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OpenVPN vs. PPTP

 Posted: April 21, 2012 by

What is PPTP?

The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is method of connecting private networks. It provides access to a server over a secure connection via the internet for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). While most refer to this protocol as Microsoft's brainchild, the technology was developed as a joint commercial venture between Microsoft, 3COM, Lucent Technologies and a few other companies. While not sanctioned by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), the protocol is widely used in Windows products.

PPTP combines protocols in a two-step process. Step one uses an unsecured Point to Point (PPP) session. Step two initiates a secure connection with Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE). PPTP networking technology has a Microsoft based method of authentication and encryption technologies. Comparing OpenVPN vs. PPTP, OpenVPN has custom methods and PPTP uses Microsoft based security, features and communication.

Since this protocol opens two network sessions, PPP and GRE, it can cause problems at the router. For this reason, this protocol is less popular today than it was in the past. Also, because it is a first-generation security protocol, it is not as secure as others. As it was originally developed for dial-up Internet access, PPTP is being replaced due to its vulnerability to spoofing attacks. However, let's take a look at some of PPTP's features to compare OpenVPN vs. PPTP.

Step One – PPP

This is a data link protocol used to directly connect two points, or two networking nodes. PPP uses synchronous and asynchronous circuits and works with various network layer protocols, including Apple Talk and the Internet Protocol. In the beginning, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) used PPP for dial-up access to the Internet. Now PPP can be used over a wide variety of networks including broadband, cellular, serial cable, phone lines, and fiber optic cables. PPP features compression of data, encryption and authentication.

Step Two - GRE Tunnel

In the second phase of the PPTP transmission, after the unsecure PPP session is open, the secure Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) takes over. Data is sent without parsing or being treated like IP packets. The packets are sent with Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), part of the internet protocol TCP/IP, which provides reliable data streaming over a control channel, port 1723. The packets are designed to be stateless in order to prevent interference from routers. The quality of being stateless means the end points do not retain information about the other end points or the state of the packets. This allows the data to be re-routed if necessary.

PPTP vs. OpenVPN

PPTP was developed by commercial companies and is used in a variety of devices including computers and cell phones. While it is still in use, security concerns are making it a less reliable protocol than before. In the debate of PPTP vs. OpenVPN, both protocols allow secure access to a VPN. However, because of the security issues concerning PPTP, OpenVPN may develop as a more widely used protocol.

A number of factors come into play when choosing OpenVPN vs. PPTP. Both are technologies used for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), are widely available, and have advantages and disadvantages. Your choice might ultimately depend on the type of device you want a VPN for.

OpenVPN

  • Sends encrypted data with routing through both TCP and UDP, as opposed to the GRE tunneling protocol in PPTP.
  • OpenVPN won't allow unauthorized programs as it restricts scripts.
  • The protocol can be extended with third-party plug-ins.
  • Users can update their firewalls.
  • OpenVPN is flexible as it can negotiate proxy servers, wireless access points, NAT-based routers, wireless access points and firewalls.
  • Porting can be adjusting to mitigate throttling or firewalls.
  • The Open SSL library and encryption algorithms are available.
  • SSL encryption algorithms limit attacks.
  • Strong server authentication.
  • Encryption - 256 bits.
  • Open VPN might work in places where PPTP is blocked.
  • Supports cryptographic algorithms including 3DES, AES, RC5, and Blowfish.
  • Not natively included with hardware, must be installed.
  • No major vulnerabilities.
  • The default UDP mode provides the best performance.

PPTP

  • Easy to setup and management is simple.
  • Can use IP, NETBEUI or IPX/SPX protocols.
  • Low bandwidth usage – fast transmission of data.
  • Comes bundled and free with many devices.
  • Less expensive as PPTP needs less additional hardware.
  • Strong and varied firewall products for enterprise level users and individual users.
  • In recent versions security concerns have been attended to with strong authentication and digital certificates for both server and client.
  • Native clients include Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone and Android.
  • An algorithm compresses and encrypts data using PPP and GRE in combination.
  • Encryption - 128 bits.
  • Easy set up and configuration for iPhone, iPod Touch, Windows Mobile, and Android smartphones. Most just need a service provider, and a username and passcode.

Conclusion - OpenVPN vs. PPTP

PPTP is a first-generation VPN protocol, which uses a two-step process to establish connection. The first step is insecure while the second step delivers authentication and encryption. Due to these reasons and security flaws, PPTP is seeing waning interest. However, PPTP comes bundled with hardware, is free, and is easy to set up. This makes it a good choice for a beginner with low security needs.

Since OpenVPN is a collaborative effort it has the advantage of flexibility and development over time. Updates and new versions are released about every six months. It uses Open SSL libraries and algorithms so it is extremely secure with no known vulnerabilities. The protocol is fast and stable over networks where congestion and dropped connections are common. The only drawback is that a third party application is currently needed for mobile devices. When it comes to OpenVPN vs. PPTP, OpenVPN provides superior speed and performance.

Ann Haysworth is a science & technology enthusiast specializing in OpenVPN vs. PPTP news, reviews,  and the updates on the latest VPN trends.



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