What is IPsec VPN encryption and what VPN clients offer IPsec ?

What is IPsec VPN encryption and what VPN clients offer IPsec ?

May 15, 2023 privacy 0

VPN services provide online privacy and security. Many VPN providers offer users the option of L2TP/IPsec VPN protocol within the VPNs client. L2TP/IPsec protocol has the advantage of being easier to set up manually; which makes it useful for setting up on VPN compatible routers. L2TP/IPsec is sometimes faster than other secure VPN protocols, such as OpenVPN, which can make it a good option for internet users such as gamers.

In this article, we explain what an IPsec VPN actually is and also list the best VPN services that provide IPsec encryption. So, you can get a VPN provider that supports secure L2TP/IPsec implemented with a robust AES cipher. 

What are the best VPNs with IPsec?

If you are in a hurry, here is a brief overview of the best VPNs that provide IPsec. Keep scrolling if you want to know more.

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What is IPsec VPN encryption?

IPsec stands for Internet Protocol Security. It is a suite of encryption protocols that is commonly used by VPNs to securely transport data between two points. IPsec itself is made up of three primary elements; Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP), Authentication Header (AH), and Security Associations (SAs).

The above mentioned elements of IPsec can be set up in either transport or tunnel mode. VPN services stick to using the tunneling variety of the protocol. This is because it ensures the entire packet is encrypted and authenticated; including the header, which is also securely encapsulated in a data packet to protect its contents.

IPsec is most commonly used by VPN apps in one of two varieties:

  • IKEv2/IPsec
  • L2TP/IPsec

One drawback is that because L2TP/IPsec only uses a limited number of ports – the protocol can be fairly easy to block by ISPs, local network admins, and governments hostile to VPN use. The benefit of IPsec is that encryption occurs within the kernel with multithreading; which theoretically makes the protocol faster than OpenVPN.

The most important thing to get your head around is that IPsec is the part of the VPN protocol that provides the encryption and authentication (data privacy). Without IPsec; L2TP and IKEv2 would not actually be able to produce a secure tunnel for your data.

It is also important to remember that while some VPN providers refer to this kind of encryption as either L2TP or IPsec, the reality is that all VPNs providing this protocol are actually implementing L2TP/IPsec. VPNs that provide IKEv2/IPsec always refer to the protocol as IKEv2; meaning that there is far less confusion revolving around this particular protocol.

The Best IPsec VPN – In-depth Analysis

To use the L2TP/IPsec protocol securely, it is essential to subscribe to a VPN that implements it with a robust AES cipher. Below you can take a quick look at the best VPNs with L2TP/IPsec support. For more information about these IPsec VPNs, please head over to our VPN reviews.

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Is IPsec secure?

L2TP/IPsec and IKEv2/IPsec are usually implemented by VPNs using the AES cipher. This implementation is generally considered secure. As a result, most people agree that you are free to use L2TP/IPsec or IKEv2/IPsec for data privacy purposes.

On the other hand, the Edward Snowden revelations did suggest that the NSA has managed to crack L2TP/IPsec (potentially even when it uses an AES cipher). This means that anybody looking for watertight data security may prefer to stick to OpenVPN or IKEv2.

In addition, it is worth noting that L2TP/IPsec can also be implemented using the 3DES cipher. This cipher is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MITM) Attacks and the Sweet32 vulnerability. For this reason, trustworthy and reliable VPN providers do not use this particular cipher.

Despite this, it is possible that some outdated VPN clients may implement this insecure version of L2TP/IPsec; which is why we recommend that you subscribe only to the recommended IPsec VPNs in this article.

Why use IPsec encryption?

Most cybersecurity experts agree that OpenVPN and IKeV2 are much better option than L2TP/IPsec. This is because there are some concerns surrounding IPsec’s use of pre-shared keys (PSKs) and the potential that the NSA can crack the cipher.

Under the worst circumstances, a PSK could theoretically be used by an attacker to impersonate a VPN server; which would allow the hacker to eavesdrop on the encrypted traffic. This is problematic, and means that people who require watertight privacy levels (political dissidents, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers, etc) should probably opt for a more secure VPN protocol.

However, many internet users are simply looking for added privacy from their ISP, or local network administrator. For these internet users, the use of a VPN is often primarily for geo-spoofing purposes. And, under these circumstances, it is considered safe to use L2TP/IPsec without any real concerns.

Below, we have included a list of reasons why you might consider using L2TP/IPsec rather than OpenVPN. However, if faster speeds are what you are after, we generally recommend going for IKEv2 over L2TP/IPsec because this has been proven to be the fastest of the three protocols.

What are the alternatives to IPsec encryption?

VPNs tend to provide more than one encryption protocol. The most common encryption protocols you are likely to find inside a VPN app are as follows:

Of these protocols, we always recommend that you stick to OpenVPN or IKEv2 wherever possible. If faster speeds are necessary, try to stick to OpenVPN UDP or IKEv2. If for some reason you need to set up a device that does not support OpenVPN or IKEv2, then you can opt for L2TP/IPsec if you wish (this is commonly used to set up VPN routers manually, for example).

The only protocol that we don’t recommend is PPTP. PPTP is completely deprecated for security and privacy purposes and should never be used for anything but geo-spoofing; because it can be cracked. Thus, if your options are to use either L2TP/IPsec or PPTP, then we strongly urge you to stick to L2TP/IPsec.

Is L2TP secure?

L2TP alone is not secure because it does not provide any encryption or authorization. That is why L2TP is always implemented with IPsec. However, it is worth noting that IPsec connections require a pre-shared key (PSK) to function on both the client and server side – to successfully encrypt and tunnel traffic to one another.

The exchange of the PSK creates the opportunity for hackers to intercept that key, which is why IPsec is generally considered less secure than the SSL security used by OpenVPN (which employs public key cryptography).

Should I use L2TP/IPsec for streaming?

If you are using your VPN to access a foreign streaming service, or to watch home TV services on vacation L2TP is a decent option.

This kind of VPN use case is not particularly sensitive, meaning that you do not necessarily require high levels of privacy for your data. Instead, you are primarily interested in the VPN’s location spoofing capacity, in order to access a foreign IP and stream a region-locked streaming provider.

If this is your requirement, then you can try using L2TP as this may be able to provide you with a faster connection for streaming in HD without any buffering. The important thing to remember is that leading VPNs often provide a choice of protocols.

In addition to L2TP, your VPN may also provide protocols such as OpenVPN UDP, IKEv2, and WireGuard. All of these protocols offer decent speeds for streaming, so it is worth trying all of them to see which works best for you.

Generally speaking, we recommend that you try WireGuard as this is a newer protocols that was specifically designed to give you the best speeds. However, it is also worth remembering that some providers have a proprietary protocol that is better for getting high speeds. 

If you want to test a different protocol, open your VPN app’s settings, find the protocol options, and switch to each protocol until you find the best one for streaming without lag and buffering.


L2TP/IPsec is a popular VPN protocol with many uses. It combines the best features of the IPsec protocol and L2TP protocol, so it’s both secure and flexible. Depending on your needs, good alternatives to L2TP/IPsec are OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, as they are more lightweight and faster. But overall, L2TP/IPsec is a reliable and secure VPN protocol worth considering for protecting your data and ensuring great levels of privacy online. 

The VPNs in this table have a stellar choice of VPN protocols, including L2TP/IPsec.

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[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Is L2TP/IPsec the fastest VPN protocol?” answer=”L2TP/IPsec is a relatively fast VPN protocol, however, it may not be the fastest one on the market. The speed and performance of a VPN protocol may vary depending on the strength of the encryption, the quality of the internet connection, and the number of users connected to the VPN simultaneously. As a rule, protocols that use robust encryption, including OpenVPN and IKEv2, tend to be slower than those with weaker encryption, e.g. PPTP. However, the unparalleled security provided by strongly-encrypted protocols is definitely worth the minor decrease in speed.” /]]

[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Is there any free VPN with L2TP/IPsec encryption?” answer=”Yes. Many free VPN providers come with L2TP/IPsec encryption, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good VPN options. Regardless of the VPN protocol they use, free VPNs usually come with limited speeds, data allowance, and overall functionality. Even more importantly, they usually don’t provide the recommended levels of security and privacy. Some of them may even trade your data, spread malware, or get involved in other unethical activities for profit.

Some examples of free and safe VPN services that offer L2TP/IPsec encryption include <a href=’/vpn/review/protonvpn’>ProtonVPN</a> and <a href=’/vpn/review/windscribe’>Windscribe</a>. However, you can expect limitations such as only a few server locations, congestion on those servers, slow speeds, limited data usage, and low bandwidth. That’s because the free version of those VPNs isn’t their main product and they serve more of a promotional purpose – something like a testing sample.” /]]


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