A simple guide to understanding VPN protocols
The modern internet is full of nefarious online threats, from hackers to malware, and even different agencies such as the NSA who aim to monitor all internet traffic for their own purposes. Due to this, using additional protection software has become a necessity, and this situation has been the norm for several years now. To ensure the protection of individuals and businesses, online security experts created services called VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), which can protect users’ online traffic by employing different methods.
Most of the quality VPN services provide high-quality security protocols, which can create a tunnel around users’ information flow, and employ encryption which makes it impossible for anyone apart from the user to see what is going on. Over the years, developers have created numerous different protocols which differ in multiple aspects, including encryption strength, speed, and security, in general.
Users interested in employing one of many VPN services for the protection of their browsing sessions should be familiar with what these protocols are, how they work, and what they can offer. Knowing this information can make all the difference when it comes to choosing the proper VPN service. Because of that, we have created a simple guide that will make understanding the nature and possibilities of security protocols easy to understand.
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are specialized tools used by those who aim to improve their online security during browsing the web. They became quite popular in recent years due to an increase in awareness when it comes to hacking attacks, data leakage, malware infections, and similar issues. Additionally, laws that allow the ISPs to sell user data to advertisers also had a significant impact, as well as online censorship policies that remain a significant problem in many parts of the world.
Considering the situation, it is not surprising that VPN technology became crucial to users around the globe, whether for businesses or just for regular web users.
What are VPN protocols?
As mentioned, VPN services can offer a way for users to protect their data and keep it private. That is possible by creating a protective tunnel around users’ data flow, which shields the data via encryption. No one can penetrate such defenses, which is what makes VPNs crucial for businesses that wish for their communications to remain private.
Because of this process, VPN protocols are also known as tunneling protocols. The tunnels are secure enough that they can even allow users to use unprotected networks, and remain safe in the process. Most of the time, public networks are deemed unsafe, as anyone can access them, which makes them a perfect hunting ground for hackers. You encounter these at airports, coffee shops etc. .This feature makes VPNs perfect for people who often travel to different locations, whether it is for business or personal pleasure.
It is also vital for protocols to be fast, as many people tend to use the web for live streams, watching online videos, and alike. Depending on their purpose, protocols are divided into delivery protocols and payload protocols.
Delivery protocols typically have better security because they have to offer higher speeds and stability. They use an information delivery method known as “layered protocol model,” which provides a lot of different benefits such as message integrity. This feature can ensure that all attempts at information delivery are detected and neutralized immediately. Also, data encryption prevents anyone from seeing the actual content of the transmitted data.
Types of VPN protocols
Typically, VPN protocols come in several main types. Those include OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec. While they share a lot of similarities, such as compatibility with different operating systems, they also differ in important details. Those may include encryption levels, the strength of security, speed, and alike.
The most significant difference between them usually lies in security and encryption. For example, the most often used protocol is OpenVPN, which is open-source, and one of the most secure ones currently in use. It uses AES-256 bit encryption, a 2048-bit RSA authentication, as well as a 160-bit SHA1 hash algorithm. While this level of protection is considered to be very strong, this particular protocol also requires more processing power to run. In the past, it saw a lot of criticism for slower speeds, but after being modified, it now offers a much faster service on most systems. This, combined with excellent security, is one of the reasons why a large variety of VPN services opt to employ it.
As for the L2TP protocol (Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol), it also has AES-256 bit encryption, which, as mentioned, provides more than a decent level of protection. After its arrival in the market, this protocol replaced PPTP, which we will talk about later. L2TP was different from OpenVPN, as it does not provide any privacy or encryption by itself. This lack of encryption is the reason why it often comes in combination with IPsec, and the combination of the two — L2TP/IPSec — has become one of the safest connections on the market. The protocol also has no known vulnerabilities, although it does have several minor flaws, which can make the traffic that it protects easier to notice.
PPTP, or Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, is among the oldest protocols in the in the online security industry. While some services still use it, most have opted to replace it with faster and more secure alternatives. It was created in 1995, and it was integrated into Windows 95. It was designed to work with dial-up connections, which was considered very useful at the time. Since then, security protocols have evolved, and PPTP is no longer considered secure by today’s standards. Its encryption was cracked a long time ago, by hackers and governments alike, which is why sending data through this protocol does not guarantee protection.
But, as mentioned, it is still in use, as some people believe that its connection speeds are the fastest, which can only be possible due to the lack of security.
SSTP stands for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, which is yet another of the most popular security protocols today. Microsoft users often employ it since it comes with every version of Windows since Vista Service Pack 1. While this is quite beneficial, it does not make it the only protocol that can run on Windows systems. The protocol uses 2048-bit SSL/TLS certificates and 256-bit SSL keys to provide encryption, which makes it one of the top-security protocols today. Also, even though it has native support for Windows, it can be used on other systems as well.
Finally, there is Internet Key Exchange version 2. IKEv2 is another protocol created by Microsoft in cooperation with Cisco, and on its own, it can serve comparably to any other tunneling protocol. Due to this, it often comes in pair with IPSec, just like L2TP, which improves its functionality by bringing encryption. Even so, IKEv2 is less popular than others, but it is often used on mobiles because it can quickly reconnect to the internet after a temporary loss of connection. Apple products use this protocol.