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VPN Protocols Explained
A virtual private network, or VPN, is used to describe a type of secure connection that is designed to protect a person’s privacy and security while on the Internet. Business users employ VPNs to remote access work networks from home computers or while traveling.
Personal users often use VPNs to protect potentially identifying information like IP addresses while surfing the Internet. VPN connections are so secure thanks to a series of protocols that are built into the technology itself. These protocols are the building blocks of the whole system.
VPN Tunneling Protocols
VPN protocols are traditionally more accurately defined as tunneling protocols. The name is derived from the fact that the protocol allows the connection to create a secure “tunnel” through an inherently unsecure network like the Internet. Even if the network being used isn’t secure and is not protecting information, the tunnel itself is secure. VPN tunneling protocols can also be used to connect two unlike network architectures together.
Understanding VPN Protocols
VPN protocols can be broken down into two basic ideas: the delivery protocol and the payload protocol, which combine to form the protocol stack. The method of information delivery is called the “layered protocol model.” The delivery protocol is typically using a higher level of security than the payload protocol for various reasons including speed and stability.
VPN protocols are important because they provide the security features that users have come to expect. Inherent in the layered protocol model are benefits like message integrity, which helps make sure that any instances of a person with malicious intentions trying to tamper with a message being transmitted over the network are immediately detected and identified. Sender authentication is also provided by VPN protocols, which is the idea that unauthorized users without the proper credentials will not be able to access the VPN in any way.
Confidentiality is also provided, which means that any attacker of the virtual private network would only be able to see encrypted data and the information contained inside that data would remain private and secure.
Main VPN Types
The three main types of virtual private network protocols include PPTP, L2TP/IPsec and the OpenVPN protocol. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to compatibility, for example, PPTP has support for a large number of different devices including desktop computers, mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.
Operating systems supported include Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Linux and Android. L2TP/IPsec has virtually the same compatibility features, only it lacks the support for the DD-WRT system that PPTP currently has. OpenVPN is supported by most desktop computer systems running Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and the Android operating systems.
The three main protocols differ the most when it comes to encryption and security. As far as encryption, PPTP offers respectable 128-bit encryption. L2TP/IPsec offers 256-bit encryption, which is more secure. OpenVPN offers 256-bit encryption, but it requires more of a computers central processing unit resources than 160-bit encryption, which is slightly less secure but much faster on most systems.
When choosing a VPN service, it is important to identify which VPN protocol best fits your needs and identifying providers that offer that protocol. While price, protection and bandwidth are all important factors in selecting a VPN provider, protocols are the building blocks of VPN and should be considered heavily when selecting a service.