What Are VPN Protocols: Common VPN Protocols Explained

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a technology that allows you to create a secure and private network connection over the internet. A VPN protects your online privacy by masking your IP address and using encryption to cloak your online activities and route internet traffic through a secure tunnel with the help of VPN protocols.

What are VPN Protocols

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) protocol is a set of rules and procedures that govern the communication between your device and the VPN server. Below is the elaborated detail to the topic:

  • The VPN protocol determines how data is encrypted and transmitted between the two endpoints. The security level of your connection is determined by this protocol.
  • Encryption and authentication are key features provided by these protocols to ensure security within the VPN tunnel.
  • Authentication ensures that your device is connecting to a trustworthy VPN server, while encryption makes the tunnel unreadable by unauthorized parties.
  • However, implementing encryption and authentication can sometimes have an impact on the speed of your internet connection and browsing experience.
  • Different VPN protocols offer different features and levels of security, and it’s important to choose the right one for your needs.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common VPN protocols and their features.

Common VPN Protocols

1. Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

PPTP is one of the oldest and most widely supported VPN protocols. It’s easy to set up and provides fast connection speeds. However, it’s not the most secure protocol, as it uses weaker encryption compared to newer protocols.It can be easily set up on most of the major operating systems.

ProsCons
Configured on multiple devicesWeak encryption and security 
Fastest Protocol
Good for streaming purposes

2. Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) / Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)

L2TP is a protocol that offers a secure connection, and it is combined with IPSec to encrypt data for various uses. L2TP does the work of creating the secure tunnel, and the second protocol, IPSec, makes it easier to provide encryption and authentication for the data inside the tunnel. Military-grade AES-256-bit encryption is utilized in this protocol, and there are no known weaknesses.

ProsCons
Configured on multiple devicesDue to high encryption and security the speed is compromised. 
More encryption and security 

3. Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)

Windows has introduced SSTP as a VPN protocol that offers a high level of security for data. SSTP uses 2048-bit SSL/TLS certificates for authentication and 256-bit SSL keys for encryption to ensure that data is securely transmitted between the sender and receiver. This protocol is particularly useful for remote workers who handle confidential digital data and require top-notch security measures.

SSTP is a highly secure VPN protocol that is compatible with a wide range of operating systems and is ideal for users who require reliable, stable and secure access to a private network over the internet.

ProsCons
Configured on Windows, and Linux.
The Android, iOS, and MacOS support this protocol via third-party clients.
More encryption and security It cannot be audited independently since it is a Microsoft-developed proprietary protocol.
Integrated into all Microsoft operating systems, so easy to use there.Speed varies

4. Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2)

One of the most widely used VPN protocols is IKEv2, which is compatible with almost all devices, particularly mobile devices. It features automatic reconnection if there is any disruption to the connection, or if the device switches from Wi-Fi to mobile data (3G or 4G). Developed by Microsoft and Cisco, IKEv2 combines L2TP to create a secure tunnel and IPSec to provide encryption and authentication for the data inside the tunnel. The protocol uses 3DES and AES for encryption. 

ProsCons
Configured on multiple devicesDifficult to set up
Relatively provide better speedNot supported on older systems and devices. 
Stable and secure connection

5. Wire Guard

WireGuard is a newly developed VPN protocol that is highly advanced and is recognized for its simplicity and open-source nature. This protocol is incredibly easy to set up and provides fast speeds compared to other protocols, without sacrificing security. It can be configured easily on multiple devices, making it a versatile option for users.

WireGuard utilizes publicly available cryptography packages like Poly1305 for data authentication and ChaCha20 for encryption. These measures ensure the secure transmission of data while also providing high performance.

Overall, WireGuard is an advanced VPN protocol that is both easy to use and highly secure. Its use of modern cryptography techniques and open-source nature makes it a popular choice for users who prioritize both speed and security.

ProsCons
Configured on multiple devicesRelatively new protocol 
High-speed Limited third party support
Stable and secure connection

6. OpenVPN

OpenVPN is a widely recognized and reliable VPN protocol that is known for its strong security measures. It is widely used and can be easily set up on multiple devices using third-party VPN clients.

Users of OpenVPN can ensure the security of their data by employing AES-256 bit key encryption, 2048-bit RSA authentication, and a 160-bit SHA1 hash method. This protocol is also open-source, which means that it can be independently audited for security.

OpenVPN has two main types: TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol). The TCP variant is considered the most secure due to its use of multiple data verification methods. This added security comes at the cost of speed, making it a popular choice for remote work and connections to remote servers.

On the other hand, the UDP variant sacrifices some security for increased speed, making it a better option for users who prioritize speed over security.

ProsCons
Configured on multiple devicesLow speed on OpenVPN TCP
High-speed with OpenVPN UDPComplex manual configuration
Stable and secure connectionServer limitation
Works as a third party on other devices. 

7. Proprietary Protocols

In addition to the aforementioned VPN protocols, some VPN service providers develop their own proprietary VPN protocols. These protocols are unique to the provider and are designed to offer faster speeds compared to common protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard.

However, unlike open-source protocols such as OpenVPN and WireGuard, proprietary VPN protocols are not open-source. They are closed-source, which means that their configuration is difficult to read.

  • Some of the common VPN providers that have their in-house developed proprietary protocols are
  • Hydra Protocol of Hotspot Sheild 
  • NordLynx of NordVPN
  • ExpressVPN – Lightway
  • VyperVPN – Chameleon
ProsCons
Faster connection speedNot an open-source protocol.
Configured on multiple devices
Stable and secure connection

How To Choose the Best VPN Protocol

Choosing the best VPN protocol depends on several factors, including the level of security you need, the speed of your internet connection, and the device you are using. Here are some general considerations to keep in mind when choosing a VPN protocol:

Streaming

When streaming media, speed is typically more important than privacy. For the best performance, NordVPN’s NordLynx, which is built around Wireguard, is a good choice. WireGuard, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, or even OpenVPN in UDP mode are all decent choices.

Downloads

For downloading data from P2P networks, it’s important to prioritize both speed and privacy. WireGuard, such as NordVPN’s NordLynx, or OpenVPN in UDP mode are good protocol choices.

Security

If security is your top priority, then choose a protocol that offers strong encryption and authentication methods. Protocols such as OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec offer robust security features.

Speed

If speed is your main concern, then consider a protocol that is designed for fast data transfer, such as WireGuard or SSTP

Compatibility

Make sure the protocol you choose is compatible with the device or operating system you are using. Some protocols, such as L2TP/IPSec, may not be supported on certain devices.

Ease of use

Some protocols are easier to set up than others. If you’re new to VPNs, then you might want to choose a protocol that is user-friendly and has good documentation, such as OpenVPN.

Gaming

When gaming, low ping is essential. Choosing a fast tunneling protocol like IKEv2 or WireGuard and connecting to a nearby location can help reduce latency.

Open-source vs. Proprietary

Open-source protocols such as OpenVPN and WireGuard are audited by the community, making them more transparent and trustworthy. Proprietary protocols, on the other hand, are developed in-house by VPN providers and may offer faster speeds but are less transparent.

Ultimately, the best VPN protocol for you depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Some Common VPN Providers

There are several VPN service providers with different expertise and capacities throughout the world. VPN service providers come in both paid and unpaid varieties. Here is a list of some of the top VPN service providers, from which you may pick the one that best meets your requirements:

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of the major VPN service providers in the VPN industry and is recommended the most. ExpressVPN is a bit more expensive than the other VPN provider but it possesses certain features and connection quality that is unmatchable.

Features

  • It contains more than 3000+ servers in 94 countries.
  • High-Speed Lightway Protocol- an expression customized protocol
  • Proves to be the one providing fast speed while streaming.
  • Privacy with AES256  Encryption
  • 30 days Money back guarantee
  • P2P and Split Tunneling Feature
  • 5 simultaneous connections at a time
  • Kill Switch
  • MediaStreamer – a streaming-specific feature for non-vpn supported devices.
  • 24/ Support

Plans

  • 1 Month Plan: $10.95
  • 6 Months Plan: $59.95
  • 12 Months Plan: $99.95

NordVPN

NordVPN is also considered one of the most popular VPN providers in the VPN industry. It’s a bit cheaper than ExpressVPN and provides good quality of connection and speed. Some of the features of NordVPN are mentioned below:

Features

  • It contains more than 5300+ servers in 60 countries.
  • High Speed NordLynx Protocol- a Nordvpn customized wireguard protocol- proves to be the one providing fast speed while streaming.
  • Privacy with AES256  Encryption
  • Automatic Kill Switch, P2P sharing, dedicated IP and DNS leak protection
  • 6 simultaneous connections at a time
  • Zero log policy
  • 30 days Money back guarantee
  • 24/7 Support
  • Built-in Malware blocker
  • Privacy with AES256  Encryption

Plans

  • 1 Month Plan: $11.99
  • 12 Months Plan: $4.99 per month
  • 24 Months Plan: $3.99 per month

SurfShark

Surfshark is also counted as one of the best VPN service providers. The key main features of Surf shark include

Features

  • It contains more than 3200+ servers in 99+ countries.
  • Supports protocols like WireGuard, and OpenVPN.
  • Internet Kill Switch and DNS leak protection
  • Diskless (RAM-based) servers & Double VPN
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Zero log policy
  • Privacy with AES256  Encryption
  • 24/7 Support

Plans

  • 1 Month Plan: $12.95
  • 12 Months Plan: $3.99 per month
  • 24 Months Plan: $2.30 per month

FAQs

What VPN protocol should I use?

To select the appropriate VPN protocol, it’s crucial to consider your specific use case. Keep in mind that not all VPN protocols may be offered by all VPN providers, and your choice may be limited by your operating system or other factors. The most dependable VPN protocols currently available include OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard.

What Is the most secure VPN protocol?

While Wireguard is considered an advanced tunneling protocol, OpenVPN and IKEv2 are established and proven to be secure.

Which VPN protocol is the fastest?

WireGuard is known for being the quickest VPN protocol and offers both high speeds and efficient performance even on less powerful devices. NordVPN, one of the top VPN providers, has a customized and arguably the fastest WireGuard implementation available.

How much will a VPN reduce my internet speed?

The decrease in speed when utilizing a VPN is influenced by several factors, such as the VPN server’s distance, the VPN protocol, your location, server load, and more. Typically, you can anticipate a drop in speed of approximately 50% under normal circumstances.

Which VPN protocol to choose for Android or iPhone?

The decrease in speed when utilizing a VPN is influenced by several factors, such as the VPN server’s distance, the VPN protocol, your location, server load, and more. Typically, you can anticipate a drop in speed of approximately 50% under normal circumstances.

Conclusion

In conclusion, VPN protocols are the backbone of the VPN technology, and they dictate how data is transmitted securely between your device and the VPN server. There are multiple VPN protocols available, each with its advantages and limitations. Choosing the right VPN protocol depends on your use case and priorities, such as speed, security, or privacy. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the different VPN protocols and their functionalities to make an informed decision when selecting a VPN service provider.

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shahek raza
shahek raza
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