There is an unquestionable need for secure and reliable VPNs. Each year high profile security breaches make it clear just how important protecting the security of your business, your clients, and your personal online security is.

If your business uses the right VPN, they can avoid security risks and the embarrassing problems these bring with them. VPNs offer strong encryption, strong authentication, and limited access to applications based on the predefined security policies. We recommend that you do your due diligence and review any VPN before using it. An example of a review that we like is Privacy Australia’s review of Nord VPN.

Choosing the right VPN for your needs is choosing whether you will use an SSL VPN or an IPsec VPN. Each one brings its own type of security benefits but also unique security risks. In making this determination, your enterprise needs to weigh the relative advantages relating to network performance, configuration, and maintenance and then balance that against the security risks.

The Differences between IPsec VPN and SSL VPN

The primary difference between an SSL VPN and an IPsec VPN has to do with the network layers that the encryption and authentication take place on. IPsec functions on the network layer and is used as a way of encrypting information being sent via systems that IP addresses can identify. SSL, or more likely TLS protocol, which stands for transport layer security and is the replacement of SSL protocol, functions on the transport layer. This is used to encrypt data sent between two processes that can be identified via port numbers on network connected hosts.

A second difference that we need to clarify is that IPsec doesn’t necessarily specify that connections will be encrypted. Conversely, SSL VPNs by default encrypt network traffic.

Benefits of IPsec VPNs

There are four primary benefits of IPsec. They are:

Confidentiality. Confidentiality is provided by encrypting data. This means that if data is being sent between one party and another and a third party intercepts the data, it will be unreadable because the data has been encrypted.

Integrity. In this circumstance, integrity means knowing that the data has not been modified in transit. As an example, do before a router sends traffic down the tunnel could calculate the checksum or hash value on the data it is about to send could be calculated. The receiving router that gets the data could do similar calculations. If the receiving router calculates the same hash value or checksum value, you know that the information was not modified in transit.

Authentication. Authentication basically means verifying that everyone in the communication chain is who they claim to be.

Anti-replay protection. This is useful if we imagine the following scenario. An attacker captures packets from a successful login procedure. What prevents an attacker from playing those packets back and now logging in themselves? This is where anti-replay protection comes in. It guarantees that a packet isn’t a duplicate. IPsec uses sequence numbers to guarantee that does not happen.

How Does An SSL VPN Work?

SSL VPNs can be divided into two primary types. There is the VPN portal and the VPN tunnel. The SSL portal VPN allows just one SSL VPN connection at a time when visiting remote sites. Remote users are able to access the SSL VPN gateway via their web browser once they have passed the authentication method supported by the gateway. There is a web page that will act as the portal to other services.

With an SSL tunnel, VPN users are able to access multiple network services securely using standard web browsers. They are also able to access applications and protocols that are not web-based. The VPN tunnel can be described as a circuit that is created between the VPN server and the remote user.

The server has the ability to connect one or multiple remote websites, resources, or network services simultaneously on behalf of the client. With an SSL tunnel VPN, the web browser is required to handle active content and provide functionality that an SSL portal VPN would not be able to provide or access on its own.

One of the advantages of SSL VPNs is the use of TLS technology. TLS technology is found on most modern web browsers, so it’s not necessary to install client software specific to the client. For this reason, it’s easy to deploy. Additionally, the encrypted circuits created when using TLS creates a more sophisticated outbound connection security than what is traditionally seen in VPN protocols.

From a financial standpoint, SSL VPNs need less administrative overhead and less technical support than traditional VPN clients. This is because they rely on widely used web clients. Users can choose the web browser they want to use regardless of the operating system the devices they are using are running.

With IPsecurity, users may need to download additional software or configure files. This is not needed with SSL VPN. There’s no need to go through any complicated steps when creating an SSL VPN.

Security Comparisons between SSL VPN and IPsec

There are some security risks to SSL VPN. SSL networks have been susceptible to spreading malware, including Trojan horse, worms, and viruses. A security downside of SSL VPN servers is that since they can be accessed remotely by users, a remote user who is on a device that doesn’t have updated antivirus protection may spread malware from a local network to an enterprise’s network. Hackers have also been known to exploit the split tunneling feature of SSL VPN.

IPsec is more complicated to set up and requires third-party client software. It’s more expensive to maintain. However, it is the more secure of the two options. It’s difficult for a hacker to penetrate an IPsec system because they don’t know what client is being used and do not have the exact settings to get that client to work properly. SSL is going to already be supported by the remote user’s browser, so there is no extra software needed. It is simple to configure. But this simplicity makes it more vulnerable to certain security threats.

As always, we would love to hear from you. What are the pros and cons of SSL VPN and IPsec VPN? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.