The main objective of a VPN service is to protect your online privacy. A VPN does that by using encryption that is surely one of the most important parts of any VPN provider. How well is your Internet traffic protected solely depends on the VPN protocol that you’ve chosen to use. In this guide about VPN Encryption, you will learn what encryption is, everything about different VPN protocols, their pros and cons, and much more interesting information.
1. What is encryption?
Encryption changes information in a cryptographic encoding that is practically impossible to read without having the right key. To be more clear, encryption takes the data that is completely readable and changes it to be random, making it difficult to read for any third-party. Encryption uses a cryptographic key that just like a real key, locks, or encrypts data so that only the person that has the correct key will be able to decrypt or unlock that data.
2. Types of Encryption
There are two different types of encryption:
Symmetric encryption has just one key, so both sender and the receive will use that key for decryption and encryption as well.
The other name for it is public-key encryption. It has two keys, one of them is meant for encryption, while the other one is mean for decryption, simple as that. Both keys can be used for both actions, just so you know. So, the data that is encrypted with one key could only be decrypted with the help of the other key, and the other way around. One of those keys is going to be private, while the other key can be used by basically anyone because it is shared publicly. So, that’s why it is called the public key encryption.
3. Why is encryption so important?
Privacy- encryption basically guarantees that no could read the data except the receiver and the rightful owner of the data. Because of encryption, governments or hackers will not be able to get ahold of data that is sensitive and personal.
Security- thanks to encryption, data breaches are unlikely to happen, whether the data travels or not. In a scenario where someone steals a company device and the hard drive of that device is encrypted, that someone would not be able to read the data on that hard drive. Encryption also prevents downgrade attacks and any type of cyber-attacks.
4. Encryption algorithms
What is an encryption algorithm? It is a mathematical formula thanks to which data is changed in the ciphertext. This algorithm is going to use the encryption so it could change the data in a way to appear as predictable. Even though the encrypted data would seem random, you can turn it into plaintext all over again with the help of the encryption key. Encryption algorithms that are used quite frequently are AES, DES, Blowfish, and so on.
5. VPN protocols
Now that you're familiar with how encryption works, it's time for you to get introduced to VPN protocols. These protocols make sure to provide a safe and encrypted connection between two devices. These are the five VPN encryption protocols that we’ll review:
Now, we will provide you with a short summary of each of these VPN protocols, and we will include the pros and cons as well.
PPTP is short for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol. This encryption protocol was founded in 1995, by probably the most famous tech company on the planet- Microsoft. The previous version of this protocol was called PPP. It was different from the PPTP, as it had no tunneling feature. At first, this VPN protocol was only available on the well-known operating system- Windows. But, today, it is available on many operating systems and devices too. Setting up this protocol will take you no more than a couple of minutes, and the good thing is you won’t have to install any extra software. Business and e-commerce use this VPN protocol.
Not so long ago, this VPN protocol was considered one of the safest encryption protocols. Today that is not the case, unfortunately. The security of the PPTP protocol isn’t newest, and if your number one goal is to protect your online data, it would be best if you don’t pick PPTP as your VPN protocol. This protocol used something that is called MS-CHAP v2 Authentication, which turned out to be a big mistake. Thanks to this authentication, this VPN protocol was cracked in a matter of days, which was the end of the PPTP protocol that was previously known as safe and reliable. Microsoft solved this issue, but it has recommended that users choose another protocol like L2TP/IPSec or OpenVPN protocol. NSA also decrypted PPTP communications and endangered many users.
The biggest advantage of this VPN protocol is offering fast online speeds, and that is because it has low-quality encryption.
- Easy to set up
- Available on many operating systems
- Hacked by the NSA
SSTP is short for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol. Although it is founded by Microsoft, which many find as an unreliable company, this protocol can be considered as trustworthy. PPTP was created by Microsoft, which turned out as not that big of a success. On the other, SSTP can be considered as an improved and better version of the PPTP protocol. This protocol happens to use SSL 3.0 that makes the level of security very high. This VPN protocol is available on numerous operating systems like Linux, macOS, RouterOS, and Windows, of course.
This VPN protocol is completely integrated within Windows, which means you can set it up with ease. PPTP is excellent when it comes to dealing with firewalls.
You must know that this protocol is as safe as only the belief in Microsoft. The past with the National Security Agency can surely raise suspicions to how much this protocol is really secure. A major issue with the SSL 3.0 is that it was susceptible to MOODLE attacks. Whether it is still vulnerable to these attacks is unclear. When you compare SSTP to PPTP, SSTP is much better, but it has some security issues that can’t be overlooked by the users.
- Good security
- Supported by Microsoft
- Owner is Microsoft
- Has security issues
OpenVPN is known as the most secure and reliable VPN protocol. It's the standard of the industry, it is open-source, and it offers full Windows integration. It was created in 2001 by OpenVPN Technologies Inc. It was made for the purpose of securing VPN connections. Being on the market for almost twenty years, it is known as a transparent and trustworthy protocol that offers users guaranteed security at the highest level. It uses pre-shared keys, has full IPV6 support, and works perfectly with TCP and UDP protocols.
OpenVPN uses the most modern encryption- the 256-bit AES. OpenVPN has a no-logs policy, meaning that no one will invade your privacy, and it won't store your connection logs, traffic, or your IP address. This protocol can be customized and tunneled with ease over protocols like SSH and SSL. Thanks to these two protocols, you will have an extra layer of security. It also has a DNS leak protection. DNS leaks are likely to happen if a DNS request is routed through the user’s network rather than the network of the VPN. So, what the OpenVPN will do, is it will set up a public DNS, that will route the DNS request through the network of the VPN, and not through yours. This feature will help you achieve online anonymity.
The great thing regarding this VPN protocol is that it offers service that is free of charge. You can either use this protocol for the VPN provider that you're using, or you can use this protocol to make your own VPN service.
OpenVPN is highly recommended by many VPN experts. You should use it with your VPN, but only if it's nicely implemented into your VPN service. If your VPN doesn't offer OpenVPN, it would be better if you choose another VPN provider.
- Offer great security
- Not implemented in all VPN services
9. Open VPN- UDP vs. TCP
This VPN protocol can work with both TCP and UDP. The UDP is short for User Datagram Protocol, while TCP is short for Transmission Control Protocol. These connection protocols are fantastic, and all VPN providers will give you a chance to use one of these protocols. It's difficult to decide which of these protocols is the better one. That can depend on what reason is someone using the Internet, and does it prefer trustworthiness over speed or the other way around.
The TCP protocol is commonly used, due to the fact that it offers error protection. When a computer sends something that is known as a network packet with the aid of this protocol, that device is waiting for the packet to be confirmed before sending it or resending it to the next packet.
This is a reliable connection protocol, but quite slow. The UDP offers no error protection. It is faster than the TCP, but it’s less reliable than the TCP protocol.
IKEv2 is short for Internet Key Exchange 2, and it was developed by Microsoft and Cisco Systems. This is a secure and a VPN protocol, and great for users that like to use mobile devices. It’s good for mobile device users, thanks to the fact that it supports MOBIKE protocol, which is short for IKEv2 Mobility and Multihoming protocol. With MOBIKE, this VPN protocol is flexible in changing networks. So, it is great for users that like mobile devices because they often change from their home Wi-fi to their mobile data.
This VPN protocol happens to be available on numerous operating systems like Windows, Blackberry, Linux, and iOS too. IKEv2 is known for the ability to re-establish your VPN provider connection when your Internet connection comes to a halt. This VPN is very safe to use because it is supported by the cutting-edge encryption-256-bit AES.
You may think that this VPN protocol is unreliable due to the fact that it is developed by Microsoft. But, it is not only developed by this company, but Cisco Systems also takes credit for creating IKEv2. Back in 2018, some accounts were hacked by cyber-criminals because they had weak passwords. This shouldn’t concern you if you chose a strong password for your account. IKEv2 is a pretty good alternative to OpenVPN protocol if you like to use mobile devices.
- Great encryption- 256-bit AES
- Excellent for mobile device users
- It’s not open-source
L2TP stands for the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol. This VPN protocol is built into numerous operating systems and devices too. L2TP is an extension of the well-known PPP protocol, and it merges two excellent protocols, better known as PPTP and L2F. This VPN protocol doesn't have great encryption, and that's why it is most commonly used with IPSec. When these two protocols work as one, they have excellent security.
L2TP was created in order to support VPN connections. A lot of Internet Service Providers are using this protocol to allow numerous VPN service operations. This VPN encryption protocol was created by two great tech companies- Cisco Systems and Microsoft. There are rumors circling around that this VPN protocol was hacked by cyber-criminals more than one time. Even Edward Snowden claimed that the NSA had weakened this protocol quite significantly.
L2TP is pretty safe, but you should select a VPN provider that will have a no-logs policy. This way, authorities or the government could not get ahold of your personal data, because the VPN service won’t store any logs.
This protocol offers pretty good speeds, although it has no encryption. The L2TP is great for users that like speed over privacy. It is even better than the OpenVPN in terms of speed, even though it encapsulates data two times. If you want to be secure on the Internet, combine the L2TP with the IPSec protocol.
Although L2TP/IPSec provides the user with good security, you should choose another protocol, due to the rumors that it was compromised by the NSA.
- Easy to set up
- Available on many platforms
- Security issues
Thanks to this guide, you've learned how encryption works, useful information about VPN protocols, and their pros and cons. We compared these VPN protocols and decided that OpenVPN is the safest and most reliable of all VPN protocols. If you've thought that some other protocol was better when you've finished reading this, choose that protocol to use with your VPN. Best of luck, and stay safe on the Internet with the help of VPN protocols!