VPN protocols are an integral part of the initial VPN connection. They negotiate encryption algorithms and connection rules, and ensure VPN stability as well as speed.
PPTP and L2TP/IPSec are the most common protocols. There are many more, but these 5 protocols are the most common. You will likely use one of them with any VPN provider. These protocols have different speeds, security, stability and reliability. So which protocol should you choose?
PPTP (Point-to-point Tunneling Protocol) is one of the first VPN protocols ever developed and was introduced by Microsoft in the 1990s and was in-built in Windows OS since the launch of Win’95. It is now possible to find this protocol on every OS, including Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. This makes it extremely easy to set up PPTP connections. PPTP has been out of use for a while and is currently considered insecure and outdated because of the rapid advancements in technology. Some critical security flaws have been discovered over time that allow eavesdroppers and hackers to decrypt VPN traffic. This makes connections made using this protocol vulnerable for man-in-the middle attacks. PPTP uses UDP port 1723, making it easy to identify and block VPN connections using firewalls. PPTP is not recommended for basic encryption due to security flaws.
2. L2TP / IPSec
L2TP / IPSec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol / Internet Protocol Security) – is said to be a better and upgraded version of PPTP. This protocol does NOT provide encryption, therefore it is used in conjunction with IPsec security suite. It encrypts the VPN tunnel’s payload. IPSec uses strong encryption algorithms, however, there are rumors that the NSA has weakened this protocol’s standards and added a backdoor making it possible to decrypt certain connections. This secure protocol is cross-platform and can be used on Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Android. L2TP uses UDP port500, which makes it easy to identify and block connections. It is a secure and reliable protocol that can be used to connect and should be preferred over PPTP.
IKEv2 is an older protocol and is not as popular as the others. However, it is quickly growing in popularity and is now available on Windows and iOS since v10.11. It does not encrypt VPN payload, and can be used with IPSec to secure the VPN tunnel. This protocol is highly praised for its speed, stability, and automatic VPN connection feature. It’s a great choice for mobile devices. IKEv2 makes it easy to switch networks between Wi-Fi and 4G, or change hotspots. This protocol is a great choice for those who travel a lot, switch networks often, and want to remain safe and secure online.
OpenVPN, an open-source VPN protocol, is the most widely used. It has a wide variety of configurations and connection stability. It also supports AES256 bit encryption. OpenVPN’s open source code can be audited and inspected, making it more secure. It also prevents any backdoors or flaws from being implemented. The protocol can be used across platforms as third-party software. However, each VPN provider has its own configurations. OpenVPN allows connections via UDP, as well as TCP port 443. This is a common TCP port that makes it harder to block or spot a VPN connection. This protocol is very popular and reliable.
SSTP, or Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, is a Microsoft protocol and has been available since Windows Vista’s release. While this protocol is designed for Windows only, it can also be used on Linux and Mac. Microsoft owns the code for this protocol and it cannot be audited in full. SSTP uses SSL 3.0 encryption standards. It can also connect via TCP port 443. This makes it difficult to block OpenVPN or notice. This protocol works best with windows devices, as it is native to the OS.
We have compiled a summary infographic that provides all the relevant information on each protocol.