8 Common VPN Authentication Protocols to Use + Best Practices


When it comes to safeguarding your business’ digital activities, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are indispensable tools. They encrypt your internet traffic, ensuring that your data remains secure and your online presence anonymous.

However, the security of your VPN hinges on its authentication protocols. These protocols dictate how users and devices are verified before gaining access to the VPN network. Read on to learn more about the intricacies of VPN authentication protocols and the mechanisms that underpin secure online communication.

Whether you’re a cybersecurity enthusiast or an IT professional looking to bolster your network’s defenses, our exploration of VPN authentication will provide the knowledge you need to stay one step ahead of potential threats.

What is VPN Authentication?

VPN authentication is the crucial process through which a user or device proves its identity before gaining access to a Virtual Private Network. It serves as the digital checkpoint, ensuring that only authorized individuals or systems can enter the encrypted tunnel of the VPN. This verification mechanism not only safeguards sensitive data but also upholds the integrity and security of the network, making it an indispensable component in the realm of online privacy and cybersecurity.

The Best VPN Protocols

Your choice of VPN protocol can be the linchpin that determines the effectiveness and reliability of your virtual private network. Here’s a list of some of the most common VPN protocols available:

1. OpenVPN

  • Overview: OpenVPN is a renowned open-source VPN protocol known for its robust security, utilizing top-tier encryption and authentication methods. However, its relatively complex software setup and bulky code can pose challenges for some users.
  • Pros: No known vulnerabilities. Top-tier encryption and authentication. Open-source.
  • Cons: Bulky code. Software setup may seem challenging.
  • Summary: OpenVPN is recommended for its strong security but may require technical expertise for setup.

2. IKEv2/IPSec

  • Overview: IKEv2, combined with the IPSec VPN protocol, delivers impressive speed and reliability. It is widely implemented across various operating systems, making it a reliable choice for mobile networks. However, its performance may fluctuate over longer distances.
  • Pros: Very fast. Reliable. Works well on mobile networks.
  • Cons: Speed may vary depending on the distance. Limited compatibility.
  • Summary: IKEv2/IPSec is recommended for its speed and reliability, particularly on mobile networks.

3. WireGuard

  • Overview: WireGuard stands out with its exceptional speed and security, achieved through its lightweight code and straightforward setup. While less tested than established protocols, it offers cutting-edge encryption.
  • Pros: Secure. Exceptional speed. Lightweight code. Easy setup.
  • Cons: Relatively new and untested.
  • Summary: WireGuard is highly recommended for its speed and simplicity, despite being relatively new.


  • Overview: SSTP, or Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, is a VPN protocol designed primarily for Windows environments. It provides a high level of security and is known for its ability to bypass firewalls by using the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) port 443, which is often left open. SSTP operates as a reliable and encrypted tunnel for secure data transmission.
  • Pros: Bypasses firewalls effectively. Utilizes AES encryption for robust security. Well-suited for Windows platforms. Good at negotiating and inspecting internet traffic.
  • Cons: Limited compatibility with non-Windows operating systems. SSTP’s code remains unaudited, raising concerns about potential vulnerabilities.
  • Summary: SSTP is a secure option for Windows users, thanks to its firewall-bypassing capabilities and strong AES encryption. However, its compatibility is limited to Windows environments, and its unaudited code may pose some security questions.

5. L2TP/IPsec

  • Overview: L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) in conjunction with IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) is a commonly used VPN protocol that offers a balance between security and compatibility. L2TP provides the tunnel for data transmission, while IPsec adds an additional layer of encryption and security, making it suitable for safeguarding sensitive information during communication.
  • Pros: Relatively secure – The combination of L2TP and IPsec provides a good level of security for data transmission. Supported on various platforms – L2TP/IPsec is widely supported across multiple operating systems, ensuring compatibility for many users. Well-established – it has been in use for a considerable period, and its functionality is well-documented.
  • Cons: Outdated – L2TP/IPsec is considered somewhat outdated in terms of security compared to more modern protocols like WireGuard. Slower – The double encapsulation process (L2TP encapsulating data followed by IPsec encryption) can result in reduced connection speeds. Poor authentication – L2TP itself does not provide strong authentication, relying on IPsec for this aspect.
  • Summary: L2TP/IPsec is a reasonably secure option with broad platform compatibility. However, its outdated security measures and relatively slower speeds make it less desirable for users seeking top-tier security and faster connections.


  • Overview: PPTP, though easy to set up and fast, suffers from severe security flaws and obsolescence. It’s easily blocked by firewalls, rendering it unsuitable for secure VPN connections.
  • Pros: Easy setup and fast.
  • Cons: Not secure, severely outdated and easily blocked by firewalls.
  • Summary: PPTP is not recommended due to its outdated and insecure nature.


  • Overview: SSTP provides the ability to bypass firewalls and offers some degree of security. However, its lack of compatibility with non-Windows systems and unaudited code raise concerns about its reliability.
  • Pros: Bypasses firewalls. Can use industry-standard encryption. Easy setup on Windows OS.
  • Cons: Lack of compatibility with non-Windows systems. Code unaudited
  • Summary: SSTP is considered quite secure but may not be the best choice due to compatibility and unaudited code.

8. L2TP/IPsec

  • Overview: L2TP relies on IPSec for encryption, which compromises its speed. It also has outdated security measures and poor authentication methods, making it a less desirable choice for secure VPN connections.
  • Pros: Relatively secure
  • Cons: Outdated, slow and with bad authentication.
  • Summary: L2TP/IPsec is not recommended due to its slow speed and outdated security.

VPN Protocol Comparison Summary

Now, let’s compare various VPN protocols based on their compatibility, encryption methods, security levels, and operational efficiency:

CompatibilityEncryptionSecurityEfficiency Speed
IKEv2Windows, macOS, iOS, AndroidBlowfish, Camellia, 3DES, ChaCha20, AESSecureFast
OpenVPNRequires additional configuration filesTLS with DES, RC2, DESX, BF, CAST, AESVery secureFast with UDP, slow with TCP
L2TPWindows, macOS, iOS, AndroidAES or 3DES via IPSecSecureDepends on implementation
WireGuardLinux – requires additional configuration files for other OSChaCha20, Curve25519, HKDF, BLAKE2, SipHash24Very secureVery fast
SSTPWindowsAESSecureDepends on implementation
PPTPMost operating systemsMPPE with RSA RC4Very insecureFast

VPN Authentication Protocols Best Practices

Once you’ve selected the right VPN authentication protocol for your business, it’s important to carry out best practices to ensure the safeguarding of sensitive data and the prevention of unauthorized access. We’ve listed our top ten practices below:

  1. Use Strong Authentication Methods: Employ robust authentication methods such as digital certificates, two-factor authentication (2FA), or strong password policies to enhance security.
  2. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Whenever possible, enable MFA to add an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of verification.
  3. Regularly Update and Patch: Keep VPN server software and authentication components up to date to mitigate vulnerabilities and security risks.
  4. Use Strong Encryption: Utilize encryption protocols like TLS encryption or IPsec to safeguard data in transit, ensuring confidentiality and integrity.
  5. Monitor and Audit Authentication: Implement monitoring and auditing processes to detect and respond to suspicious or unauthorized access attempts.
  6. Secure Certificate Management: If using digital certificates, establish proper certificate management practices, including regular expiration checks and revocation procedures.
  7. Restrict Access: Limit VPN access to authorized users and devices only. Employ access controls and policies to restrict permissions and reduce the attack surface.
  8. Regularly Review Logs: Review VPN authentication logs to identify any anomalies or signs of unauthorized access.
  9. Educate Users: Provide user training on safe authentication practices and the importance of safeguarding credentials.
  10. Regular Security Assessments: Conduct regular security assessments and penetration testing to identify and address vulnerabilities in your VPN authentication infrastructure. 

Pick the Right Protocol for Your Business

VPN protocols are super important. These tools play a pivotal role in encrypting internet traffic, ensuring data security, and maintaining online anonymity. The core of VPN security lies in the choice of authentication protocols, which serve as the gatekeepers for granting access to the encrypted network.

Understanding the intricacies of VPN authentication is essential, whether you are a cybersecurity enthusiast or an IT professional looking to enhance your network’s defenses.

The comparison of various VPN protocols reveals a spectrum of options, each with its own set of advantages and trade-offs. The selection of a protocol should align with your specific security needs, compatibility requirements, and performance expectations.

Strong authentication methods, multi-factor authentication, regular updates, and the use of strong encryption are among the best practices to follow in maintaining the security of your VPN infrastructure. As the digital landscape evolves, staying informed about VPN authentication and security measures will empower you to remain one step ahead of potential threats and ensure the privacy and integrity of your digital activities.


Which authentication protocol is used for VPN?
Various authentication protocols are employed in VPNs, with the selection often contingent on security preferences and specific VPN technologies. In a UNIX or Linux environment, SSH is the prevalent choice for VPN connections. Conversely, PPTP in such environments employs authentication protocols akin to PPP (a communication protocol facilitating connections via dial-up). These include EAP, CHAP, PAP, and SPAP, which are employed to verify the identity of remote users.
Which VPN authentication protocol uses SSL TLS?
OpenVPN, likely the most widely adopted VPN protocol, relies on TLS incorporating SSL/TLS for secure private key exchange. It leans upon the OpenSSL crypto library, which houses a spectrum of robust cryptographic algorithms, fortifying the security of your VPN tunnel.
What is the strongest VPN authentication method?
The strength of a VPN authentication method depends on various factors, including the specific protocol used and the implementation. In general, methods that involve digital certificates, such as those used in OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec, are considered among the strongest due to their reliance on robust cryptographic techniques.

These methods offer a high level of security, as they require both something the user knows (the private key) and something the user has (the certificate) to authenticate, making them challenging to compromise.

However, the overall strength also depends on proper key management, secure storage of certificates, and other security practices. Ultimately, the choice of the strongest VPN authentication method should align with the specific security requirements and infrastructure of the VPN deployment.
Do VPNs use endpoint authentication?
VPNs have the capability to expand in tandem with endpoints, ensuring that security measures are uniformly extended to all connections. By employing VPNs, you gain the ability to execute authorization and authentication procedures prior to a user’s connection to your resources, thereby eliminating the necessity of depending on the security of the user’s internet connection to verify their identity.