When you’re choosing a VPN provider, one of the most important considerations is security. Security in a VPN is largely determined by its underlying protocol. So, what is the most secure VPN protocol that’ll keep you safe on the Internet?

Even if you’re not an IT security expert, it helps to learn how a VPN protocol works to protect data from being intercepted and misused by malicious hackers. There are a few VPN protocols out there and not all offer the same level of security.

Continue reading this article to find out which are the most secure protocols out there and the best VPNs that are built around them.

What is a VPN Protocol? 

A VPN works by encrypting data transmission between devices and the Internet through a secure tunnel. To achieve that depends on the protocol which is a mechanism for altering the data for privacy and speed. 

The VPN protocol is key to setting up a secure data tunnel for your device. It alters the original data packet based on a set of rules and algorithms. New VPN protocols have been introduced over the course of time. Some have proved to be reliable, while others are bugged with vulnerabilities.

Common Types Of VPN Protocol

Here are some common VPN protocols used by leading providers.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is known for its balance of speed and security when transferring data. It operates with 256-bit encryption but can work with other types of ciphers. OpenVPN’s code is open source, which means any security experts can vet the protocol for signs of vulnerabilities. 

The protocol is a favorite amongst many leading VPN providers. It’s proven to easily bypass firewalls and is highly secure. Setting up OpenVPN on your own is a pain though, which is why you’ll want to use a VPN that comes with it. 

IKEv2/IPSec

With IKEv2 and IPSEC, you have two different protocols that give you the best speed and security. IKEv2 is the brainchild of Microsoft and CISCO (Computer Information System Company) and is arguably the fastest transport protocol. It is primarily used for the 3G/4G LTE network and able to recover dropped connections quickly.

Meanwhile, IPSec is responsible for providing encryption and authentication and is frequently paired with other protocols like IKEv2. The combo of both protocols is highly popular amongst leading VPN providers.

SSTP

SSTP stands for Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol. It is a VPN protocol that dates back to the introduction of Windows Vista. It’s developed by Microsoft, which means it works flawlessly on Windows devices. That said, STTP can be configured on other platforms.

Even if it’s a dated protocol, SSTP remains reliably secure, thanks to its support for AES-256 encryption. You’re able to tunnel through firewalls with SSTP in place. 

Wireguard

Wireguard is an up-and-coming VPN protocol that shows plenty of promises but is still in the developmental phase. Early testing shows that Wireguard could eclipse both OpenVPN and IKEv2 in terms of speed.

However, there are still some security concerns that need to be ironed out before it’s ready to be deployed for mainstream users. Despite that, some VPN providers have compensated for the issues with their own technology and have included WireGuard as an option. 

Which is the Most Secure VPN Protocol?

At the moment of writing, OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol in the industry. Its 256-bit encryption means that data transmitted using OpenVPN is literally unbreakable by hackers. 

OpenVPN can operate on both UDP and TCP connections. When operating on UDP, you’ll get a connection that prioritizes speed over guaranteed delivery of all data packets. Meanwhile, OpenVPN TCP offers reliable data transmission through a connection-oriented protocol

Which VPN Protocol to Avoid?

While we’ve identified the most secure VPN protocol, we’ll want to draw your attention to a couple of protocols with known vulnerabilities.

PPTP is the pioneer amongst VPN protocols. It was created in 1990 and used when the Internet was still in its infancy. While internet security has grown leaps and bounds, sadly, the PPTP protocol has not. There are many known security issues with PPTP and it was cracked by NSA (National Security Agency).

Another VPN protocol that you wouldn’t want to use is the L2TP/IPSec. It isn’t as effective as other protocols when it comes to bypassing firewalls. But that’s not the only issue troubling L2TP/IPSec. NSA has also shown that the protocol can be cracked with a specific method.

Best VPNs

A VPN should first and foremost guarantee security, and that means they offer secure VPN protocols. These VPNs are the best when it comes to security.  

NordVPN

NordVPN is known for its security and user-friendly app. Users are able to select from OpenVPN, IKEv2/L2TP, and Nordlnyx. Nordlynx is NordVPN’s implementation of WireGuard, where it compensated WireGuard’s vulnerabilities with its own technology. Built-in features like DoubleVPN and kills switch also increases the connection security. 

ClearVPN

ClearVPN is a reasonably new player in the VPN business. While it’s not exactly the biggest VPN service in the market today, it has managed to stand out in one aspect that most other VPN companies tend to overlook — user-friendliness. This makes it easy for beginners to just jump in, even with no prior knowledge about VPNs. It’s one of the best VPN for Portugal because it’s so user-friendly.

ExpressVPN

If you’re looking for the fastest VPN, it has to be ExpressVPN. You’ll enjoy impressive download speeds across its servers. Besides that, you can choose from a list of secure VPN protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and its proprietary Lightway. Lightway currently works on Android devices and routers, which takes speed and security to another level.

Summary

You’ve got your question answered. While there are promising developments with new VPN protocols, OpenVPN still tops the list and is widely available. Using a VPN built with OpenVPN or other secure protocols mentioned is the only way to stay protected on the internet.

Mark Coulman
About Mark Coulman

Cybersecurity expert with a keen interest in technology and digital privacy. Mark has more than 14 years of experience in creating and managing various reliable WEB applications for IT companies in the EU and the US. Loves 3-4 letter words like PHP, XML, HTML, CSS, DB2, ASP, CRM, ERP, SAP, etc.