Understanding VPN Protocols: A Beginner’s Guide

2 min
choosing vpn protocol

One of the key factors to consider when choosing a VPN is the protocol used. A VPN protocol is a way in which your data is encrypted and transmitted over the world wide web. Various protocols are used by companies, with each of them having its own set of advantages of loopholes.

In this article, we will take a quick look at them and understand how they differ from each other. This will give you a good idea when you sit down to choose an ideal VPN.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

PPTP is the oldest VPN protocol and is still around despite its authentication and encryption issues. When a VPN connects via PPTP, it uses a standard Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port to send packets of data to a server. This transmission hardly has any sort of encryption or authentication, which has raised concerns in the online security world. As a result, PPTP is no longer employed by reliable VPN companies.


This is an open-source protocol (i.e., free to use) that providers can use over TCP or User Datagram Protocol (UDP). The encryption happens with the utilization of the OpenSSL library (AES-256-bit key encryption, for instance), making it the cheapest way to provide tunneling

Some free VPNs use the OpenVPN protocol but it is still not recommended as anyone can create a VPN client and enter the market. If you opt for a VPN service that uses OpenVPN, make sure that you vet it properly.

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP/IPSec)

In the case of L2TP, packets of data are sent via UDP, which fragments them into smaller pieces for faster transmission. It then uses Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) to encrypt the packets before they enter the world wide web.

Although L2TP does not provide full coverage as there are gaps and vulnerabilities, it is better than PPTP. 


It is a relatively new and popular VPN protocol that claims to have a superior cryptographic framework in place to provide better encryption. However, since its launch, WireGuard has been at the center of controversies regarding log-keeping and data leaks.

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)

It uses 2048-bit SSL/TLS certificates and 256-bit SSL certificates for authentication and encryption respectively. Developed by Microsoft, its source code is not publicly known, resulting in limitations. However, it is still one of the safest and most secure VPN protocols around.

Internet Key Exchange (IKEv2)

As with L2TP, IKEv2 also uses IPSec for encryption and is known for its fast key exchange capacity. Because of its switching capability, it is preferred in applications where there is a chance of frequent disconnection.

Understanding a VPN protocol means knowing two things: authentication and encryption. If you can detect what systems a VPN client uses for these two purposes and can gauge their pros and cons, you will be easily able to pick the most secure VPN for you.

In case you are looking for a simple, residential VPN for unblocking geographical restrictions, consider tuxler VPN. 

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