OpenVPN is the tunneling protocol that is the staple of all safe and reliable VPN services in the market. VPN technology has evolved over the past two decades, with each new protocol supplanting the previous one in terms of speed and security.
Many VPN services today support OpenVPN as their default protocol. In this blog, I’ll discuss some of the best OpenVPN services that deliver excellent performance and try to convince you why OpenVPN is the most secure protocol available today.
What exactly is OpenVPN?
OpenVPN is an open-source tunneling protocol that uses OpenSSL, a cryptographic library for securing communication over the Internet. OpenVPN can be used in different configurations, depending on the preference and goals of the user.
The encryption length supported by OpenVPN is up to 256 bits. It can use certificates, username/passwords, or pre-shared keys for authentication purposes. The strongest security it provides is through the use of certificates.
The security protocol that OpenVPN uses is different from those used by L2TP and IPSec, as it relies only on SSL and TLS for security and encryption of communication.
SSL and TLS are virtually impenetrable encryption standards, which is where the real strength of OpenVPN as a secure tunneling protocol stems from.
Users can visit OpenVPN community to discuss configuration and development related issues regarding this protocol. This is one of the reasons why the open-source VPN protocol has gained so much popularity.
Best OpenVPN Services in 2019
The VPNs discussed in the following passages are some of the most secure and fastest VPNs you can find in the market. These VPNs have been chosen for their top-notch performance and support for OpenVPN protocol.
You might want to open our VPN Encryption guide in another tab while you read the descriptions below, as I will be discussing encryption protocols that each VPN uses.
PureVPN is known for its excellent server diversity, having presence in over 140 countries around the globe. It uses OpenVPN protocol in addition to PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, and IKEv2. When PureVPN is working over OpenVPN, it uses AES-256-CBC cipher with RSA-2048 handshake for encryption, and HMAC SHA384 hash authentication.
In addition, PureVPN utilizes Diffie-Helman key exchange to ensure perfect forward secrecy, which basically means that if your current VPN session is somehow compromised by a hacker, your past sessions will still be invisible to them due to the perfect forward secrecy.
When these security settings are put alongside features such as kill switch, IP/DNS leak protection, and a huge server list, it automatically elevates the status of PureVPN as one of the best OpenVPN services you can use.
NordVPN has the largest network of servers out all VPNs in the market. It is a power-packed VPN that is full of amazing features on both performance and security fronts. Based in Panama, the VPN follows a truly zero-logging policy so users can rest assured their data won’t be getting into the hands of anyone you don’t want.
NordVPN uses AES-256-CBC cipher with HMAC SHA256 hash authentication in the data channel. It combines these protocols with RSA-2048 handshake in the control channel. The 2048-bit DH key ensures perfect forward secrecy of user’s VPN sessions.
Combine these features with NordVPN’s ability to bypass firewalls of streaming services like US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, and you have one extremely capable VPN service provider in your hands.
Surfshark is a British Virgin Islands based VPN service which uses OpenVPN protocol by default. There is very little information available on Surfshark’s website regarding the details of its encryption standards. However, AES-256 is the standard for all modern VPNs which support OpenVPN, so it most certainly uses this encryption standard.
CyberGhost is known for its support for P2P networking and unblocking geo-restricted streaming sites with ease. Based in Romania, CyberGhost takes advantage of the relaxed privacy-related laws of the county, which allow it to offer no-logs policy to users.
The VPN uses AES-256-CBC cipher with RSA-4096. For authentication, it uses HMAC SHA256. This is a great encryption and authentication scheme that rules out all kinds of intrusions on you data packets. CyberGhost is one of the few VPNs that offers 7 multi-logins.
It also offers a 7-day free trial, so you can also use it as a free OpenVPN service for a week.
All things considered, this VPN is well worth the investment as a security and privacy tool.
ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive providers in the market. That is probably the only downside to this VPN, because when it comes to performance and security, it is hard to beat ExpressVPN. The 2,000+ server list has presence in over 90 countries, all of which deliver fast speeds and instant connection response.
For encryption, it uses AES-256 cipher with RSA-4096 handshake. Perfect forward secrecy is ensured through DH-keys, while it uses SHA-512 HMAC for authentication. As such, your security is virtually impenetrable, making ExpressVPN one of the most secure VPNs.
What Makes OpenVPN Better than Other Protocols?
OpenVPN is the only open-source VPN protocol. As a result, the versatility of this protocol is unmatched. The VPN has been repeatedly audited by experts all over the world, which has established it as the most reliable and trusted VPN protocol in existence.
The use of digital certificates and hash authentication allows OpenVPN to offer much higher levels of security and encryption than other protocols. In addition, most other protocols have to compromise between security and speed. OpenVPN provides the perfect balance of both, enabling fast speed without compromising on the strength of security.
Disguising yourself through OpenVPN SSL
Although decrypting the content of your traffic is almost impossible, ISPs can still find out whether you are hiding behind an OpenVPN connection or not. As it turns out, the OpenVPN protocol is equipped to deal with this problem, using a particular TCP configuration.
Ideally, we should aim for camouflage as good as that.
OpenVPN TCP over port 443 cloaks all traffic moving through the VPN. Port 443 is normally used for HTTPS (SSL) traffic, which is invisible to ISPs. As such, OpenVPN configured to run this way will make it considerably difficult for you ISP to detect you are using OpenVPN.
How to Setup Up OpenVPN
OpenVPN can be set up in two different ways. The first method that I’m going to show you is much simpler and I would recommend it for users that are not too technically inclined.
Dedicated OpenVPN Apps
All leading providers offer dedicated clients which have built-in support for OpenVPN. These clients are extremely easy to setup: users can select the OpenVPN protocol by a single click and even change to other tunneling protocols like PPTP, L2TP, SSTP etc.
The VPN providers listed above all have their dedicated apps. All you need to do is to download and install the VPN client of the provider on your system and device. So, if you want to use an OpenVPN service in the easiest way possible.
You can setup OpenVPN services using third party clients like OpenVPN GUI as well. This is an open source software client that can be used to configure your VPN. Almost every major VPN provider offers .ovpn files, which are what you need to have in order to configure that VPN using OpenVPN GUI.
Once you download and install these files, you can use the VPN through OpenVPN GUI. If you have difficulty finding .ovpn files of your preferred VPN service, contact customer support. They are, more often than not, happy to provide you with the lives and even assist with the setup process.
OpenVPN Compatibility with Major Platforms
Most premium VPN services offer cross-platform compatibility. Some providers go the extra mile and offer compatibility with routers, gaming consoles, and media streaming devices.
OpenVPN for Windows
It is easiest to find OpenVPN clients for Windows. Every provider that is worth mentioning has at least a dedicated VPN client for Windows platform. So, you should have no trouble getting an OpenVPN server setup clients from the official website of your VPN provider.
In case your VPN provider is too backward to have a native VPN client, you can use OpenVPN GUI to run the VPN through .ovpn files.
OpenVPN for Mac
The story with Mac compatibility is a little bit different. Although many VPN providers have dedicated apps for Mac, this isn’t a general rule. For instance, all the VPNs in the list above offer native OpenVPN clients with the exception of Surfshark.
You can use a third party client such as Tunnelblick for those VPNs that do not have a dedicated VPN client compatible with macOS.
OpenVPN for Android
Like Windows, OpenVPN apps for Android are really easy to find and are available for hundreds of providers. Almost every popular VPN provider have their OpenVPN app available on the PlayStore.
Nonetheless, if you are interested in a provider that doesn’t have an OpenVPN app for Android, you can use this third-party client. It is easy to use and does not require rooting/jailbreaking your Android device to get it to work.
OpenVPN for iOS
Apple has an inexplicable fondness for L2TP protocol, which is setup by default on all iOS devices. However, there are many VPN apps which support OpenVPN for iOS.
OpenVPN Connect is a good third-party app for iOS, which will allow you to configure OpenVPN for those VPN services lacking a native client for iOS.
OpenVPN for Router
Some VPNs can be set up on a router itself, which adds VPN protection to you network at the router level. Simply connecting to such a router puts you under the protection of the VPN that you have configured on it.
Though there are only a few routers that support OpenVPN services and the setup process is quite tricky and detailed for those that do.
If you are interested in installing an OpenVPN connection on your router, read my instruction for DD WRT router VPN setup.
The security and performance of VPNs has considerably improved thanks to OpenVPN protocol. While many VPNs offer OpenVPN service, it still depends on the provider how they configure this protocol to enable optimum security and speed. With the VPNs mentioned above, you can elevate your security and take advantage of OpenVPN protocol to the fullest.