With the increasing threats from NSA, hackers, phishes, and other cyber-goons, a VPN is the best tool for securing your online privacy. While it encrypts all your internet traffic, a VPN also utilizes an extra layer of security in the form of protocols.
When it comes to selecting a VPN protocol, you can be spoiled for choice. There are different types of protocols that you can use but not all are secure and reliable. This is where our guide comes in to play as it will help you sort out the difference between these VPN protocols and provide you an insight into which protocols to use.
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From the illustrious list of protocols that are available, we will focus on the following five protocols that are most commonly offered by various VPN providers:
PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling) is a popular protocol and is offered by almost every VPN provider. One of the reasons for this is that PPTP can be easily configured or setup on any VPN compatible device. However, the ease-of-use is overshadowed by PPTP’s security vulnerabilities.
PPTP is no longer the most secure protocol out there and has been publically cracked by professionals. Its major flaw comes from MS-CHAPv2 authentication which led to PPTP being broken through. Although Microsoft fixed this issue, it is still recommended that you use other protocols for securing your data and privacy. The security flaws inherent in PPTP also leave it vulnerable to breaches from NSA.
- Easy to setup and use.
- Fast (doesn’t compromise your internet speeds significantly).
- Highly compatible and is built-in on all major devices.
- Not secure as it is vulnerable to security breaches.
- NSA can compromise PPTP.
L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol) is also amongst the most popular VPN protocols and is offered by numerous premium VPN providers such as PureVPN and IPVanish. Since L2TP does not encrypt your internet traffic on its own, it is used with IPSec encryption suit.
L2TP/IPSec is known to provide better security compared to PPTP and is built-in to the latest operating systems and devices. However, you can face the problem in setting up L2TP/IPSec if it is blocked by your firewall (this is where you require Port Forwarding). Also, the revelations brought to the limelight by Edward Snowden show that L2TP was deliberately weakened by NSA during the design stages.
- Offers better security (certainly more secure than PPTP).
- High Compatibility.
- Can be easily configured & is built-in popular OS.
- It is slow in performance.
- Known to be weakened by NSA.
- Restrictive firewalls can hinder its performance.
OpenVPN protocol is considered the strongest protocol there is today. It is an open source technology and the OpenSSL library supports all major cryptographic algorithms (Blowfish, AES, CAST-128, etc.). Since OpenVPN is open source software and the information revealed by Edward Snowden, shows that OpenVPN has not been compromised by NSA.
On the other hand, OpenVPN can be tricky to setup as it may require third party software. Although some VPN services have customized their VPN clients for OpenVPN protocol but third party software are still required if you are configuring it on iOS or Android devices.
- Highly secure (even against NSA).
- Open Source software (immune for any sort of tampering).
- Supports all major encryption algorithms.
- Faster than L2TP/IPSec protocol
- Requires third party software (especially on iOS & Android).
- Setup process can be tricky & lengthy
SSTP protocol is developed and owned by Microsoft. It was first introduced in Windows Vista SP1 and offers similar security benefits as OpenVPN. However, SSTP is limited to Windows-only platform and not supported by wide range of VPN providers, such as IPVanish. The history between NSA and Microsoft also questions the reliability of SSTP as it can be prone to NSA backdoors.
- Highly secure (almost similar to OpenVPN).
- Is built-in all latest Windows OS.
- Can bypass firewalls.
- Can be compromised by NSA.
- Only compatible on Windows platform.
IKEv2 protocol was jointly developed by Microsoft and Cisco. It uses the same basis as IPSec protocol and is popular on some mobile operating systems. IKEv2 is considered to be very fast and provides stable connection. However, not all devices support IKEv2 and the setup can be complex (especially if you are trying to configure it on servers).
- Provides stable connection.
- Faster than PPTP, L2TP/IPSec & SSTP protocols.
- Supported by BlackBerry devices & open source software available for Linux.
- Highly secure
- Not compatible on all platforms.
- Setup on server can be difficult.
- Not immune to NSA tampering.
To wrap things up, different protocols offer various benefits along with certain drawbacks. Some VPN providers may offer a handful of these protocols or perhaps all five of them but the final choice remains in your hands.
PPTP protocol is fast but not secure at all. While L2TP/IPSec protocol is more secure and compatible on various devices, it can significantly hinder your internet speeds. SSTP and IKEv2 protocols are also useful under different circumstances but are limited to certain platforms.
So from our analysis, we recommend VPN services that offer OpenVPN protocol over all other protocols. This is because of its open source nature, high compatibility of all major encryption algorithms, fast performance, and capable of stopping surveillance attacks from NSA.