the best aspects of the (then) most popular VPN protocols, L2F and PPTP, while avoiding any disadvantages found on these VPN Protocols.

L2TP encapsulates PPP in virtual lines over IP, and as such requires an IP protocol – mostly IPv4 or IPv6. Again, this is not encrypted, which is why IPSec sits on top of L2TP.

The relationship between the two is not one-sided by any means. IPSec by itself doesn’t have any method to handle authentication or key distribution. And so the two are used together and can provide the following benefits as a VPN Protocol:

-Authentication through local user accounts or EAP
-Message authentication and checks on the integrity of all data
-Mutual Authentication

L2TP/IPsec has a long history when it comes to VPN Protocols and due to its engineering has remained relevant. However, it has mostly been phased out in favor of SSTP.

SSTP

SSTP, or the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, a common VPN Protocol that is quite popular. It is a proprietary VPN Protocol developed by Microsoft, so is found on Windows devices. SSTP was developed to replace both the PPTP and L2TP/IPSec VPN protocols. Today, native VPN connections mostly use SSTP if created in Windows. SSTP prides itself in ease of use for both users and network admins.

Unlike its predecessors, SSTP uses SSL/TLS to provide secure key dealings and encrypted transfers. This also gives the user greater freedom when it comes to navigating firewalls.

VPN Protocols

SSTP uses the same port as SSL/TLS, and it bases the connection on this authentication rather than the devices. With regards to vpn protocols comparison, it is often compared to OpenVPN, which is the golden standard in both encryption libraries and VPN Protocols, and is used in SaferNet.

SSTP was introduced alongside Windows Vista, and has retained its place as a secure VPN Protocols throughout Windows 7, 8, 10, and 11

Like OpenVPN, SSTP uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption cipher, which makes it a very secure option. Some downsides of SSTP is that it is proprietary, and so can’t be scrutinized under the hood. Furthermore, it is mostly only available on Windows devices, so isn’t ideal for everybody.

IKEv2

IKEv2, or Internet Key Exchange version 2, is another VPN Protocol used alongside IPSec. Many VPN Providers will refer to it as IKEv2/IPSec

IKEv2 was a joint collaboration between Microsoft and Cisco. The VPN Protocol has a great reputation, especially when it comes to stability. It is also known to be one of the more speedy VPN protocols.

The role of IKEv2 is to authenticate both parties using a SA attribute.

SA is a method of creating a security agreement between two parties on a network. This is done by forging a symmetric encryption key for both. This information is transferred between client and server and is decrypted using these forged keys.

IKEv2 operates within the user space, while IPSec is a kernel operation, providing good synergy in the VPN Protocol. IKEv2 sends data and establishes security, and IPSec uses this to encrypt the traffic.

IKEv2 is the successor to IKEv1. It provided many advantages over its predecessor, including:

-Fewer messages are required to create a secure connection
-Supports NAT traversal
-Supports EAP
-Supports the MOBIKE Protocol, which prevents data leaks
-Less security associations required to create a VPN tunnel
-More resistant to DDOS attacks
-Implements asymmetric authentication

WIREGUARD

WireGuard is a new kid on the block in the street of VPN Protocols. It’s somewhat of a maverick VPN Protocol, and aims to dethrone OpenVPN and IKEv2.

WireGuard was developed by Jason Donenfield, and was first worked on in 2016. It was originally developed for Linux, but is now available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

One of the major features that make WireGuard attractive, especially to developers, is it’s incredibly simple to implement. Between them, OpenVPN and IKEv2 have over a million lines of code. WireGuard uses just under 5000 lines, and retains many of the benefits.

WireGuard has reduced CPU usage and faster connection times also, and works very well on mobile devices or IoT devices that don’t have a large amount of processing power. The VPN Protocol also uses very modern cryptography protocols such as Curve25519, ChaCha20, Poly1305 and BLAKE2

Due to the fact it works inside the Kernel, WireGuard can offer a speed boost to internet connection. This is an oddity within the world of VPN Protocols, as many VPN Protocols can slow down a connection. In a conference in 2021, Donenfeld showed a wifi speed increase of a significant amount, but it is unclear if this is typical for all connections.

WireGuard is now widely supported in the world of VPN Protocols, and many VPN vendors offer it.

It isn’t without disadvantages however – For example, it doesn’t offer dynamic IP addresses. It also doesn’t delete the IP address on disconnection, meaning it isn’t without logs. The likes of OpenVPN go much further in protecting user privacy.

Keys are somewhat less secure using WireGuard also, as there is no support for forward secrecy.

Though these disadvantages are present, there is no doubt that WireGuard brings a lot to the VPN Protocol table. It’s hard to say what the future holds for this VPN Protocol, and it very may well take the top spot with further development.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is without a doubt the most popular VPN protocol, and for good reason. It is considered the gold standard VPN protocol for safety, and you will be hard-pressed to find a VPN Protocol to match it.

It was developed in 2001 and is an open source VPN Protocol, meaning it is open to scrutiny from anybody and easily modified into more advanced VPNs, such as SaferNet.

There are so many variations of OpenVPN that there are constantly new releases, with new features, making the VPN Protocol more faster and more secure frequently.

OpenVPN uses SSL and TLS. It draws extensively from the OpenSSL library and or an extra layer of security, the VPN Protocol uses TLS-auth for packet inspection. This confirms only the right users can encrypt and decrypt data.

OpenVPN offers a large amount of cipher, but as standard implements 256-bit encryption. Mostly commonly, the VPN Protocol uses AES, which SaferNet does in its own OpenVPN implementation.

The VPN Protocol also has an additional encryption feature called Perfect Forward Secrecy, which creates a new key with each connection.

OpenVPN is platform agnostic, meaning it can run on nearly every platform, and so can secure every device.

There are so many features to OpenVPN that they go outside the scope of this article, but rest assured that it is the most secure, customizable VPN Protocol available.

WHICH IS THE BEST VPN PROTOCOL?

Though it can be circumstantial, there is no doubt that the best VPN Protocol is OpenVPN, which is why SaferNet has opted to use it. If you are in a situation where do not own a smartphone and only use the Windows operating system, IKEv2 is an option. WireGuard does have a bright future, but it may be best to wait and see how future development goes

SAFERNET – The Only Name In Cybersecurity By VPN

When looking at VPN Protocols, OpenVPN is the obvious choice. But what VPN to go with? The best option is SaferNet, which was engineered on a modified version of OpenVPN, which was only made possible due to the open-source nature of the VPN Protocol. SaferNet offers around-the-clock protection, ensuring both privacy and antivirus capabilities no matter where you are, and no matter what type of device you are using.

Not only does SaferNet feature cybersecurity features, a rarity in the VPN world, it also offers over 200 Internet Controls that can be used by familys and employers to secure their network.

SaferNet is a 3-in-1 complete package, offering a secure VPN, Malware Protection, and Network control, all in one solution. The setup is easy and can be completed in minutes. With a cost price for every kind of user, check out SaferNet today!

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