When surfing via VPN for Windows, one often speaks of a VPN tunnel. In a sense, the client creates a secure channel through which you can surf almost anonymously.
The core element is the VPN protocol, which defines the rules and processes with which VPN services establish a secure connection.
Data packets are handled according to the procedure, encrypted using a security algorithm (usually AES 256), and then securely transmitted (“tunneling”).
Types of VPN Protocols
Several VPN protocols differ technically. Below we will introduce you to the most well-known representatives:
- IKEv2: Microsoft and the telecommunications company Cisco have introduced the Internet Key Exchange Protocol Version 2, a security protocol that works just as smoothly with Windows as Linux, for example. The protocol is particularly notable for its very high-security standards and various encryption techniques. In addition, the connection is often faster than with other protocols.
- OpenVPN: The protocol with 160 or 256-bit encryption is one of the most widespread VPN technologies. OpenVPN is considered very secure, although not the fastest VPN. Due to the open-source code, it is possible to check for backdoors at any time, i.e., whether the provider cannot save and pass on data after all.
- PPTP: The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol was developed by Microsoft Corporation. The fast setup, various authentication methods, and 128-bit encryption made the protocol quickly become the standard. However, security loopholes have repeatedly emerged in the past, and Edward Snowden’s revelations have shown that, for example, the National Security Agency (NSA, the largest foreign intelligence service in the USA) decrypts PPTP with ease.
- L2TP / IPsec: The Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol alone does not allow anonymous surfing, but in conjunction with the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), secure, albeit somewhat slower, 256-bit encryption is possible.
- SSTP: The Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol comes from Microsoft and is fully integrated into the Windows environment. SSTP is considered secure, but there is always speculation that Microsoft may have built-in back doors to tap into the data. This suspicion can hardly be verified.
- WireGuard: WireGuard is a new VPN protocol that is particularly noticeable due to its small program code size (less than 4,000 lines of code). Therefore, it only requires a fraction of the code in protocols such as OpenVPN. This makes WireGuard extremely fast and enables simplified troubleshooting. Like OpenVPN, WireGuard is Open Source, thus ensuring a high level of security. More and more VPN providers are already using the protocol, such as NordVPN (under the name “NordLynx”), iTopVPN which is a free VPN, and Mullvad.
In principle, every device identifies the user online via a unique IP address. If you call up a website, the server behind the page needs your IP address to answer your request and make the website available to you.
This and other data can be used to create a profile of you that allows conclusions to be drawn about your interests, your preferred location to hang out, or your occupation.
With the best free VPN for Windows, you cover your tracks – and internet activity is not your own. This is how it works: When you dial into the virtual private network, only the VPN server forwards its IP address to the server on the target site.
The target page answers the request from the VPN server and sends the data back to it. The VPN client acts as an intermediary between your device and the target site.