VPN is the ultimate solution to preserve your security and anonymity on the internet. VPN uses a set of rules, known as protocols, that enables a secure connection between your device and the VPN server. There are multiple protocols available and your choice of a protocol reflects the speed and security of your network.
The choice of the protocol also depends on the VPN you opt for. Some VPNs let you choose between different protocols, others do not offer a choice at all. Every protocol has its own strengths and weaknesses, so all VPN users must understand the working of different protocols to evaluate if it best serves their security needs.
Common VPN Protocols
You’ve chosen a protocol and now, you may have forgotten about it. Why not? Your VPN works fine so you don’t bother knowing about other VPNs. However, experts say that the protocol a VPN leverages affects the performance, latency, and reliability of the encrypted tunnel.
Not all protocols are the same so VPN users must know the difference. So here, let’s take a closer look at all common VPN users and how their adoption will impact your web experience.
Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the oldest known encryption protocol. This common protocol is easy to set up and is faster than many other protocols. However, this outdated protocol encrypts data with the MPPE cipher which is highly vulnerable to attacks.
Low encryption does facilitate high speed which can satiate your Netflix Binge watching needs but has an extremely low level of security. Therefore, think twice before opting for this protocol.
It is the newest protocol that enjoys significant popularity among mobile users. The reason is that this protocol allows an automatic reconnection if a network is interrupted. The virtual seamless switching between mobile data and Wi-Fi is possible with this protocol.
Additionally, IKEv2 supports advanced cipher functions. Users can leverage 3DES and AES for encryption as safe methods. Unfortunately, the advanced added security takes a toll on the overall speed of this protocol.
Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol has no encryption so it is combined with Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) which in turn features a 256-bit AES variant. L2TP protocol creates tunnels, handles authentication, and ensures end-to-end security by coupling with IPsec. It offers a double encapsulation feature that wraps your data into two layers of encryption.
However, this significantly slows down the speed, making it unsuitable for gaming and torrent downloads. Another associated drawback with this protocol is that if a VPN uses pre-shared keys that can easily be downloaded online, the attackers can falsify your credentials and cause man–in–the–middle attacks.
Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is a proprietary protocol of Microsoft that uses SSL/TLS encryption standards. It is one of the secure tunneling protocols as it transports traffic through SSL which makes it an ideal protocol if you want to bypass censorship.
Given that, SSTP is a closed-source protocol and considering Microsoft’s past cooperation with NSA, we can assume its susceptibility to NSA surveillance. Additionally, the protocol works best for Windows users only. However, it does offer some functionality to Linux and Android as well.
OpenVPN is the most recommended protocol that offers a high level of security and configurability. Its encryption and authentication processes rely on TLS (Transport Layer Security) methodologies. The protocol can be used both on TCP and UDP ports while supporting a large number of ciphers and encryption algorithms.
Another great feature of OpenVPN is that it is open-source so specialists can identify security gaps in the system. Of course, it also has some drawbacks. For instance, its source code is stuffed with so many extra codes that it is bulky to install as well as slows down the speed. However, its cutting-edge security is a compelling reason to choose the OpenVPN protocol.
WireGuard is a recent addition to the world of VPN protocols. The bulky code problem associated with OpenVPN is no longer seen with this protocol. Featuring a light code base and high-level encryption, WireGuard offers unmatched speed and stable connection. It has just 4000 lines of code which makes it easy to implement and patch this protocol.
Moreover, it is an open-source protocol and is continuously being reviewed to add improvements. That’s why NordLayer is using Nordlynx, which is built around WireGuard to ensure the security and privacy of users. WireGuard has no known security flaws so far, but considering the fact that it is relatively new, we may witness any vulnerabilities in the long run.
VPN Protocols Comparison- At A Glance
Easy to set up
Suitable for old devices
Ideal for streaming
|Least Secure Protocol|
|L2TP/IPsec||More secure than PPTP
High encryption with double encapsulation
|Slower than OpenVPN
Prone to man-in-the-middle attacks
|IKEv2/IPSec||Suitable for mobile devices
Secure than L2TP/IPSec
|Less speed than PPTP
Less secure than OpenVPN and WireGuard
Can bypass firewalls
|Mostly works for Windows users only|
|OpenVPN||Secure, fast, industry-standard
Suitable for all VPN users
|Heavy source code|
|WireGuard||Light code base
Faster and more secure than OpenVPN
|Still relatively new|
Best VPN protocols for different use cases
Based on the above comparison, it would be tempting to call WireGuard or OpenVPN the best VPNs. However, the reality is not as straightforward because not every device will support all the tunneling protocols, especially if you are using a VPN without a VPN app.
Therefore, you should know which protocol suits which scenario.
If your goal is to watch a season on Hotstar, you won’t have to bother about the police knowing about your activity. Therefore, you should opt for a protocol that focuses more on speed, rather than security. WireGuard/NordLynx, OpenVPN in UDP mode, IKEv2, and even PPTP are decent choices.
If you want to download a file on torrent, you should take both speed and security into account as your IP is out due to the transparency of BitTorrent. This makes you a target of copyright holders as well as cyber attackers. Therefore, you should opt for P2P networks that guarantee the security of your web as well as offer high speed, such as OpenVPN in UDP mode and WireGuard.
The VPN for gaming is focused on slowing down the ping. When you use fast tunneling [protocols such as WireGuard or IKEv2 and connect to the nearest server, your gaming experience is enhanced due to less latency.
When privacy is your utmost preference, seek no other than the safest possible VPN protocols, such as OpenVPN and WireGuard as well as use VPNs that offer a “stealth mode” when bypassing firewalls.
The choice of your VPN protocol significantly impacts your web experience. Therefore, you should consider the speed and security level of different protocols before opting for a VPN protocol. Moreover, you should opt for a VPN that supports advanced protocols such as WireGuard or OpenVPN.