WireGuard is sweeping the VPN market, promising significant advancements over established VPN protocols like OpenVPN. But, in real-world testing, can it give greater speed, security, and reliability? This OpenVPN vs WireGuard comparison will provide you with all of the information you need.
OpenVPN has been the gold standard of VPN (Virtual Private Network) protocols for the past few years. It’s a high-performing open-source protocol that’s also believed to be exceptionally secure and dependable, having passed multiple independent audits.
But you’ve come here for answers, and you’re probably wondering if WireGuard is a better option than OpenVPN. Maybe you’re thinking about changing your VPN provider to one that supports the WireGuard VPN protocol.
In this WireGuard vs. OpenVPN comparison, we want to address all of your questions and more. This in-depth tutorial will cover the following topics:
- What does the history of OpenVPN and WireGuard look like?
- Speeds: We conducted back-to-back testing in four separate server locations across the United States, and there was a clear winner.
- Investigating WireGuard and OpenVPN’s encryption techniques.
- Which protocol provides the highest level of security?
- Auditability: Which protocol is the most straightforward to examine?
- WireGuard makes it into the kernels of Linux and Windows.
- Is OpenVPN or WireGuard better at protecting your privacy?
- Conclusion: Put WireGuard to the test.
Without further delay, let’s get into the comparisons and test results!
1. OpenVPN vs WireGuard: An Overview
Before we get into the details, let’s have a look at the history of each VPN protocol.
OpenVPN is a VPN protocol as well as the code required to implement it. It’s made up of James Yonan’s open-source software that’s licenced under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Because of its versatility, dependability, and ability to traverse network address translators (NATS) and firewalls, it has become the most extensively used VPN protocol.
WireGuard is a new VPN protocol that is supposed to be superior to existing choices like IPSec and OpenVPN. Perhaps the easiest way to explain is to quote directly from the WireGuard home page’s first paragraph:
WireGuard is a user-friendly, fast, and contemporary VPN that employs cutting-edge cryptography. It aspires to be quicker, simpler, leaner, and more useful than IPSec while eliminating the pain. It aspires to be significantly faster than OpenVPN. WireGuard is a general-purpose VPN that can be used on both embedded interfaces and supercomputers and is suitable for a wide range of scenarios. It was first published for the Linux kernel, but it is now available for Windows, macOS, BSD, iOS, and Android.
The component that is simpler and leaner is vital. Unlike OpenVPN, which has hundreds of thousands of lines of code, WireGuard only has about 4,000 lines of code. This, paired with the use of cutting-edge encryption, produces outcomes that thrill a lot of people.
2. WireGuard vs OpenVPN Performance
Many people are migrating to the WireGuard protocol because of its performance benefits, such as quicker speeds.
WireGuard has been subjected to extensive testing over the past year, and we can attest to its (usually) good performance. WireGuard not only provides quicker speeds, but it also establishes connections faster and is more trustworthy on mobile devices.
Using a real-world test scenario and reducing variables, the purpose of these speed tests was to assess how WireGuard performed in contrast to OpenVPN. We opted to do back-to-back speed tests using a popular VPN that supports both OpenVPN and WireGuard because speeds might vary dramatically between services. We went with NordVPN for this.
We used the same test computer to do all of the speed tests on a 500 Mbps wired ethernet connection (MacBook Pro). We were able to swiftly switch between OpenVPN and WireGuard for back-to-back performance testing using the NordVPN client, reducing the number of variables.
In our tests, WireGuard routinely outperforms OpenVPN.
The following are the main findings from the WireGuard vs OpenVPN speed comparison:
- WireGuard was 58 per cent faster than OpenVPN on average in all of the locations we tested.
- When compared to long-distance (high latency) server locations, WireGuard’s performance advantage over OpenVPN is stronger with close (low latency) servers.
- Use WireGuard on the nearest server to your actual location to receive the quickest VPN speeds.
We plan to perform further testing comparing WireGuard and OpenVPN speeds in additional regions and will update our test findings as needed. It’s also worth noting that, under ideal conditions, WireGuard can reach rates of up to 500 Mbps.
Additional testing includes comparing WireGuard speeds to those of other VPN companies
Not all VPNs that enable WireGuard offer speeds as fast as the ones listed above. For example, both VPNs were tested using the WireGuard VPN protocol in the NordVPN vs CyberGhost comparison, but CyberGhost was much slower. Similarly, even while utilising the WireGuard VPN protocol, Private Internet Access experienced below-average speeds.
This indicates that WireGuard has the potential for exceptionally fast connections, although as we would anticipate, there are significant variances in performance amongst VPN providers.
The final word on speeds
WireGuard often outperforms OpenVPN in speed tests conducted by our team and others, but this varies per VPN provider.
3. OpenVPN vs WireGuard in terms of encryption:
Now we’ll look at how OpenVPN and WireGuard differ in terms of encryption.
OpenVPN: Cryptographic Algorithms
The OpenSSL library is used by OpenVPN to provide encryption. OpenSSL has support for a variety of cryptographic techniques, including:
- For encryption and authentication, AES, Blowfish, Camellia, ChaCha20, Poly1305, DES, Triple DES, GOST 28147-89, SM4 and others are used.
- More hashing algorithms are available, including MD5, MD4, SHA-1, SHA-2, MDC-2, BLAKE2, and more.
- For key derivation and agreement, RSA, DSA, X25519, Ed25519, SM2, and others are used.
- The Transport Layer protocol is either UDP or TCP.
- Forward-thinking To secure user data, secrecy is required.
OpenVPN is flexible thanks to its wide range of algorithms. That is, depending on the conditions, the code can negotiate the usage of multiple algorithms. This gives OpenVPN a lot of flexibility, but it also makes the code a lot more complicated. One of the primary reasons people are turning to WireGuard as a viable substitute for OpenVPN is its complexity, which might slow down execution.
Cryptographic Algorithms for WireGuard
When it comes to cryptographic techniques, the WireGuard concept differs significantly from that of OpenVPN. Unlike OpenVPN, which has a changeable algorithm set, each WireGuard version has a set of preset algorithms.
WireGuard employs the following in its current version (v1.0):
- For symmetric encryption, ChaCha20 is used.
- RFC7539’s AEAD architecture is used in Poly1305 for authentication.
- Anonymous key agreement using Curve25519 for Elliptic-curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDH)
- Hashing using BLAKE2s (RFC7693)
- SipHash24 is a hashtable key generator.
- For key derivation, use HKDF (RFC5869).
- The transport layer protocol is called UDP.
- To safeguard user data, Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) is used.
WireGuard varies from OpenVPN in that OpenVPN employs certificates for authentication and encryption, but WireGuard does not. For those duties, WireGuard employs public-key encryption. Secure key creation and administration are performed in the background, with the option to pre-share a key for further security.
Conclusion on cryptographic agility
This may go either way, depending on your point of view. OpenVPN can support a wide range of cyphers and protocols, but this flexibility comes at the cost of more complexity, a bigger attack surface for hackers to exploit, and the potential for downgrade assaults.
WireGuard uses a different set of cyphers and protocols for each edition. As a result, there’s less complexity (and significantly less code), a smaller attack surface, and resistance to downgrade assaults. If an issue is identified in any of the cyphers or protocols utilised in the current version, it will require all endpoints to update to a new version of WireGuard.
4. OpenVPN vs WireGuard in terms of security:
Is OpenVPN safe to use?
There are no known security flaws in OpenVPN. The code has undergone several audits and has the support of a number of security specialists.
Is WireGuard a safe programme?
The WireGuard is quite safe. It employs speedier, cutting-edge secure cyphers and algorithms. Its minimal codebase makes it easy to audit while also reducing the attack surface for would-be hackers. WireGuard, perhaps most crucially,
It’s possible that forcing all endpoints to upgrade to a new version of WireGuard will create some issues. However, because the updated version does not include the compromised encryption or protocol, no one will be able to use the unsafe code anymore. It also removes the prospect of a downgrade attack, which would force the endpoint to use the compromised code again.
Neither protocol has any known security weaknesses. If security is your first priority, OpenVPN is the safest solution. It has simply existed for a longer period of time than WireGuard, has undergone more third-party security assessments, and has a far longer track record than WireGuard. WireGuard’s upgraded encryption techniques and limited codebase, on the other hand, make it all the more appealing as it evolves.
5. Auditability of OpenVPN vs WireGuard
To determine whether or not a VPN protocol can be trusted, it must be auditable. One of the main reasons why most privacy advocates choose open source software is its auditability.
However, just because a piece of code is open source does not mean it is easy to audit. The OpenVPN protocol is auditable. However, because there are hundreds of thousands of lines of code, conducting an audit needs a team of professionals and a significant amount of time.
WireGuard is also auditable and open source. However, with around 4,000 lines of code, it is far more auditable. A single engineer might perhaps complete the task in a short period of time.
6. WireGuard is a security feature in the Linux and Windows kernels.
The Linux operating system was also taken into consideration when creating WireGuard. In particular, it has to do with getting included in the Linux kernel.
According to WireGuard, there were five reasons for integrating WireGuard into the Linux Kernel: kernel network tunnel of the future:
- To make auditing and evaluating the code pleasurable, use short and straightforward code.
- be really quick.
- In response to incoming packets, it must avoid resource-intensive allocations.
- It must be as seamless and native in its integration as possible.
- It must be able to be built as an external kernel module without requiring any modifications to the core Linux code.
As a consequence, a fast and efficient VPN protocol based on OSI Layer 3 (Network Layer) has been developed. At this level, WireGuard has more direct access to network routing tables and data packets, which improves speed and simplifies data packet authentication and attribution.
With its increased overhead, WireGuard’s presence in the Linux kernel is one of the main reasons for its better speed compared to OpenVPN and other protocols that operate in the operating system’s userspace.
As of August 2021, WireGuard is also part of the Windows kernel.
7. OpenVPN vs WireGuard in terms of the privacy
Is OpenVPN secure enough to keep my information private?
Security is provided via VPN protocols, but privacy is not guaranteed. When you use a VPN, the policies of the VPN provider are what define your privacy. Whether or not a VPN provider keeps logs, in particular, is what affects your privacy while using one.
If you’ve heard that WireGuard has a privacy issue, this may seem strange. We’ll get into more detail later, but the issue stems from a feature of WireGuard’s architecture that allows it to keep a user’s IP address on the VPN server for lengthy periods of time.
Because OpenVPN is designed to maintain no such user data on the VPN server, it does not jeopardise your privacy.
Is there a privacy issue with WireGuard?
WireGuard was created with speed and security in mind. It wasn’t created with individuals like us in mind, who rely on their VPN service for both security and anonymity. However, in order to provide users with the benefits of WireGuard, VPN services have developed WireGuard solutions that combine robust privacy safeguards with the unique features of WireGuard. Here’s the issue:
On the VPN server, WireGuard saves user IP addresses.
As part of its crypto key routing method, WireGuard links public keys to authorised IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. While this simplifies certain elements of WireGuard, it also means that user IP addresses are maintained on the VPN server until the server is restarted by default. Storing your IP address on the server in this way might be deemed storing your IP address, which is incompatible with the no-logs VPN principle. A WebRTC breach might also disclose this static IP address.
Conclusion: Put WireGuard to the test.
WireGuard wasn’t always a favourite of ours.
When it was originally released, there were worries regarding privacy, IP address records retained on the server, and the protocol’s new and experimental nature. It just did not appear to be a good answer for consumers who use VPNs to protect their privacy. However, much has changed in the last year:
- VPNs have devised effective ways to support WireGuard while maintaining user privacy.
- Experimental code no longer available for WireGuard version 1.0 is now available for download.
- WireGuard is currently part of the Linux kernel, which is a significant achievement.
- Several tests have demonstrated WireGuard’s large performance advantage over conventional VPN protocols.
WireGuard offers a lot to offer VPN users in a variety of situations. If you’ve been thinking about utilising WireGuard, give it a try and see for yourself.