Available VPN protocols
First of all, what actually is a VPN? ‘VPN’ stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’. Quite simply, a VPN is a type of connection that uses a public network (like the Internet) to create a secure network that different sites can connect to for private use. You can read a guide to the basics about VPN here.
VPNs can be understood by the kinds of protocols they use to tunnel traffic from different sites to the virtual network. There are a number of different protocols available, and each one is slightly different in the way that it handles the data it is trafficking and how it makes this data secure. These protocols include:
- IP Security (IPSec). IPSec is used for transferring communications securely. IPSec encrypts data in one of two ways: Firstly, through transport mode IPSec does not encrypt the entire data packet (the data being trafficked via the VPN), but just the message that is being communicated within this packet. Alternatively, IPSec encrypts through tunnelling which encrypts the whole data packet.
- Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). Like IPSec, SSL and TLS secure communications across a VPN. The difference is that thy use cryptography to do so. Specifically, the use a process that is known as a ‘handshake’. It is named as such because the protocol involves the remote client and the server performing a kind of virtual negotiation to determine that the remote client is allowed access to the VPN. This ‘handshake’ uses encrypted certificates which are kept on both the client and the server’s systems. When they match, the client is deemed authentic.
- Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). This uses the internet to connect a remote client to a private server. It’s simple in both terms of maintenance, and getting it set up.
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP). A L2TP is a protocol used to tunnel data communications between two sites over the Internet. This protocol is often used alongside IPSec to increase the security of the data being transferred. Importantly, L2TP depends on clients and servers using certificates or a shared key for the purposes of authentication.
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