We have already talked about how VPNs protect your device when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. However, not all VPNs are the same. You should also pay close attention to a VPNs fundamentals, particular to the protocols being used. Some VPN protocols are used for very specific tasks and if those protocols alone were used for a VPN for browsing the internet, it will have a lot of security and speed issues. Also some VPN providers uses older, outdated encryption protocols which are prone to be compromised and may lack the capacity in terms of data security.
That being said, users need to look for a VPN provider which works with newer, more secure encryption protocols such as PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, and OpenVPN. So, among the aforementioned VPN protocols, which is/are considered the best? We will break down each of the protocols which will give you an insight into what suites you the best.
- PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)
Considered as one of the forefathers of today’s VPN encryption protocols, the PPTP has been around for several decades already due to Microsoft. The PPTP dates back to Windows 95, and is still popular up to now because of its integration into Windows, Linux as well as MacOS. PPTP creates an encrypted tunnel between the PC and the VPN server through TCP port 1723 as well as General Routing Encapsulation (GRE). PPTP protocol can be set up on every major OS but it’s no longer widely being used as it has low security measures compared to the technologies in used today. But due to the lower amount of security features this protocol is considered as one of the faster VPN protocols.
The Layer-2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is an extension of the PPTP. It combines the PPTP with L2F (Layer-2 Forwarding Protocol), which was developed by Cisco. L2TP/IPsec is a combination of two protocols to get the best out of the two. L2TP alone does not provide any encryption or security but it creates the tunnel while the IPsec protocol (Internet Protocol Security) provides the security to the channel. In contrast to PPTP which uses a 128-bit key, the L2TP/IPSec works with a 256-bit key which is more complex and a more secure feature which can be used to encrypt even military communications. Additionally, as L2TP is among one of the latest protocols developed, it is supported by Windows XP onwards, and MacOS 10.3 or higher, and by several mobile OS. And as the L2TP operates with the 256-bit key, it demands more computer capacity (memory) on top of its complex set-up and configuration requirements. This uses AES 256-bit encryption providing great security and this protocol has no known vulnerabilities making it a very strong package.
The Microsoft-developed Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (MS-SSTP or simply SSTP), directs data-encrypted traffic via TCP port 443, bypassing proxy servers and firewalls, so it is unlikely to be blocked. And as SSTP is not considered an open source encryption, it can also be said that is among one of the most secure VPN protocols of today.
- OpenVPN TCP
Breaking away from the “built-in” protocol series is the OpenVPN TCP. It is a open source VPN protocol and is signed under a GNU General Public License. By this virtue, the code is “open” for the community to access, and thereby improved in the process. Also the SSL/TLS certificate is used as pre-shared key exchange, for enhanced security features.
OpenVPN uses open source encryption through OpenSSL which employs 256-bit encryption. The TCP variant of the OpenVPN is considered a ‘stateful protocol’ which offers integrated error correction. This simply means that whenever a data packet is sent [via the internet], a confirmation of arrival is required before the next one is transmitted; so that when no confirmation is received, the current packet is transmitted once again. For this reason, OpenVPN TCP is the choice for higher security and where latency does not take priority such as with surfing the web and using emails.
- OpenVPN UDP
Alternatively, the other variant of OpenVPN is the UDP (User Datagram Protocol). Unlike the TCP variant which puts a prime on reliability of data transmission, the OpenVPN UDP focuses on low-latency transmission of data, without the 100% assurance of delivery of data (so reliability is sacrificed). UDP simply transmits the packets of data minus the checks and redundancy, so it consumes less memory, and therefore has lower latency. For this reason, OpenVPN UDP is highly suitable for activities such as audio and video streaming, as well as gaming. Some VPN services use both OpenVPN TCP and UDP, with a feature that allows users to switch between the two, depending on the need and usage.
When it comes to security and reliability the newer the protocol the better. Also, consider the bulk of your activity online when signing up with a VPN service with any of the above-listed protocols. Make sure that your VPN’s security protocol will complement and support your activities online. If you can find a VPN provider which offers more than one security protocol in their package such as VPN Surf, then you might be looking at a very good product, but make sure the price is worth it.
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