In this post, I will cover the main differences between popular VPN protocols. The description will be clear even to non-professionals, but to people who are interested in setting up and operating VPN protocols.

If you do not have time to read the entire article, but want to know how to choose the right VPN protocol, I will answer briefly:

  • In most situations, it is recommended to opt for OpenVPN. First of all, it should be used on machines where configuration is done using third-party programs.
  • L2TP/IPSec should be of interest to users for whom security comes first.
  • The SSTP protocol is a proprietary development of Microsoft Corporation. Great for computers running Windows.
  • Distinctive features of IKEv2 are high speed and a good level of security. It can be used on mobile devices.
  • PPTP should only be used if it is really needed.
  • Wireguard is a relatively recent development. So far, it cannot provide complete privacy, but the developers are actively looking for a solution to fix this problem. According to experts, this protocol should become the fastest and most efficient of all existing ones.

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openvpn

What it is?

OpenVPN was released in 2001. This protocol is open source. If necessary, it is convenient to reconfigure it for different types of ports and methods of encrypting information.

What is it used for?

OpenVPN is not one of the protocols built into the system. As a rule, it is used by third-party VPN clients. However, its popularity is steadily increasing. Already, OpenVPN is used as the default by most paid VPN providers.

How fast is he?

The speed of OpenVPN is about the same as L2TP. It is not as fast as PPTP. However, the performance depends on the hardware component and the settings made.

How safe is it?

OpenVPN has its own security protocol that relies heavily on OpenSSL. Encryption is carried out according to the scheme used on HTTPS sites. The protocol is convenient to configure for any port. This allows it to be disguised as normal network traffic. Blocking OpenVPN is not easy. The technology allows the use of various encryption algorithms, including the widely used AES and Blowfish.

Is it easy to set up?

Manual configuration of OpenVPN can be difficult for an inexperienced user. But many VPN clients have built-in features that make them much easier to configure and run. There is no need to resort to manual configuration in such cases.

L2TP/IPSec

What it is?

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) most often works in conjunction with IPSec. It is used in situations where an increased level of security is required. The technology was created in the 90s as a joint project of Cisco and Microsoft.

What is it used for?

L2TP/IPSec is designed to connect to the Internet via VPN. It is used to ensure the security and privacy of a network connection.

How fast is he?

Most users do not feel the difference between the speeds of the L2TP / IPSec and OpenVPN protocols. However, L2TP/IPSec is noticeably slower than PPTP.

How safe is it?

No obvious vulnerabilities have yet been found in L2TP/IPSec. According to some experts, the protocol was weakened by the intervention of the US National Security Agency. It is known that it participated in the development of IPCec.

Is it easy to set up?

The technologies used in L2TP/IPSec are supported by almost all modern computers, tablets and smartphones. The way they are configured is not much different. However, the port through which L2TP works is not difficult to block with a firewall. If you need to bypass this blocking, you must perform port forwarding. This requires some preparation from the user.

PPTP

What it is?

PPTP is the oldest VPN protocol in existence. Currently, it occupies a leading position in terms of breadth of application. The protocol was created by Microsoft to work in switching networks. The abbreviation denoting it stands for "point-to-point tunnel protocol".

What is it used for?

The scope of PPTP is the implementation of access to the Internet and the organization's local network.

How fast is he?

PPTP is characterized by a lower encryption standard. This makes it one of the fastest VPN protocols.

How safe is it?

Many years have passed since the development of PPTP, as a result of which many vulnerabilities have appeared. Among other things, the traffic going through it is decrypted and monitored by the National Security Agency. The protocol allows the use of 128-bit encryption, but this does not increase the security of the connection.

Is it easy to set up?

PPTP is present on most computers and mobile gadgets. Perhaps this is the easiest protocol for manual configuration.

SSTP

What it is?

SSTP was created by Microsoft and first introduced in Windows Vista. The development is proprietary (the source code is closed). SSTP can run on Linux, but it was designed specifically for Windows.

What is it used for?

SSTP has no tangible advantages over OpenVPN and is not used as often. Most often, it is used by owners of computers running Windows, as it is already built into the operating system. From the point of view of the ability to bypass firewalls, this protocol seems to be preferable to L2TP, since the user will not be required to perform complex configuration procedures.

How fast is he?

In terms of speed, SSTP is comparable to OpenVPN.

How safe is it?

SSTP is a secure protocol (according to Microsoft's policy). Encryption is carried out using a reliable AES algorithm.

Is it easy to set up?

If your machine is running Windows, manually configuring SSTP is not a big deal. SSTP is not designed to run on a Mac. Setting up the protocol on Linux and other operating systems is not as easy as on Windows.

IKEv2

What it is?

Internet Key Exchange version 2 can be considered a VPN protocol with a certain degree of conventionality. It was created as a collaboration between Microsoft and Cisco.

What is it used for?

IKEv2 is useful for mobile devices connected to 3G or 4G LTE networks. This is explained by the ease of reconnecting after a connection break. This often happens when driving through a tunnel or leaving the network coverage area. Also, this protocol allows you to easily switch from mobile Internet to Wi-Fi. IKEv2 is supported by Blackberry devices.

How fast is he?

IKEv2 is the fastest of all the protocols described here.

How safe is it?

IKEv2 has built-in support for multiple levels of AES encryption. It, like L2TP, uses the IPSec security protocol suite. IKEv2 exists in both a proprietary version and an open source version.

Is it easy to set up?

There is no broad support for IKEv2, but for compatible devices, editing the settings is fairly easy.

IPSec

What it is?

Internet Protocol Security, or IPSec, is a multipurpose protocol. One of its goals is to support VPN. IPSec does not operate at the application level, but at the network level.

What is it used for?

IPSec provides encryption support. For this purpose, it is often used in conjunction with another VPN protocol, but can function independently. It is often used to implement site-to-site VPN connections. This protocol is also used for some iOS applications. In the latter case, it replaces OpenVPN or another protocol.

How fast is he?

In theory, IPSec should be faster than SSL. In reality, the performance depends on the configuration settings.

How safe is it?

IPSec is considered to be a reliable protocol. However, it should be borne in mind that in 2013 Snowden demonstrated that the National Security Agency was looking for and introducing vulnerabilities into this technology.

Is it easy to set up?

The complexity of setting up IPSec depends on the purpose of its use. For the average iPhone owner who connects to the servers of their VPN provider, there should be no problems with setting up.

SSL/TLS

What it is?

TLS, as well as its predecessor SSL, are the most widely used cryptographic protocols today. When connecting to an HTTPS site, the connection channel to the server is secured using SSL. It is used by a number of VPN protocols, but he himself is not one of them.

What is it used for?

To start data encryption, OpenVPN connects to the OpenSSL library, and OpenVPN is considered an SSL VPN.

In addition, SSL is required to create HTTPS proxies, which some corporations present as VPNs. They are heavily advertised as browser-based VPNs built into browsers as Chrome or Firefox extensions. However, in terms of security, these extensions are not as reliable as a real VPN.

How fast is he?

The speed is determined by the VPN protocol and the selected encryption options.

How safe is it?

TLS is considered to be superior to SSL in terms of security.

Is it easy to set up?

On client machines, SSL is easier to configure than IPSec.

Wireguard

What it is?

Wireguard is a secure VPN tunneling protocol designed to overcome the shortcomings of other protocols in terms of speed and ease of deployment.

What is it used for?

The development of Wireguard is not yet complete. Despite this circumstance, it can already be used on a number of platforms. The protocol is designed to work on built-in interfaces, containers like Docker, as well as in high-performance devices and networks. The technology has just begun to be implemented in VPN applications, it has not yet received wide distribution.

How fast is he?

Wireguard has excellent performance. The increase in speed is achieved, among other things, by running the Linux kernel.

How safe is it?

Wireguard, despite the fact that its development is still ongoing, is already quite reliable. The protocol uses the latest advances in cryptography and is easily auditable. Control over network activity and access is provided by introducing the concept of “cryptographic key routing”. This eliminates the need to create and test complex firewall rules.

Note, however, that Wireguard assigns IP addresses statically. It does not use dynamic addressing. The user must understand that in this case, some of his data will be stored on the server.

Is it easy to set up?

Wireguard is easy to set up. It is carried out in much the same way as setting up the simplest SSH protocol. There is no need to make manual changes to the configuration. This is also stated on the official Wireguard website.

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