A virtual private network (VPN) is a method that allows you to connect your private network, such as your office LAN or home LAN, securely to the internet and to each other via the internet. It creates a virtual network that shields your physical network from hackers, malware and other security hazards emanating from the internet. A VPN connects your private network to the internet by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection using a networking protocol.
There are several networking protocols you can choose from for your VPN. Some of the most popular are:
- Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
A Point-to-Point Protocol (PPTP) is a set of communication rules that allow an organization to implement a virtual private network (VPN). It is supported by almost every operating system, including Windows and Mac OS. However, lack adequate encryption and authentication features make it the least secure networking protocol.
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
A Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is a set of communication rules that is used to support a VPN. It’s called a tunneling protocol because it encapsulates a another protocol, the Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), to carry a payload over an incompatible network. The L2TP relies on IPSec to provide encryption and confidentiality as it does not provide its own.
- Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)
Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is a set of protocols (called a protocol suite) that used cryptographic security services to provide security to IP communications during communication sessions by authenticating and encrypting the IP packets. It is used for protecting data during host-to-host and network-to-network communication. It is a highly secure network protocol.
- Transport Layer Security (TLS)
Transport Layer Security (TLS) and its predecessor, Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol, are the most widely used security protocols on the internet and internal networks today. Because of their exceptionally high security level, they are used when a web browser wants to send sensitive data, such as a credit card number, to a web server. The use of TLS and SSL on a VPN makes it virtually impregnable.
OpenVPN is a freely available open-source VPN protocol that is based on the SSL code. It is great for creating point-to-point and site-to-site connections. It is secure and doesn’t have any connection issues. It is also capable of traversing firewalls and network address translator (NATs). However, it requires a client to be installed as it is not natively supported by Windows, Mac OS X and mobile devices.