Point to Point Tunneling Protocol or PPTP is a network protocol which is used to create a Virtual Private Network tunnel or VPN tunnel. While it is one of the oldest VPN protocols, it is still an immensely popular protocol, especially among the Windows users. Because of several security vulnerabilities, this protocol is getting obsolete with time. But it does provide excellent speed because of the low level of encryption that it offers.
The point to point tunneling protocol is an extension of the Point to Point Protocol (PPP). It encapsulates data packets into the PPP structure, which creates a secure tunnel. This tunnel is used for transmitting information across public mediums such as the internet and ensures that this information is not visible to anyone else.
PPTP is widely used for a low-end use case like accessing geo-restricted websites.
What is PPTP?
PPTP was launched by a consortium led by Microsoft in 1995 and is one of the oldest VPN protocols. It allows secure communication between two points such as your computer and a remote server over a public medium like the internet.
It does so by encrypting the data and encapsulating it into packets. These data packets are then sent through the TCP/IP protocols, to the remote VPN server also known as the Random Access Server (RAS).
When the remote virtual private network server receives the data packets, it sends it to the destination which is usually a targeted website. The serves perform this task by decrypting the data packet to obtain the website address. The encapsulated data packet can contain multi-protocol data.
In other words, the PPTP established VPN server is configured to communicate through various protocols. Thus, it can read multiple protocol packets which contain multi-protocol data such as TCP/IP, IPX, or NetBEUI protocols.
Since the Microsoft launched point to point tunneling protocol, it is present on every Windows Operating system post-Windows 95. Additionally, it is also compatible with other operating systems such as Linux, Mac OS, Android, and iOS. Configuring a point to point tunneling protocol is much easier than any other VPN Protocol, which is why it is widely used.
How does PPTP work?
PPTP involves PPP negotiation, authentication and encryption methods. It facilitates up to 128-bit key encryption. The Point to Point Protocol (PPP) performs this encryption which has also been developed by Microsoft.
PPTP is known as one of the easiest VPN protocols to configure because it only requires your username, password, and the server address to create a secure connection.
As mentioned earlier, PPTP is utilized for remote VPN access over the internet. By encapsulating the data packets and providing encryption, it ensures the safe passage of data packets through a tunnel. Initially, the user initiates a PPTP client which connects it with the internet service provider.
After that, the PPTP creates a TCP connection between your computer and the remote VPN server. The connection is built on TCP port 1723 which is exclusively used for PPTP connections. A Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) mechanism finally creates a tunnel through which the data packets flow.
What information flows through a PPTP Tunnel?
Once the tunnel has been created, then there are two types of information which flow through the tunnel. One of them is the control messages. They are sent in control packets enclosed in a TCP datagram.
A TCP datagram would generally consist of a PPP Delivery header, a TCP/IP header, a PPTP control message, and trailers.
The control messages are responsible for managing and disconnecting the VPN connection. The Control messages are communicated only between your computer and the server. The second type of messages are the data packets. These data packets go through the tunnel either to or from the PPTP client on your computer.
The data packets are sent through an IP datagram. The IP datagrams are implemented using a GRE protocol. The IP datagram would consist of a PPP Delivery Header, an IP header, a GRE Header and a TCP Header followed by the actual data.
How to set up PPTP VPN Connection on Windows?
PPTN VPN is widely used on windows. You can follow following steps to setup a PPTP VPN connection on this most popular operating system:
- Go to Control Panel.
- Click on Network and Sharing Center.
- Click on the ‘Set up a new connection or network.’
- In the following window that appears, click on ‘Connect to a workplace’ and select Next.
- Click on the ‘Use my Internet Connection (VPN).’
- Enter the details of the VPN server. Provide the connection with a local name and click on ‘Create.’
You should also read how to configure VPN on windows to have a detailed setup guideline for configuring your virtual private network on windows.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using PPTP?
As with every technology, there are Pros and Cons of using it. PPTP is no different. Following are some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with PPTP.
- PPTP is compatible with and supports a wide range of desktop and mobile operating systems.
- It is one of the easiest VPN Protocols to configure which means there is not a desperate need for any technical expertise to configure it.
- PPTP is also one of the fastest VPN protocols. For this reason, it is useful in a lot of applications wherein speed is paramount. These applications could be related to audio or video streaming. PPTP is also used when unblocking geo-restricted websites due to excellent speed it offers.
- PPTP is a two-decade-old protocol, and it has a lot of security-related vulnerabilities. Its authentication protocols are insecure and have been breached several times in security analysis since it was introduced.
Over to you
PPTP is one of the oldest and one of the most widely accepted protocols for VPN tunneling. It is easy to configure and is compatible with almost every operating system. However, it does have security issues and is vulnerable when it comes to online privacy. Hence, it is an excellent option to go for if your use is limited to accessing geo-restricted content on websites.