The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is an obsolete method for implementing virtual private networks, with many known security issues. PPTP uses a TCP control channel and a Generic Routing Encapsulation tunnel to encapsulate PPP packets.
The PPTP specification does not describe encryption or authentication features and relies on the Point-to-Point Protocol being tunneled to implement security functionality. However, the most common PPTP implementation shipping with the Microsoft Windows product families implements various levels of authentication and encryption natively as standard features of the Windows PPTP stack. The intended use of this protocol is to provide security levels and remote access levels comparable with typical VPN products.
A specification for PPTP was published in July 1999 as RFC 2637 and was developed by a vendor consortium formed by Microsoft, Ascend Communications (today part of Nokia), 3Com, and others. PPTP has not been proposed nor ratified as a standard by the Internet Engineering Task Force.
A PPTP tunnel is instantiated by communication to the peer on TCP port 1723. This TCP connection is then used to initiate and manage a GRE tunnel to the same peer. The PPTP GRE packet format is non standard, including a new acknowledgement number field replacing the typical routing field in the GRE header. However, as in a normal GRE connection, those modified GRE packets are directly encapsulated into IP packets, and seen as IP protocol number 47. The GRE tunnel is used to carry encapsulated PPP packets, allowing the tunnelling of any protocols that can be carried within PPP, including IP, NetBEUI and IPX.
PPTP has been the subject of many security analyses and serious security vulnerabilities have been found in the protocol. The known vulnerabilities relate to the underlying PPP authentication protocols used, the design of the MPPE protocol as well as the integration between MPPE and PPP authentication for session key establishment.
A summary of these vulnerabilities is below:
EAP-TLS is seen as the superior authentication choice for PPTP; however, it requires implementation of a public-key infrastructure for both client and server certificates. As such, it may not be a viable authentication option for some remote access installations. Most networks that use PPTP have to apply additional security measures or be deemed completely inappropriate for the modern internet environment. At the same time, doing so means negating the aforementioned benefits of the protocol to some point. So no matter how you slice it, using PPTP is a lose-lose scenario.
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