Using VPN is not rocket science – all you need to do is to follow the baby steps to connect with VPN.  But if we dig deeper, there is a lot more to fiddle with VPN protocols.

VPN protocols are defined as the set of rules that describe how to create a secure connection between your device and a VPN server.  They are also known as tunneling protocols because tunnels are responsible for hiding your web activity from hackers and internet snoopers.

You probably heard a lot of names such as Wire Guard, Open VPN as they are one of the fastest VPN services.  Let’s explain and compare different types of VPN protocols, so you could choose the one that fits your needs.

 Quick Summary

  1. OpenVPN- Best VPN Protocol
  2. WireGuard- Fastest VPN Protocol
  3. IKEv2/IPSec-Secure Connection for Mobile Users
  4. SoftEther- Excellent for Bypassing Web Censorship
  5. L2TP/IPSec- Slow Protocol that relies on Other tools in IPsec suite
  6. SSTP- Closed-Source Protocol offering Data integrity checks
  7. PPTP- An Outdated Protocol that is vulnerable to attacks

 The Major VPN Protocols Explained

The choice of VPN protocol entirely depends upon which VPN you are using.  Some VPN services offer a range of VPN protocols for you to choose the best.  Other VPNs won’t let you choose different protocols.

Each and every VPN protocol has its own strength and weakness, so it’s better to have a deeper understanding of the differences between them and choose the right protocol for your whole internet activity.  Below are the commonly used VPN protocols with their long list of pros and cons:

 Open VPN – The best VPN Protocol

 Open VPN is the most renowned and secure protocol used by many VPN providers.  It runs either on UDP or TCP internet protocols.  The two standard network protocols are elaborated on below:

  • User Datagram Protocol (UDP) – Less data verification therefore it is quite fast
  •  Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)- Requires multiple data verification, therefore, slows down the data exchange process.  This allows stable connection therefore it is good to connect with remote servers.

 TLS and SSL/TLS are used for private key exchange in Open VPN.  It is the industry leader and the most efficient Vpn protocol used by various service providers.  As it relies on Open SSL Crypto library along with secure cryptography algorithm to make your tunnel safer.

 Pros

  •  Open source therefore it is transparent
  •  Natively supported by almost every VPN service
  •  Can be used for different encryption and traffic protocols
  • No known vulnerabilities
  •  Users can easily choose from UDP and TCP versions
  •  Run on almost any encryption protocol, therefore completely secure
  •  Supports perfect forward secrecy
  •  Compatible with various ciphers including AES-256
  •  Bypass most of the firewalls
  • Gold standard VPN protocol over the last decade

Cons

  • Complex software setup
  •  High code base
  •  Highest bandwidth consumption
  •  Not the fastest VPN protocol

Summary:  Open VPN is considered as the top VPN protocol to date.  Being the industry leader of VPN protocol, it offers high-level security with high performance.  We recommend using VPN   whenever its available to you

Open VPN is a highly configurable protocol, so it is always at the top of the list.  Almost every VPN application natively supports Open VPN across all the major platforms including Windows, Linux, iOS and much more.

When to use Open VPN

  •  If security and privacy are the top concerns for you  , then go ahead with Open VPN  whenever it is possible

When not to use Open VPN

Although it is the preferred choice, you cannot straight away select this option if you have these concerns

  •  If speed is your no 1 priority, then don’t opt for it
  •  If you are using VPN on cellular data, you will reach the maximum allowance earlier and you eventually have to  pay more in roaming charges when abroad

Wire Guard- The fastest VPN protocol

 Wire guard is one the supreme and fastest tunneling protocols the entire VPN industry is talking about.  Released in 2019, Wire Guard quickly gained a boom and made a good impression in the VPN industry. Almost all the top VPN service providers integrate WireGuard into their services. Also, not only this many providers have made it their default protocol.

The issues related to misconfigurations that are usually faced in IPSec and Open VPN implementation are solved through Wire Guard. As it has fewer code lines, therefore it is easy to implement or patch. Wire Guard uses cryptography packages ChaCha20 for encryption and Poly 1305 for data authentication.

Pros

  • Free and open source which makes it easy to deploy, audit and debug
  •  Extremely light code base
  •  Modern and extremely fast
  • Limited data consumption
  • Connectionless
  •  Easy to setup
  •  Good at handling network issues
  •  Supports perfect forward secrecy
  •   Easily configured manually
  •  No known security issues therefore extremely secure

Cons

  •  Relatively new compared to other protocols
  •  Privacy concerns with default configurations
  •  Not yet supported by differnet VPN services
  •  Needs a lot of time to be compatible with ciphers
  •  Can only be used with UDP

 Summary:  Wire Guard is the newest VPN protocol that offers the best connection speeds while maintaining security.  The performance and efficiency are good as in a short span of time it’s matching the OpenVPN.  if you are not worried about immaturity then WireGuard is the suitable option for you.

While the performance benchmarks of Wire Guard are remarkable, there are no signs of security vulnerabilities yet.  As its implementation is in the early stages, so Wire Guard will  take time to establish trust.

When to use WireGuard

  • All the VPN providers that implemented the Wireguard protocol suggest that it is safe, secure and faster. Therefore, if you want to test the new protocol, you can go ahead with Wire Guard.
  •  Due to its low bandwidth consumption, it is good for mobile VPN users.

 When not to use WireGuard

  •  If you are extremely cautious about online privacy, then you prefer to give more time to Wireguard to prove itself.
  •  In comparison with the other VPN protocols, WireGuard is not good at bypassing firewalls. The primary reason for this is its non-compatibility with UDP.  If you are looking to evade censorship, then it’s better to choose other protocols.

IKEv2/IPSec-Secure Connection for Mobile Users

 If you are looking for a secure VPN Connection, then look for no other than IKEv2. Secure VPN connection is established as a result of authenticated and encrypted connection.  The Internet key exchange version is extremely popular among cell phone users.   Fast connection and the use of Mobile protocols help to seamlessly deal with changing networks. When the connection of the VPN server is interpreted, it will automatically reconnect in a short while.

Pros

  •  Stable VPN connection as you move between Internet connections
  • Compatible with various ciphers that includes AES-256
  • NAT transversal make it connect and communicate better
  •  Good at handling network changes
  • Supports Perfect Forward Secrecy

Cons

  • Not so good in bypassing firewalls
  • Closed Source except for Linux
  • Possibly compromised by NSA
  • Speed may vary on the device-server distance

Summary : IKEv2/IPSec  sets the foundation for secure  connection for all mobile users who regularly switch between various networks.  There are suspicions that the system is hacked by NSA , but for regular browsing we recommend IKEv2.

IKEv2 was developed in collaboration between Cisco and Microsoft and is successor to original IKEv1.  Slower VPN connection often irritates you, so implement IKEv2 on your operating system for efficient results.  IKEv2 uses IPsec tools to provide quality VPN coverage. IKev2 has similar grand security tools as OpenVPN, so it is easier to scale on server level.

 IPSec is vulnerable to less sophisticated adversaries  such as snoopers and hackers. Fast, flexible and safe VPN protocol that works completely well with your mobile devices. IKEv2 works only with UDP port 500.  This is a comparatively easy port for firewalls means that IKEv2/IPSec is an efficient VPN protocol for bypassing censorships in various countries.

 When to use IKEv2/IPSec

  •  If you are using VPN and regularly switching between different cellular data then go ahead with IKEv2/IPsec.
  •  If speed is your top priority, than IKEA protocol is a good option as it bypasses firewalls to offer  high speed VPN connection.

When not to use IKEv2/IPSec

  • If you want to circumvent censorships in authoritarian country, then choose some other option than IKEv2
  •  If you extremely conscious about privacy and anonymity then IKEv2 association with NSA will cast doubt on their privacy.

SoftEther- Excellent for Bypassing Web Censorship

 Soft Ether is an open-source multi-protocol initially developed  as a part of Master’s Thesis in University OF Tsukuba. The advanced functionalities include Graphical User Interface management and Remote procedure calls over hyper text transport protocol.

Pros

  • Open-source hence it is easy to use
  • Fast, secure and reliable
  • Compatible with range of ciphers including AES-256
  • Excellent at bypassing firewalls and provide stable VPN connection
  • Comes wit additional features to protocols like Open VPN

Cons

  • Requires manual configuration so it’s a lengthy process
  • Not natively supported on any operating system
  • Compatible with few VPN services
  •  Has not yet stood the test of time

 Summary: Soft Ether is secure, fast protocol for bypassing censorships. Users should be wary of its default configuration settings and the lack of compatibility with VPN services.

Countries like China and India where heavy censorship is imposed, this is a good option.  But  Soft Ether faced backlash in 2018  when security audit report is revealed 11 security vulnerabilities.

 When to use SoftEther

  •  If your VPN service supports it , then you can use SoftEther for fast and safe browsing
  • It is highly efficient and effective in bypassing firewalls and  censorships

When not to use SoftEther

  • Don’t ever use Soft Ether   until you turned on “Always Verify Certificate”. Otherwise, hackers can gain access to your credentials and track your online activity. 

L2TP/IPSec- Slow Protocol that relies on Other tools in IPsec suite

  Layer 2 tunnel protocol is a tunneling protocol that does not solely provide security on its own and uses IPsec for encryption.  Created initially in 1999, L2TP is an easy to use protocol supported by various VPN services. L2TP encapsulates the data TWICW which gradually slows down the speed.

 Pros

  •  Double encapsulation offers greater security
  •  Natively supported on various platforms
  •  Compatible with various ciphers, including AES-256

Cons

  • Outdated and possibly compromised by NSA
  • Slower than other VPN protocols
  •  Bad authentication
  • Susceptible to vulnerable attacks

Summary: L2TP/IPSec is comparatively slow VPN  protocol that  requires certain amendments  to be used cautiously.  Although it’s secure but not safer and faster like other VPN protocols.

 One of the key reason people don’t prefer this VPN protocol is because of security flaws. Security issues arises  when VPN service you used  have pre-shared keys. If VPN encryption keys are available online, it increases the possibility of hackers impersonating VPN server and eavesdropping on your connection.  This middleman attack poses a serious security threat to all VPN users with L2TP/IPSec.

 The double encapsulation feature    wraps data in two layers of protection, which improves the overall security.  But double encapsulation also decreases the overall speed. L2TP is not compatible with Nat therefore causes connectivity problems. A VPN pass through feature  on your router is mandatory  to connect VPN using L2TP.  

When to use L2TP/IPSec

If you are concerned about privacy, then we don’t recommend it at all.

When not to use L2TP/IPSec

  • Don’t ever go for SSTP, if you are concerned about NSA surveillance.

SSTP- Closed-Source Protocol offering Data integrity checks          

Secure socket tunneling is also a renowned VPN protocol. It comes with one of the major benefits that includes the integration with Microsoft operating system.  Besides being a Microsoft product, it is available on other systems as well. As the name suggests it is a fairly secure VPN protocol.

 Pros

  • Very easy to set up on Windows OS
  • Good at bypassing firewalls
  • Uses strong AES-256 encryption
  •  Not bad at checking internet traffic
  •  Uses industry standard encryption

Cons

  •  Closed -source
  • Links with NSA that poses security risks
  • Susceptible to vulnerable middle man attacks
  •  Code in unavailable for VPN developers to tinker with
  • Code was never revealed and audited

Summary:  SSTP is a n excellent VPN protocol in terms of performance and its highly effective in bypassing censorships.   Although it has privacy and security concerns ,  so avoid using SSTP  for sensitive traffic. 

SSTP is a proprietary and closed source protocol, so details of implementations are unclear.  SSTP uses TCP Port 443, that allows regular HTTP traffic flows , which makes it  easy to unblock firewalls.  If you are trying to bypass censorships such as Great Firewall of China, then SSTP is an effective VPN protocol.

SSL 3.0 is vulnerable to attacks such as poodle which poses a greater security risk.  As a closed -source protocol created by Microsoft, there is a greater possibility that NSA has built a backdoor into it .

When to use SSTP

  •  If you are trying to bypass government firewalls, then this protocol is the best option

When not to use SSTP

  •  The possibility of NSA surveillance and Poodle attack compromised the security and privacy of this protocol

PPTP- An Outdated Protocol that is vulnerable to attacks

Point to Point Tunneling Protocol was developed by Microsoft engineer Gurdeep Singh Pall which marked the start of VPN technology.  Although it laid the foundation but with the advancement of technology it is now considered completely outdated.  It only can use encryption ciphers up to 128-bits

 Pros

  • Easy to set up
  •  Fast speed and connection
  • Natively supported by various platforms

Cons

  •  Not Compatible with 256 encryption keys
  •  Reportedly cracked by NSA
  •  Ineffective due to privacy issues
  •  Won’t bypass firewalls and censorships
  •  Known security vulnerabilities
  •  Severely outdated

Summary:  PPTP is fast and responsive as it does not secure your data.  If you use PPTP to create VPN tunnel, then your entire information is easily exposed to snoopers.

All the internet security and privacy advocates does not recommend PPTP as its obsolete and old tunneling protocol.  NSA has exploited PPTP and collected huge amount of data from all the VPN users using PPTP protocol.  Because of long list of complaints and vulnerabilities, VPN users have stopped supporting PPTP.

 When to use PPTP

  •  It is not recommended to use PPTP as it is outdated. If you don’t care for privacy and security than you can use it.

 When not to use PPTP

  •  It is important to note that never use PPTP for any online activity involving sensitive information for instance credit and debit card details.

Proprietary VPN Protocols

Apart from the above mentioned protocols , some VPN service providers have  created their own tunneling protocols.  They are known as Proprietary VPN protocols.  Some of the best examples are Nord VPN’s NordLynx or Hotspot Shield’s Catapult Hydra. The tunneling protocols offer higher security, speed and increased ability to bypass firewalls.

Using Proprietary VPN protocols have pros and cons. The main positive aspect is that it will definitely be faster than the other options offered in the market. As companies spend great extent of money and time in the creation of newer protocols, they dedicate the best servers and infrastructure to provide the best possible speed.

The main problem with them is that most of them are not open-source, so they are likely to protect developers’ work. Additionally, inspecting them virtually is impossible as the sense of transparency is completely lost.

The trend of creating and using your own VPN protocol is small, but it is growing sharply. Here is the list of the ones that are using their own VPN protocols

  • Express VPN -Lightway
  • Hotspot Shield-Hydra
  • Nord VPN- Nord Lynx
  • Astrill- OpenWeb and Stealth VPN
  • VPN Unlimited- KeepSolid Wise
  • X-VPN- Protocol X

 VPN Protocol Comparison

 Here is the table of VPN comparison based on security, encryption ,  compatibility  and efficiency :

 ProtocolEncryptionSpeedSecurity ReliabilityWeakness
OpenVPN256-bitFast with UDP, slow with TCPTLs with RC2, DES, DESX, AES, CAST, BFVaries from high to very highNot Known
WireGuard256-bitVery FastChaCha20, Curve25519, BLAKE2, HKDF, SipHash24HighNot Known
IKEv2/IPSec256-bitModerateBlowfish, 3DES, Chacha20,AES, CamelliaHighSuspected
SoftEther256-bitVery FastAES, DES, SHA, MDS, RC4, Triple DESVery HighNeeds Fix
L2TP/IPSec256-bitModerateIPSec, AES or 3DESModerateSuspected
SSTP256-bitVery FastAESVery HighSuspected
PPTP128-bitVery FastMPPE with RC4 RSAModerateKnown

How to Choose VPN Protocol?

 Many VPN services focus on user experience hence provide the option of changing VPN protocol in app’s setting. If this is the case with your VPN service provider, then open the settings and select the VPN protocol you want to choose.

 If there is no option like selecting protocol in custom application, than its always preferable to install alternative protocols using manual configuration. NordVPN runs on Open VPN but the VPN service allows the manual installation of IKEv2.  

Best VPN Protocols: Tips to Choose the right protocol

For further guidance about choosing the best VPN protocols you can refer to the detailed guide.

 Frequently Asked Questions

 What is the best VPN protocol?

Open VPN is at the top of list among all the VPN protocols. It’s secure, fast, reliable  and  are approved by various third parties.  The only downside is the difficult to setup and configure. But this VPN protocol has more pros than cons, so it is the most preferred VPN protocol worldwide.

Which countries VPN are best?

The best VPN countries to connect with is Switzerland  and Panama.  Both of the countries are known for advanced security and information protection laws.  As information is handled effectively in these countries, so they are best VPN countries.

Which VPN protocol is the fastest?

Wireguard is regarded as the fastest VPN protocol.  It offers high speed  and even much more efficienton weaker devices. NordVPN is regarded as one of the fastest VPN service  that has  the custom WireGuard implementation.
You must be logged in to post a comment.