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Secure VPN Use: The Importance of Protocols

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is essentially a way to ensure that you can surf the internet safely. There are many threats to our data on the internet, many of which can be avoided by using a proper VPN. However, the type of VPN you use is of great importance. It can be crucial because your data can be protected to varying degrees. The program itself works on basically the same basis in all cases, but it is the protocols that are used to ensure real security. This blog will cover secure VPN use, including the different types of protocols to help protect users’ personal data.

The importance of the protocol

The level of security of VPN protocols is of paramount importance, as it allows us to effectively protect our online communications and data. Protocols are algorithms and procedures that enable the encryption and secure transmission of data traffic over the Internet. These algorithms and procedures can be typified and grouped according to the encryption process and the overall protection they can provide to users. This is particularly important in a world where data is one of the most valuable assets and where people’s lives can be ruined in an instant if their data falls into the wrong hands. The most important protocols used in the 21st century include OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP, and PPTP. [1]


Encryption is the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when it comes to the security of their data. Encryption is at the core of the protocols, and thus of VPNs, as it determines how our data is hidden from other users. The most common encryption methods in use today are AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), blowfish, and ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography). Of these encryption types, AES is the most common, and is the type of encryption used by most VPN services, with the possibility to vary the key sizes. [2] The key, the basis of encryption, allows you to temporarily change your data to prevent others from accessing it. These keys are made up of specific characters, and for a person to access the information protected by the key, they need this character set. The level of security of a key is determined by the key size, which is the number of characters in the key, and the number of transformation cycles our data (information) undergoes, i.e. how unrecognizable it will be to third parties. It is the length of the key that establishes the security of a given protocol. As the number of bits increases, hacking becomes more difficult, making it harder for phishers to gain access to your personal data. This is why it is important to look at the length of keys, as the more bits, the harder they are to crack and therefore the more secure they are. The most secure of these is AES 256, which uses 14 transformation cycles to transform information and can be used by government agencies, for example. [3] Another encryption method used by VPN providers is blowfish, which is less common today, despite its ability to provide adequate security.


OpenVPN is one of the most widely used protocols among VPN providers, thanks to a number of features. Open VPN is open source, so it has code that is available and accessible to anyone. This might at first seem intimidating from a security point of view, but it is designed to allow for continuous improvements and enhancements. Just think of Linux operating systems, whose entire source code is open, yet it is still used in most industrial environments today. The main reason for this is that, among other things, transparency facilitates the early recognition and repair of vulnerabilities. OpenVPN supports both the AES and blowfish encryption methods described above, as well as other special security key exchange methods such as RSA. The main feature of this protocol is platform-independency, i.e. it can be used regardless of the operating system, which is why it is the most widely used by VPN providers. It is easily configurable, i.e. the user can choose between different encryption schemes, thus creating the most secure one for him. OpenVPN is one of the most popular and reliable VPN protocols, widely used for both personal and business purposes.


L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol / IP Security) is a proprietary protocol combination that provides an outstanding level of encrypted and secure Internet access. It consists of two main elements, the first being L2TP, which is responsible for establishing the connection, i.e. the link (channel) between the user and the Internet. The second element is IPsec, which allows data to flow through the established channel in encrypted form, thus guaranteeing security. It is therefore the second element, IPsec, which is to be examined from the point of view of VPN security. [4] IPsec is used to improve the security of Internet Protocol-based networks. Encryption is also based on the keys described above. The data flowing through the connection is decomposed into several parts and is under constant control, which perfectly filters out attackers. The role of IPsec in this protocol is to provide a distinguishing mark on the data flowing through it, indicating that it is definitely from the right person and not, for example, from a phishing attack. This distinction allows the program to know for sure that the data is from a trusted source, thus avoiding attacks on our data, as the program can easily distinguish the data based on where it came from. The origin also allows the program to know exactly which sender is trustworthy and therefore only allows access to the data from the trusted sender. VPN providers often use IPsec-based encryption to ensure that their users’ data is secure.


PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) is a VPN protocol developed by Microsoft and emerged in the 1990s as a solution for data protection. This protocol is less used today due to its obsolescence, but it has made a significant contribution to the security protocols we use today. Its level of security is much lower than that of OpenVPN or L2TP/IPsec, so it is nowadays recommended for home users at most. Its security has been questioned by experts, as MPPE (Microsoft Point-to-Point Encryption) can be easily cracked with the right tools and knowledge. Another drawback is that it is not supported by the vast majority of operating systems in use today. It also has the important drawback of logging users’ activities, which opens up new opportunities for data theft and raises questions about privacy and data protection.

Other aspects of safety

As explained above, in order to keep our data secure, we not only need to choose the right service provider who will ensure the protection of our data with an appropriate protocol but also to take some measures beyond that. First of all, it is important to have the right configuration, for example, OpenVPN has been shown to be configurable and flexible. This means being able to choose between encryption methods and procedures that are generally not understood by a user. Thus, it is important to seek the help of a professional, as the right settings can significantly increase the security of your data when using a VPN. But the most important thing is the user himself, how he uses the internet. In today’s world, it is important to use the internet responsibly, avoiding questionable sites and taking care of your data. For example, users need to be careful about where they give their data, on which sites, and for what purpose. In general, what sites they visit, what services they use, and what data they provide ongoing access to, for example through saved passwords. So, the main responsibility for the security of our own data lies not with the service providers but with the users themselves.


In today’s fast-paced world, it is necessary to pay attention to safe internet use, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to use a VPN. However, VPNs vary in terms of their level of security, as they use different protocols. These protocols, in different forms, serve the same purpose, namely, to keep your data safe from attack and to prevent unauthorized access. The protocols follow different encryption methods, and our data is encrypted using different procedures. But one thing is important for the user: his data is protected and cannot be used against him by attackers. IT developments have led to the development of better and better encryption mechanisms, but the greatest security for your personal data can only be guaranteed by you, the user. By using the Internet responsibly and being vigilant, the chances of attack can be significantly reduced, and our personal data will be even more secure.

Márk KABAI is a student of law at the Faculty of Law of the Eötvös Lóránd University, Hungary, and a scholarship student of Aurum Foundation. His research focuses on the interconnections of artificial intelligence and human rights, such as free speech.

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