Comparing VPN Protocols – PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN
Virtual Private Networks are being adopted by users all over the world with increasing frequency. As cases about identity theft and data exposure are revealed almost every other day, people are becoming more and more aware of ensuring their identities are safe and their data secure while they surf on the internet. Since doing so on their own is quite a challenge for people who are not overly knowledgeable in the art, letting a VPN do it for them proves an able solution. You may either want to go for a VPN provider, or set up your own VPN. The thing you need to stress upon in both situations is what protocol is to be used to encrypt the data and maintain your security and anonymity online. Here is the breakdown of the most common protocols:
Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol is one of the first protocols that came into existence in the light of helping users maintain their privacy online. It runs on many Windows versions from Windows 95 to Windows 7 and is quite easy to set up. But there’s a reason why many other protocols came into existence after PPTP. It is because it is not as secure as it used to be. Attackers can have a field day if you are using a simple PPTP protocol to “protect” yourself from them.
This VPN protocol does not offer any encryption, which is a reason why it is usually used with IPsec encryption. Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol is easier to set up than other protocols because it comes built into most modern desktop operating systems as well as mobile devices. However, it cannot be disguised on a different port because it uses UDP port 500. The traffic on the network, too, has to first be converted into L2TP and then overlapped with IPsec encryption, making it a two-step process. It is common sense that the more the number of steps in establishing a connection, the more it will hog down your speed. Although L2TP/IPsec is secure in theory, there are some issues that make experienced users flinch from relying on it.
SSTP, or Secure Socket Tunnelling Protocol, is a Microsoft protocol that was launched in Windows Vista Service Pack 1. Since it is integrated into the Windows operating system, it is much more stable on Windows than other protocols. The fact that it used AES encryption adds to its features. But it has its downsides as well. For one, it is not easily implementable on other platforms, and the coverage of this protocol is not that great either. Its ability to bypass blockades is better than L2tp/IPsec and PPTP, but you could hold out for something more generic and resourceful at the same time.
OpenVPN was launched by Open source software as an alternative to SSTP. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft’s SSTP does not bode very well with operating systems other than Windows. OpenVPN handles that problem quite effectively. Since it is similar to SSTP in using AES encryption, users can be certain of their security while surfing on the internet. However, it requires installing third party software, and setting it up on some phones or systems can be a cumbersome task. The overhead incurred due to encryption cannot be ignored either. All things aside, if you are using an operating system other than Windows and want a secure protocol, then OpenVPN can be a good pick.
Many emerging protocols have taken users some steps ahead of the traditional PPTP protocol. We urge users not to go for PPTP unless they do not have access to any other protocol and choose L2TP/IPsec only if a better protocol is not available for use.