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VPN Protocols and Terminology Explained

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VPN Terminology

Don’t understand some of the high-tech VPN lingo we’ve included in our VPN reviews? No worries! We’ve broken down all the need-to-know techie terms below.

  • NAT firewall — A NAT (Network Address Translation) Firewall adds an extra layer of security by hiding computers, servers and other IT equipment from outside threats. NAT firewalls are better than your standard OS firewalls at filtering out a lot of potential threats before you get that annoying message: Do you want to allow this connection?
  • Kill switch — A VPN kill switch automatically disconnects your internet connection in case the VPN fails, gets interrupted or you forget to enable your VPN. With a kill switch, you’re always ensured a secure VPN connection.
  • DNS leak protection — When you go to a website using your browser, it sends a request to a DNS (domain name server) with the URL that you typed in. The DNS server then points you to the correct IP address. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) assign you certain DNS servers, and they can monitor and record your online activities whenever you send a request to the server. But when you use a VPN, your DNS request should direct to an anonymous server, keeping your ISP from monitoring your connection.  A DNS leak occurs when your browser inadvertently ignores your VPN connection and sends your DNS request straight to your ISP, all without your knowledge. But some VPNs come with DNS leak protection software that alerts you to that threat.
  • Torrent/P2P — Torrenting or peer-to-peer (P2P) involves obtaining files and content using the Bit Torrent protocol. When you download a torrent file, you’re sharing bits of that file with anyone else who’s downloading or sharing that file. And these “peers” can see your IP address. However, if your VPN supports Torrent/P2P, you’re protected.
  • Internet Protocol — Internet Protocal (IP) is the method or type of protocol by which data transfers from one computer to another computer via the Internet.

VPN Protocols

There are several VPN protocols that secure your data transport over a public network, and each protocol varies in how it keeps your data secure. Here’s a breakdown of the different protocol types.

  • IP security (IPSec) uses either tunneling or transport mode to encrypt data traffic in a VPN. The transport mode encrypts only the message within the data packet (also referred to as the payload). Tunneling encrypts the entire data packet. People use IPsec, often called a “security overlay,” as a security layer for other protocols.
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) use cryptography to secure data transport over the Internet. SSL and TLS authentification require the same network parameters between remote clients and servers. With SSL and TLS you need a certified, crypted key to make a secure connection.
  • Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) uses tunneling to connect a remote client to a private server. PPTP is one of the most popular VPN protocols because its configuration and maintenance are straightforward and because it’s included with Windows. PPTP doesn’t require a key.
  • Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is used to tunnel data traffic between two sites. People often use L2TP with IPSec as an added security layer to keep the transfer of L2TP data packets secure. L2TP/IPSec requires a shared key or certificate.
  • Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) is a newer tunneling protocol that becomes a VPN protocol when paired with IPSec. It’s natively supported by Windows 7+, Blackberry, and iOS devices. IKEv2 is ideal for mobile devices because it’s very resilient to changing networks (i.e. moving between hotspots or switching between WiFi and mobile connections). IKEv2 is also good at automatically re-connecting VPN service if you temporarily lose your internet connection.

Sally is a passionate writer but her interests do not stop there. She spends a lot of time daydreaming about the beach, however, she spends most of her time taking advantage of all the activities her town has to offer in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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3 Comments on "VPN Protocols and Terminology Explained"

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I recently had my cell phone account hacked, I asked Sprint where the IP address was from and he said Brazil, and that they immediately put a “IP Brick” on it. What does that mean? I wonder if the hacker maybe they used a VPN too and wasn’t really in Brazil?
While researching VPN’s I was curious on whether the internet would still work if the VPN connection was lost. The kill switch explanation explains that, thanks!
Jeff Butler
Most of the time the VPN kill switch feature will not be set as a default, so you’ll need to go into settings to turn in on. For PIA, it is simply: Advanced > Check “VPN Kill Switch”.

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