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4 Common VPN Encryption Protocols Explained

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In this post, we will discuss the VPN encryption protocols.

VPN services have found widespread use amongst individuals and corporate organizations, especially for its data encryption abilities. Different VPN services use different encryption protocols to encrypt users’ data traffic. 

Here, I will be unraveling the encryption protocols used by VPN service providers and how they encrypt data.

VPN Encryption Protocols Explained

When connected to a VPN server, a virtual tunnel between your device and the VPN server (network) you’re connected to is automatically created. Data transmitted through this virtual encryption tunnel is encrypted (encoded) using a number of VPN protocols based on the VPN service provider’s preference.

The encryption protocol scrambles your data traffic into unreadable formats while transmitting it to and from your device to prevent data hijacking.

Is VPN Encryption Secure?

Is VPN Encryption Secure

Most VPN protocols use the symmetric-key encryption, which means both the users' computers and the servers share a standard key for encrypting and decrypting data traffic from users' devices. The strength and complexity of the encryption protocol depend on the length of the encryption keys. Most VPN use the AES-128, and 256bit encryption keys.  

To put this in perspective, since computers use only zeros and ones to carry out tasks, then a 128-bit encryption key will consist of 128 zeros and ones in a specific combination (key), which will require 6.2X1057 possible combinations of zeros and ones to guess the right key.

The above implies that it will take approximately one quintillion (a billion x billion) years for the most powerful computer in the world with a speed of 93.02 petaflops to guess the right key combination for decrypting 128-bit encrypted data! You guessed right, the hackers don’t have such resources, and they wouldn’t be around that much considering the impossible amount of time it will take to achieve such feat. This gives you an idea of how secure a VPN encryption is.

Common Types Of VPN Protocols

Common Types Of VPN Protocols

VPN protocols refer to the set of instructions and processes that creates a secure connection between a user's device and the VPN server. They determine how the user's data is routed through a connection. 

Based on the user's needs, some VPN protocols emphasize security at the expense of speed. However, a suitable VPN protocol should be optimized for both speed and security. 

1. OpenVPN

OpenVPN protocol uses a combination of encryption of SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and the TSL (Transport Layer Security) to establish a secure connection tunnel between the user's device and the VPN server. 

A VPN encryption protocol is made of two components: the data channel and the control channel encryption. 

  • The data channel: The data channel uses an encryption algorithm (cipher) to scramble data traffic from the user's device. 
  • The Control channel encryption: The control channel encryption uses Transport Layer Security (TSL)to establish a secure connection between a user's computer and the VPN along with a combination of hash authentication, handshake encryption, and cipher.

2. IKEv2/IPsec

Internet Key Exchange version 2  was designed by Microsoft and Cisco to succeed IKEv1. IKEv2 creates a secure connection between a user's device and the VPN server using a security association protocol (SA protocol) to authenticate the user's device and the VPN server.  

IKEv2 uses a symmetric encryption key to authenticate the user's device and the VPN server and establish a secure connection between them. Mobile devices widely use it for creating reasonably secure and fast VPN protocols and is preferred to OpenVPN protocols for its stability.

3. L2TP/IPsec

The Internet Service Provider (ISP) uses the Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) for the smooth functioning of VPN online. L2TP uses a combination of PPTP (point-to-point Tunneling Protocol) and (Layer 2 Forwarding Protocol) (L2F) to create a secure connection between a user’s device and the VPN server. 

L2TP slows down internet connectivity speed, relies on IPSec to encrypt and authenticate data traffic between the user’s device and the VPN server, and does not have smart tools to bypass firewalls.

4. WireGuard

WireGuard is a new VPN protocol created to offer advantages in aspects where OpenVPN and IPsec are lacking. Hence, it gives users a highly stable connection, simple setup, and lighter codebases of about 4000 lines (makes spotting of bugs easier), which is about 1% of OpenVPN and IPsec’s codebases.

Wrap Up: What Is The Best VPN ENcryption Protocol?

Since WireGuard is a ‘work in progress’ VPN protocol, it is best to settle for OpenVPN protocol since it offers users speed, a highly secure connection, and a reasonably stable connection.

Although there are many more VPN protocols than what is listed here, it is best to choose a suitable VPN protocol optimized for speed and data security. 


About the Author:

Writer at SecureBlitz | Website | + posts

Amaya Paucek is a professional with an MBA and practical experience in SEO and digital marketing. She is based in Philippines and specializes in helping businesses achieve their goals using her digital marketing skills. She is a keen observer of the ever-evolving digital landscape and looks forward to making a mark in the digital space.


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