The ultimate guide to VPN protocols

PPTP is an acronym for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol.

The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is a virtual private network (VPN) implementation technique. PPTP employs a TCP control channel and a GRE tunnel to encapsulate PPP.

This protocol is designed to offer security and remote access levels similar to those seen in standard VPN solutions available from NordVPN.

Pros: Quick and simple

Cons: Insecure

L2TP stands for Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol, while IPSEC stands for Internet Protocol Security.

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is a tunneling protocol used in computer networking to enable virtual private networks (VPNs) or as part of an ISP’s service delivery. It does not, by itself, provide encryption or confidentiality. Rather, it uses an encryption technique that is sent inside the tunnel to ensure privacy.

Pros: Comprehensive support, ease of use, and security

Cons: A little more sluggish than others, less stable

L2TP & IPSec are both used interchangeably.

OpenVPN – OpenSSL Encryption Based Technology

OpenVPN is a free and open-source software application that implements virtual private network (VPN) techniques to establish secure point-to-point or site-to-site connections in routed or bridged configurations, as well as remote access facilities. It employs a proprietary security protocol that makes use of SSL/TLS for key exchanges. It is capable of traversing NATs and firewalls.

This protocol is frequently recommended by NordVPN due to the speed and simplicity of the setup.

Pros: The most secure, the fastest

Cons: Limited support, unable to circumvent filtering and firewalls

SSTP is an acronym for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol.

A Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is a type of VPN tunnel that allows PPP or L2TP communication to be sent over an SSL 3.0 channel. SSL secures the transport layer by encrypting data, negotiating keys, and verifying traffic integrity. Due to the usage of SSL via TCP port 443, SSTP can pass through almost all firewalls and proxy servers, except authorized web proxies.

If you are currently residing in one of the following countries: Iran, China, Pakistan, Syria, or Brazil. If that is the case, then this is the ideal protocol for you.

Pros: Extremely secure; circumvents firewall

Cons: Only works on Windows

IKEv2 – Internet Key Exchange (version 2)

Internet Key Exchange (IKE or IKEv2) is the mechanism used in the IPsec protocol suite to establish a security association (SA). IKE is based on the Oakley and ISAKMP protocols. IKE establishes a shared session secret from which cryptographic keys are derived using X.509 certificates—either pre-shared or distributed via DNS (preferably with DNSSEC) and a Diffie–Hellman key exchange—and a Diffie–Hellman key exchange. Additionally, a security policy must be manually maintained for each peer that will connect.

Pros: Extremely stable and secure

Cons: Limited support, slower performance than OpenVPN

SoftEther

SoftEther VPN is a free, open-source, cross-platform, multi-protocol VPN solution developed as part of Daiyuu Nobori’s master’s thesis research at Tsukuba University. A single VPN server supports SSL VPN, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and Microsoft Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol.

Pros: Highest penetration of firewalls and data security

Cons: Slow speed and less frequent use

Socks: This is not a VPN protocol, but rather a proxy server. This is extremely useful for circumventing strict firewalls such as those found in China. However, this is not intended to be a private space. As a result, it is not as frequently used as the protocols discussed previously.

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