vpn protocols explained in detail

The Most Secure VPN Protocols In 2021?

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Last Updated on July 1, 2021 by Calvin C.

When you use a VPN, a tunnel is created between your computer and a trusted VPN server. A VPN protocol enables this connection and the most secure VPN protocols create a strong layer of security to keep unauthorized access to your data.

In this article, we look at the 6 common VPN protocols, their differences and highlight the most secure options.

most secure vpn protocols

What is a VPN protocol?

A VPN protocol is a set of rules that determine how data is routed in a VPN connection.

Each VPN protocol comes with its pros and cons, so a good VPN must provide an option to select a preferred VPN protocol based on your needs.

These factors come into play when choosing what VPN protocol to use:

  • Speed
  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Stability
  • Ease of use
  • Level of encryption

The most secure VPN protocols must have a strong encryption, with excellent privacy and security.

Since data is encrypted in a VPN tunnel, there is a drop in the connection speed and this is why I recommend premium VPNs so that your internet experience is not compromised.

The top VPNs are fast and secure, thanks to an extensive server network plus a stable product.

List of VPN Protocols

There 6 VPN protocols in used today are as follows:

  1. OpenVPN
  2. IKEv2
  3. SSTP
  4. L2TP/IpSec
  5. PPTP
  6. WireGuard

1. OpenVPN Protocol

  • Very secure
  • Strong encryption
  • Plenty of developers to address vulnerabilities
  • Enough for average users
  • Not the fastest

This is an open-source protocol that is available in most VPN networks and it was created back in 2001 by James Yonan.

All the best VPNs offer OpenVPN protocol because of its proven high security and reliability over the years.

Is OpenVPN secure?

Since OpenVPN is open source, it allows developers to quickly patch any vulnerabilities whenever they appear.

However, because of the intense encryption in OpenVPN, network speed is slower than other protocols.

This is crucial when you access sites that require a high internet speed or when you use a low-end device that has a small memory.

However, if you are an average user, you shouldn’t notice any lag in your internet connection.

OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol currently and that is why all the best VPNs have it.

However, it is not advisable to set up an OpenVPN protocol manually. Fortunately, in premium VPNs, OpenVPN is configured for you and is usually enabled by default.

All you need to do is install a VPN client that is compatible with your device or operating system.

Check out these best VPNs that provide OpenVPN.

2. WireGuard Protocol

  • High speed
  • Very secure
  • Strong encryption
  • Strong privacy
  • Some VPN providers have not embraced it

This VPN protocol is a new and aims to supersede all the other protocols.

To do that, it claims to have better speed, security, reliability, and ease of use.

This open-source protocol is originally for use in the Linux operating system, now it is available for all other platforms.

Consequently, VPN service providers regard it as the ultimate protocol as it obliterates all the other inferior VPN protocols in terms of performance.

WireGuard has the following key features:

  • Easy configuration
  • Use of high-end cryptography which makes it super-difficult to decrypt any data passing through the WireGuard VPN tunnel
  • Easy to audit as there are not many lines of code to review as compared to rival protocols like OpenVPN
  • WireGuard has superior performance
  • This protocol is also easy to deploy in mobile devices as it is light-weight while preserving its integrity.
  • Overall it is a well-thought protocol that considers and addresses every loophole.

Some VPN providers, like NordVPN, have already started rolling out WireGuard protocol.

As a result, they stay ahead in the fight for privacy and anonymity on the web.

3. L2TP/IPsec

  • High speed
  • Very secure
  • Best for gaming or streaming
  • Challenges in bypassing firewalls
  • Concerns that NSA compromised IPsec

L2TP (layer to tunnel protocol) is a Microsoft product and was developed to replace PPTP.

On its own, L2TP does not provide any privacy or encryption, so to achieve that, it is coupled with IPsec protocol.

It is hard to notice the difference in speed between OpenVPN protocol and L2TP/IPsec protocol.

You should be able to browse the web without any issues as the speed drop is not significant.

However, this protocol has challenges when you want to bypass firewalls because it defaults to use UDP on port 500.

L2TP/IPsec has the same security level as OpenVPN, and uses AES-256 bit encryption, although concerns have been raised that NSA compromised IPsec.

4. SSTP Protocol

  • High speed
  • Secure
  • Not supported on MacOS, iOS or Android

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is another protocol that is designed mainly for Windows computers.

It is also functional on Linux (although hard to set up) but does not run on Mac computers.

You have to rely on third party clients if you want to run SSTP on MacOS, iOS or Android OS.

One advantage is that it has good speed and security but offers no significant benefits over OpenVPN.

5. IKev2 Protocol

  • High speed
  • Secure
  • Not all devices are supported

Internet Key Exchange was developed jointly by Microsoft and Cisco and comes as a built-in protocol for computers and mobile devices.

On some phones, you can go to Network Settings and set up IKev2 easily.

In addition, this protocol is useful in 3G or 4G LTE mobile devices and is good in re-establishing network connection when it drops out.

Just like PPTP, this protocol is very fast and in addition, it is highly secure as it supports AES-256 bit encryption.

However, the drawback of IKev2 is that it is not all devices support it.

6. PPTP Protocol

  • Very high speeds since it uses 128 bit encryption
  • Best for gaming and streaming
  • Least secure

Point to Point Tunnelling VPN is also a product of Microsoft created in 1995 and is now outdated, but is not yet dead.

Is PPTP secure?

This is the least secure protocol because there is low encryption of data and it is mainly applicable to older devices.

You find this protocol installed in computers or mobile devices, and it is the easiest to set up.

While modern VPNs use 256-bit encryption, PPTP uses 128-bit encryption and hackers penetrate it easily.

PPTP is suitable when speed is required, for example watching Netflix or in slow devices, although this comes at the expense of security.

It is not recommended to use this protocol when working with sensitive data, but only if security is of no concern.

Do not enter pin numbers, passwords, or other personal data subject to hacking while on a PPTP network.

This is the main reason why PPTP was rendered obsolete by L2TP/IPsec protocol.


  • The most secure VPN protocols are OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, although the WireGuard takes the first place as the best VPN protocol.

Other providers have modifications of these protocols, for example, NordVPN has NordLynx which is based on WireGuard.

You can check out a detailed review of top VPNs that use OpenVPN or WireGuard.

Which VPN protocols are you using? Let me know in the comments below and share the article with your friends on social media.

Tech writer and VPN expert. DIY enthusiast and loves anything to do with space science.

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