Encryption Standards for Business VPNs: Everything You Need to Know

VPNs assign a new IP address and transmit data through an encrypted tunnel, but the specifics of the encryption protocols and ciphers can be complex. 

Different protocols offer varying speeds, capabilities, and potential vulnerabilities. The encryption standard directly impacts the security of a business VPN.  

In this guide, we’ll look at the encryption protocols and ciphers used in business VPNs, their advantages and disadvantages, and factors to consider. 

Quick Takeaways

  • Encryption is crucial for protecting sensitive data transmitted through business VPNs.
  • Business VPNs use different types of encryption, like AES, symmetric, and asymmetric algorithms.
  • Secure VPN protocols like TLS, SSL, SSH, and IKE offer extra benefits for data protection.
  • Choosing the appropriate level of encryption depends on data sensitivity, compliance requirements, and performance considerations.
  • Common encryption standards for business VPNs include AES-256 and other robust encryption methods.
  • Mitigating security vulnerabilities in VPN encryption is essential to maintain data confidentiality.

Why Is Encryption Important for Business VPNs

Encryption standards for business VPNs safeguard sensitive data from unauthorized access. Strong encryption protocols prevent hackers, ISPs, and governments from snooping on online activities or stealing confidential information.

They protect:

  • Personal details
  • Organizational data
  • Financial information
  • Private correspondence

Weak encryption protocols expose data to risks, slow down connections, and cause compatibility issues. Modern computers use advanced encryption algorithms to secure data effectively, as human-based codes are easily crackable. 

Implementing robust encryption standards ensures the privacy and integrity of business communications, maintaining the trust of clients and employees alike.

Types of Encryption Used in Business VPNs

Here are the types of encryptions used in Business VPNs:

#1: Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

As a symmetric block cipher, AES is a common encryption standard for business VPNs. It encrypts sensitive data by splitting messages into smaller 128-bit blocks and putting them through multiple encryption rounds. 

AES uses the same key for encryption and decryption, which is more secure than older symmetric encryption methods. 

The U.S. government chose AES to protect classified information.

#2: Symmetric encryption algorithms

Business VPNs use symmetric encryption algorithms. They use the same key for both encryption and decryption. 

The key is a secret code that each computer must know to encode and decode information. However, the need to share the secret key between computers can be a weakness if interception occurs.

#3: Asymmetric encryption algorithms

Also known as public-key cryptography, it is an encryption standard used in business VPNs. They use a pair of keys: a public key shared with anyone and a private key kept secret by the owner. 

The sender encrypts data with the recipient’s public key, and the recipient decrypts it with their private key, allowing secure communication without sharing a secret key.

Benefits of Using Secure VPN Protocols

Here are the best benefits of using secure VPN protocols:

Transport Layer Security (TLS)

It secures data sent between applications over the internet. It’s commonly used for secure web browsing, indicated by a padlock icon in browsers when in a secure session.

TLS also protects sensitive information like: 

  • Logins
  • Credit card numbers
  • Personal info

Enabling client and server applications to support TLS ensures encrypted data transmitted between them is not viewable by third parties.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

It’s a public key infrastructure that uses RSA encryption and security certificates for authentication. It establishes a secure connection between the client and server through HTTPS, protecting sensitive information like:

  • Customer contact details
  • Credit card data

SSL identifies phishing sites, which are nearly perfect replicas of authentic sites designed to steal information. Fake sites struggle to acquire SSL certificates, which warns customers to avoid them.

Secure Shell (SSH)

There are two versions of SSH (SSH-1 and SSH-2) and tools like OpenSSH.

 It enables secure logins to remote computers, allowing administrators to perform secure file transfers, data transfer automation using SSH scripts, VPN establishment, application testing, system rebooting, file permission changes, and user access management. 

Administrators commonly use SSH clients to securely access remote servers, switches, routers, virtualization platforms, and operating systems.

Internet Key Exchange (IKE)

IPSec and IKE work together to negotiate VPNs and maintain host access security. IKE allows the exchange of encryption and authentication keys through unsecured channels like the Internet. 

It exists in two versions: 

  • IKEv1
  • IKEv2 

IPSec is used independently, and incorporating IKE increases its functionality. It enables faster connectivity between peers by eliminating the need for manual IPSec parameter input on both ends.

How Encryption Works in a Business VPN

Here is how encryption works in business VPNs.

Encryption Process in VPN Connections

Transmitted data through a business VPN undergoes an encryption process to protect its confidentiality. 

The encryption algorithm, such as AES, takes the plaintext data and transforms it into ciphertext using a secret key. The ciphertext appears unintelligible gibberish to anyone who intercepts it without the correct decryption key.

Encryption Cipher Used in VPN Connections

The encryption cipher is the mathematical algorithm used to perform the encryption and decryption. 

Common ciphers used in business VPNs include AES, Blowfish, and Camellia. The choice of a cipher depends on factors such as security requirements, performance, and compatibility with VPN clients and servers.

Key exchange and handshake encryption in VPN connections

Before encrypting data, a secure key exchange occurs between the VPN client and server. 

Known as a handshake, it establishes a shared secret key for symmetric encryption. The handshake itself is encrypted using asymmetric encryption algorithms like RSA or ECC to prevent eavesdropping and ensure the authenticity of the communicating parties.

Considerations for Choosing the Level of Encryption

Several key factors influence the appropriate level of encryption for your business VPN. Let’s explore these considerations in more detail.

Level of Encryption based on the Sensitivity of Data

The encryption level chosen for a business VPN should align with the data’s sensitivity. Highly sensitive information, such as financial records or personally identifiable information (PII), may require stronger encryption standards like AES-256. 

Less sensitive data can be protected with lower encryption levels like AES-128.

Compliance with Industry Encryption Standards and Regulations

Businesses operating in regulated industries, such as healthcare (HIPAA) or finance (PCI-DSS), must adhere to specific encryption standards to ensure compliance. 

These regulations often mandate strong encryption algorithms and key management practices to protect sensitive data. When choosing encryption for a business VPN, it’s crucial to consider the applicable compliance requirements.

The Balance Between Security and Performance

While stronger encryption provides better security, it can also impact the performance of a business VPN. 

Higher levels of encryption require more computational resources, leading to slower connection speeds and increased latency. Businesses must balance security and performance based on their specific needs and network infrastructure.

Common Encryption Standards for Business VPNs

Understanding and implementing the most widely recognized and trusted encryption standards is crucial for business VPN security. 

Let’s look at the common encryption standards used in business VPNs.

AES-256 encryption standard

AES-256 is one of the most widely used and trusted encryption standards for business VPNs.

It provides a high level of security with a 256-bit key length, making it almost uncrackable by current computing power. AES-256 is often considered the gold standard for encrypting sensitive data in transit.

Baseline encryption standards for business VPNs

The baseline standard is typically AES-128. While not as strong as AES-256, AES-128 still provides robust security for most business use cases. 

It offers a good balance between security and performance, making it a popular choice for many organizations.

Robust encryption for enhanced security

Businesses with heightened security requirements can implement more encryption measures.

 These may include:

  • Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS), which generates unique session keys for each VPN connection
  • Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) to verify user identities before granting access to the VPN.

Security Vulnerabilities in VPN Encryption

Let’s discuss encryption leaks, unauthorized access to encryption keys, and regular encryption audits.

Mitigating risks of encryption leaks

Despite the strength of encryption algorithms, business VPNs can still be vulnerable to encryption leaks. 

These leaks can occur due to misconfigurations, software vulnerabilities, or weaknesses in the VPN protocol. To mitigate the risks of encryption leaks, businesses should regularly update their VPN software, patch known vulnerabilities, and implement strict security policies.

Protecting against unauthorized access to encryption keys

Secure VPN communication relies on encryption keys. If an attacker gains access to the encryption keys, they can decrypt the data transmitted over the VPN. 

To protect against unauthorized access, businesses should implement secure key management practices, such as:

  • Using hardware security modules (HSMs) to store and manage encryption keys.

Ensuring secure communication through encryption audits

Regular encryption audits help businesses identify and address potential weaknesses in their VPN encryption. These audits involve assessing the security of the encryption algorithms, key management practices, and VPN configurations. 

Periodic audits ensure that VPN encryption remains strong and effective at protecting sensitive information.

Create a Bulletproof Security Strategy with Perimeter81

Implementing strong encryption standards is just one aspect of creating a secure business VPN. 

To safeguard your organization’s data and private network, you need a comprehensive security strategy. Perimeter81 offers a range of advanced security features, including: 

  • Robust encryption
  • Secure access controls
  • Real-time monitoring

Leveraging Perimeter81’s expertise and cutting-edge technologies can keep your business VPN secure, compliant, and performant. Explore Perimeter81’s solutions today to take the first step towards fortifying your network security.


What kind of encryption do VPNs use?
Various algorithms encrypt data over the internet. VPNs typically use Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which comes in different key lengths like AES-128, AES-192, and AES-256. You can also use Blowfish, Twofish, and Camellia in VPNs. Symmetric encryption uses the same key for encryption and decryption, while asymmetric encryption uses public and private keys.
Which VPN uses AES-256?
NordVPN, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and ProtonVPN are some of the top VPNs that use AES-256 encryption. Most providers use AES-256 encryption to protect user data from unauthorized access, interception, and manipulation. It makes it almost impossible for hackers to decrypt the data, even if they manage to intercept it.
What are VPN standards?
VPNs establish secure connections over the Internet using these protocols and guidelines. The most widely used VPN standards include OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, SSTP, and WireGuard. These standards specify the encryption algorithms, authentication methods, key exchange processes, and routing mechanisms VPNs use. 
What is the strongest encryption for VPN?
AES-256 is the strongest encryption for VPNs right now. Military, government, and financial institutions use it to protect sensitive data. With 256 possible key combinations, it’s very close to foolproof. VPNs that use AES-256 encryption keep users’ data safe and confidential.
How do VPNs use encryption?
VPNs encrypt data as it travels between the user’s device and the VPN server. When users connect to a VPN, their device establishes a secure tunnel with the VPN server using encryption protocols like OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec. All data sent through this tunnel is encrypted using algorithms such as AES, ensuring that any intercepted data remains unreadable to unauthorized parties. The server then decrypts the data and sends it to its intended destination. When data is sent back to the user, it’s encrypted from end to end.

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