OpenVPN vs IPSec
In recent years, users have realized that everyone can fall victim to malicious cyber attack exploits, so it is essential to educate yourself on various cyber security and prevention measures. One of such measures is using VPN when browsing the web.
It is a fantastic tool that allows users to remain anonymous online by utilizing different security protocols. In this article, we will talk more about VPNs, their importance, and decide which protocol is better for your needs – OpenVPN vs IPSec. If you’d like to learn how to be safe when browsing, then keep on reading.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it is a type of software that has become increasingly popular thanks to its many benefits and useful features. It is like a connection method that acts as an additional layer of security when accessing the internet. What makes a VPN great is the fact that it enables users to remain fully anonymous online, and it has the potential of preventing various hacking attacks such as man-in-the-middle or key logging.
It is used for both personal uses and in the business world as well. Because privacy has become a huge issue and concern for internet users worldwide, this handy little tool has become a favorite. It works by disguising the user’s IP address and assigning them a new one, so their online activity can’t be traced.
VPN service providers usually have multiple servers across different countries, and the user can opt to connect to any available server. Moreover, it’s also used to bypass Geo-restrictions. Geo-restrictions are put in place when certain entertainment companies, for example, don’t want to broadcast their content to other countries. Users can connect to a server of that particular country, which will enable them to access such restricted content with ease. So, in conclusion, VPNs can be used for:
- Hiding an IP address
- Changing an IP address
- Encrypting data transfers
- Masking the user’s location
- Accessing geo-restricted content
- Hiding one’s digital footprint
VPNs use different security protocols to keep their users protected. The list is very long, but some of the most prevalent security protocols include:
In this article, I will cover two of the most popular and secure VPN protocols, namely OpenVPN and IPSec. So, how do these protocols work?
How Does OpenVPN Work?
OpenVPN protocol is the newest form of VPN security protocols that has taken over the world of VPNs by storm. More and more VPN providers turn to this particular protocol because it has proven to offer the most comprehensive security. It was developed by a VPN provider that shares the name – OpenVPN. It is one of the only VPN protocols that is open-source, and it comes with its own open-source application.
It is responsible for handling different communications between the client and the server. That means that it establishes a very secure connection between the two. It uses the OpenSSL library, and it also uses either UDP (User Data Protocol) or TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) to transfer data. In Short, TCP and UDP are types of transport layer protocols that are used to transmit data on the internet. TCP is more reliable because it comes with certain error correction features, and it waits for a confirmation before sending a new packet of information.
However, OpenVPN is the most compatible with UDP, according to the developer, which is why this particular protocol starts with establishing UDP connections. In case these connections fail, the server then tried to establish TCP connections. OpenVPN uses 256-bit OpenSSL encryption, alongside AES, Camelia, CAST-128, 3DES, and Blowfish ciphers to further strengthen the security.
OpenVPN doesn’t support L2TP, PPTP, and IPSec, but it uses its own unique protocol that is based on SSL and TLS. It allows users to implement third-party scripts and plugins to improve the login and authentication process. OpenVPN relies on TLS-auth for HMAC signature verification to protect users from DoS attacks, port flooding, and port scanning. It is the safest protocol that is currently available on the market, and most VPN companies happily recommend it and use it.
How Does IPsec Work?
IPSec is a framework of connected protocols that ensure secure communication between networks and packet processing layers. It is usually used to protect one or more data flows between users, and it enables data security, anonymity, integrity, and anti-replay. It is widely used because it is easily adapted without many changes to the connected peers. It consists of two main protocols, namely:
- Authentication Header (AH)
- Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP)
Authentication Header protocol hashes the IP header and data payload. From that hash, a completely new AH header is created, and it is then appended to the packet. The new packet is transferred via the router, which hashes both the header and the payload. It is important to note that both hashes need to be precisely matched. Otherwise, the AH header won’t match either.
Encapsulating Security Payload protocol is mostly used to provide integrity and encryption to various data packets. It is usually added after incorporating the standard IP header. Because of that, it can be easily routed with standard IP tools, and it is backward-compatible with IP routers and many other devices. ESP works in the IP packet layer. It has six different parts, two of which are only authenticated, while the remaining four are encrypted during transfer. It is compatible with multiple other encryption protocols as well.
IPSec can use two different encryption models, namely:
- Tunnel Mode
- Transport Mode
Tunnel Mode encrypts the header and the payload. IPSec in tunnel mode is used when the termination point and the destination are different. It is commonly used between gateways, which act as a proxy server.
Transport mode, on the other hand, only encrypts the data packet. It is used between the end station and the gateway, or only between the end stations.
OpenVPN vs IPSec – Which One is Better?
Although OpenVPN has become prevalent and most widely used, there are still benefits and downsides to each one. Moreover, each of them can and should be used for different things, according to the client’s needs.
OpenVPN Features and Uses:
- Medium-high level of security
- It is open-source
- It is usually used by startups and medium-sized companies
- The implementation is entirely free
- The set-up process is very straightforward
- It has both static and dynamic IP addresses
- It is available for most modern operating systems
IPSec Features and Uses:
- It has one of the highest security levels
- It is usually used by large corporations and enterprises
- It uses a static IP address
- Monthly maintenance has a fee
- It is generally used for transferring very sensitive information
- The set-up requires a team of people
- It also requires a router that supports IPSec
As you can see, there are many different applications for both security protocols. When it comes to OpenVPN vs IPSec, one is not better than the other; both have their own unique features and uses. It is essential to do thorough research before deciding which protocol you’d like to implement for your organization. One thing’s for sure – you can never be completely safe without investing any time, resources, and effort into your company’s cyber security infrastructure. Make sure to comment and share the article to encourage cyber security awareness!