VPN protocols – how to pick the best one for your needs
Find out if you’re using the right one
A definition of VPN protocols
People may often confuse a protocol for the VPN itself – but they are not the same thing! A VPN protocol is like a guideline that is used to arrange the connection between the VPN client and the VPN server. This guideline will determine how your data travels between your computer and the VPN server.
CyberGhost VPN lets you pick from several different protocols to make the best out of your secure connection, depending on your needs and the device you’re using.
Each VPN protocol has its pros and cons – so it’s important to know what to expect from each.
Available VPN protocols with CyberGhost VPN
OpenVPN (TCP vs. UDP)
OpenVPN is one of the most popular protocols for VPN security. Created by James Yonan, this protocol is ope-sourced and available for anyone to inspect and access. As a result, any identified security flaws are immediately dealt with, making OpenVPN one of the best protocols in terms of security.
This protocol runs on either the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or User Datagram Protocol (UDP) internet protocol. The difference between these 2, to put in layman’s terms, is that TCP guarantees the full transmission of data in the correct order at a lower speed.
At the same time, UDP transmits the data packages faster, but in doing so, it sacrifices reliability.
Pros of OpenVPN
- Security – runs almost any encryption protocol.
- Transparency – anyone can put the code to the test for potential vulnerabilities that may compromise safety.
- Versatility – OpenVPN is compatible with most platforms and can even be set up on routers.
Cons of OpenVPN
- Difficult to set up – Open VPN requires a complex manual configuration .
In conclusion, OpenVPN is best used when you’re looking for top-notch security. Use it when you’re doing online banking, when you’re connecting to dangerous public WiFi networks, or when logging in to a platform that contains user-sensitive data.
Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2) is the birthchild of Microsoft and Cisco. The goal of this protocol was to deliver a fast, reliable, and secure VPN connection. And indeed, it does. But where IKEv2 truly shines is stability. Since its primary use is for mobile devices, this protocol works miracles at reconnecting whenever a connection is dropped.
Imagine you’re switching from a WiFi to a data plan connection on your smartphone. With IKEv2 the VPN connection will remain stable throughout the entire process, without any drops.
Pros of IKEv2
- Speed – the connection speed offered by this protocol is one of the best, thanks to the Network Address Translation-Transversal technique.
- Stability – you’ll hardly notice a connection drop when using IKEv2, since anytime there’s an interruption, the protocol will instantly take measures to bring everything back up.
- Security - the protocol relies on a wide selection of high-end ciphers (Camelia, AES, Blowfish), and uses a certificate-based authentication for preventing Man-In-the-Middle (MiM) and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
Cons of IKEv2
- Device support– IKEv2 works great on Windows, macOS, and iOS, since all of them have native support for the Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2) protocol. However, if you plan on using it for other devices, you’re going to need adapted versions.
- Firewall restrictions – By default, IKEv2 only uses UDP port 500. So, if that port is blocked by either a firewall or network admin, your VPN may stop working altogether.
All in all, IKEv2 is one of the best VPN protocols to use if you’re on a Windows or Apple device or if you’re on the move and always switching between internet connections.
This fresh-out-of-the-oven protocol has quickly become the talk of the town thanks to its elite cryptography, top-notch speed, and ease of implementation, that outperforms OpenVPN and IKEv2.
So, what’s not to like about it? Unfortunately, WireGuard® is still in its experimentation stage. This means VPN providers are still unaware of potential vulnerabilities and backdoors.
Pros of WireGuard®
- Performance - since it executes its processes inside the kernel module of Linux, this protocol (in theory) is supposed to provide faster performance and bandwidth than all other protocol solutions.
- Security - Instead of relying on the industry-standard AES-256 encryption, WireGuard® uses a cryptographic key routing process.
- Lean, open-sourced coding structure - with little over 3800 lines of open-sourced code, this structure is easy to inspect for potential vulnerabilities.
Cons of WireGuard®
- Still experimental - being still in the development process, WireGuard® still has to go through many security audits.
- Stability issues – there have been instances where the protocol experienced stability issues in the form of speed or security. However, this is normal for a protocol that’s still under development.
This protocol will serve you best when you’re looking to maximize your connection speed. As a result, use it when downloading, streaming, or gaming online.
Layer to Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) / IPSec
Considered a replacement of a more vulnerable protocol (PPTP), L2TP does not use any encryption method whatsoever. For that reason, it is paired together with IPSec – so it can provide additional security for your data.
But how is L2TP superior to its PPTP predecessor? Well, it uses something called double encapsulation – the first one sets up a PPP connection to a remote host, while the second encapsulation contains IPSec. While this works wonders in terms of security, it reduces the speed at which your data travels.
Pros of L2TP
- Security – L2TP prevents the data from being altered between sender and receiver. As a result, Man-In-the-Middle attacks cannot affect you when using this protocol.
Cons of L2TP
- Easy to block – the protocol can only communicate over UDP, making it very easy to block.
- Slow – Thanks to its double encapsulation method, the protocol is not the fastest out there.
All in all, L2TP is a good protocol if you’re looking to get good security out of your VPN connection. You can trust it to protect your data when shopping online or checking your banking accounts, but it may frustrate you if you’re going to use it for streaming or torrenting.
Want to find out more about our VPN protocols? Check out the FAQ section below or get in touch with our Customer Support team. They’re available 24/7 via either email or live chat and can answer your questions in English, German, French, or Romanian.
Unfortunately, when it comes to VPN protocols, there is no such thing as ‘the best’. Perhaps over time, when the WireGuard® will exit its experimentation stage we could say that it will be the most superiror VPN protocol in existence. Until then, it all depends on your needs and your internet habits.
If you’re looking for the fastest VPN protocol, we recommend IKEv2 or WireGuard® (if you’re a Linux-user).
Right now, OpenVPN holds the #1 rank in protocols for VPN security.
The IKEv2 protocol is the most stable VPN protocol.
Unfortunately, we do not.
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