Both WireGuard and OpenVPN are popular VPN protocols that aim to deliver a safe and secure browsing experience. For years, users gravitated towards OpenVPN for its reliability and security, and many people consider it to be the gold standard of VPNs. Recently, the WireGuard protocol has arrived, promising faster speeds thanks to its streamlined processes.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at WireGuard vs. OpenVPN and evaluate areas such as speed, security, encryption, audit history, and more to determine whether the new WireGuard protocol is a better choice OpenVPN.
Are you pressed for time? If you’re more interested in the bottom line than the ins and outs of each protocol, we’re here to give it to you.
Of the two, WireGuard is far and away the more flexible and dynamic VPN protocol. Its streamlined build makes it an ideal choice for users whose primary focus is speed. But, OpenVPN remains the choice for VPN users who are most concerned with privacy. Both VPNs deliver rock-solid security, so it boils down to a matter of what’s most important to you; speed or privacy.
Which protocol is better?
Which protocol best VPN providers choose? Check here.
VPN Protocols Explained
A VPN protocol is the set of programs and processes employed to create an encrypted tunnel for your data to travel through. If a VPN is the encrypted tunnel, the VPN protocol is the set of blueprints that dictate how the tunnel is built and what it’s built to do well.
Some protocols are strongest for speed, while others deliver the utmost in privacy or security. Many users will toggle between different protocols depending on what they’re doing at that moment, i.e., playing a multiplayer game or paying bills online.
WireGuard vs. OpenVPN: The Basics
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty details of these two popular protocols, let’s learn a bit more about how each protocol came to be.
The beginnings of WireGuard start back in 2016 when Jason Donenfeld and EdgeSecurity initially developed it. They created the protocol to address the shortcomings of established protocols like OpenVPN and IPSec.
WireGuard aims to be easier to deploy, more stable, and faster than its competitors. The developers of WireGuard embraced a bare-bones framework with limited coding to increase speeds while also making it easier to debug so that they can address any security vulnerabilities quickly.
Many top VPNs have embraced WireGuard, and the protocol is available alongside more established options, like OpenVPN.
At twenty years old, OpenVPN is one of the most established and trusted VPN protocols available. James Yohan developed the protocol as an open-source platform, and many recognize it as the most reliable and flexible VPN protocol.
Connecting to a VPN adds several additional steps between you and the content you’re trying to reach on the internet. Even the most reputable VPNs drag down internet speeds considerably compared to a connection with no VPN protection. VPN providers are constantly streamlining their processes to deliver faster speeds to their customers, and speed is always a primary concern of anyone shopping for a VPN.
The WireGuard protocol delivers the fastest speeds possible, and there simply isn’t another VPN protocol that can deliver the consistent speeds that WireGuard can. It’s worth considering that speeds can vary widely among different providers, and some VPNs don’t show a noticeable speed difference when comparing WireGuard to other protocols.
In general, WireGuard’s speed tests prove to be around 50% faster than OpenVPN or other protocols.
Server location also plays a significant role in how fast your connection is. Nearby servers seem to deliver blazing speeds with WireGuard compared to servers located further away.
Besides connection speed, WireGuard also connects more quickly while dropping the connection less frequently than other protocols.
For purposes like gaming, streaming, or torrenting, WireGuard achieves unbeatable performance, especially when connected to a server that’s reasonably close by. The speed difference is less noticeable with far-away servers.
The OpenVPN protocol isn’t as fast as WireGuard, and it also takes a bit longer to connect to a server. Still, OpenVPN isn’t slow by any means, and it remains one of the faster VPN protocols there is.
Users will want to keep in mind that speed often comes at the expense of security. The main reason why OpenVPN can’t keep up with leaner protocols is the security and privacy architecture is a bit more robust. While this might suppress speeds a bit, it seems to translate into enhanced security.
Which Protocol is Faster?
If speed is the most important thing you look for in a VPN protocol, WireGuard will be the best option for you. While the speed difference is less noticeable when connected to distant servers, connecting to nearby servers results in impressive speeds that will make you forget you’re using a VPN in the first place.
Encryption is one of the most critical aspects of a VPN protocol, and it’s how your information is kept secure from hackers and prying eyes. There are multiple cryptographic algorithms that a protocol can use to encrypt information depending on the task at hand. Below, we’ll look more closely at how OpenVPN and WireGuard compare from an encryption perspective.
Wireguard aims to be as lean and agile as possible, which is one way they achieve impressive speeds. WireGuard uses a fixed set of cryptographic algorithms, which helps to reduce bloat and make it easier for the protocol to encrypt your data.
WireGuard uses public-key encryption, with key management occurring in the background of the program. Keys can also be pre-shared for added security.
Using fixed algorithms and public key encryption, WireGuard can quickly encrypt data while minimizing the attack surface that hackers can exploit. You’ll also be immune to downgrade attacks, which are among the most popular ways for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities.
It is worth noting that the use of public-key encryption may leave WireGuard susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, where a third party can intercept and modify public keys to decrypt a message.
OpenVPN differs considerably from WireGuard in how it handles encryption. Unlike WireGuard, which provides a fixed algorithm in the interest of staying as lean and fast as possible, OpenVPN strives to be the most versatile and agile protocol for encryption.
OpenVPN uses the OpenSSL library for encryption, and it supports a broad range of different algorithms. This support allows OpenVPN to select the ideal algorithm for each purpose, making it much more flexible.
The trade-off is that the additional flexibility requires much more coding, and the complexity of that coding bogs down this protocol’s speed.
Which Protocol Provides Better Encryption?
Both OpenVPN and WireGuard deliver strong encryption to help keep you safe and private on the internet. Which you prefer boils down to personal opinion. OpenVPN is more versatile and flexible, but that comes at the price of speed. The additional coding required also makes OpenVPN more susceptible to attacks.
Security is at the forefront of every VPN user’s mind, and the VPN provider you choose must deliver bulletproof security. When it comes to WireGuard vs. OpenVPN, which protocol offers the highest protection?
OpenVPN has built a track record of excellence when it comes to security. It’s an open-source platform that has been audited many times, and leading security experts trust it. OpenVPN sets a standard for security, and its track record suggests continued excellence. If security is your primary focus, you can rest assured that OpenVPN will deliver.
WireGuard has been around for less than half the time of OpenVPN, so they don’t have the proven track record that OpenVPN does. But, that doesn’t mean that WireGuard doesn’t provide cutting-edge security.
Compared to OpenVPN, WireGuard uses even newer and faster algorithms and ciphers. The protocol is exceptionally lean, translating to a platform that’s even easier to audit while also being more difficult to hack.
WireGuard also lacks cipher agility. If there are ever vulnerabilities found in the primitives, all endpoints move to a new version instead of being patched. In doing so, WireGuard can eliminate key vulnerabilities and prevent other users from continuing to run a compromised protocol.
Having to navigate to a new version anytime a vulnerability appears is annoying, but it’s worth it for the added safety it provides.
Which Protocol is Safest?
Both OpenVPN and WireGuard are incredibly safe protocols that you should feel confident using to safeguard your internet activity. You can make a strong case for each one as the safest protocol.
WireGuard leverages the newest and most secure algorithms, and its build dramatically limits security vulnerabilities. But, it’s a relatively new protocol, and it can’t compete with the track record of excellence in security that OpenVPN offers.
A decade from now, we expect that WireGuard will have a track record as illustrious as OpenVPN. For now, OpenVPN is still the conservative choice as the safest and most secure VPN protocol.
Security experts and cautious internet users alike prioritize VPN protocols that are open source since anyone can conceivably audit the code to ensure there are no security vulnerabilities. Let’s check out how these two protocols stack up from an audibility perspective.
WireGuard is a dream from an audibility perspective because the coding is so concise and streamlined. The entire protocol is roughly 4,000 lines long. While it’s undoubtedly an undertaking to audit the protocol, a single engineer could get the job done in a few day’s work.
Like WireGuard, OpenVPN is an open-source protocol. While it’s possible to audit the code, there’s so much to check that it would be an arduous task. The OpenVPN protocol contains hundreds of thousands of lines, and auditing the software would take a team of talented engineers several weeks to complete.
That’s not to say that it’s impossible to audit OpenVPN. Several audits have been completed on OpenVPN, and the protocol has always performed well from a safety and security perspective. But, conducting an audit is much more difficult when compared to WireGuard.
Which Protocol is Easier to Audit?
WireGuard is far and away easier to audit than OpenVPN. Linus Torvalds, the primary developer of the Linux Kernel, put it quite succinctly, “Maybe the [WireGuard] code isn’t perfect, but I’ve skimmed it, and compared to the horrors that are OpenVPN and IPSec, it’s a work of art.”
If privacy weren’t a principal concern for savvy users, there would be no need for VPNs in the first place. As one of the critical aspects of a VPN, we paid close attention to the level of privacy each protocol can deliver, and our findings are below.
The primary goal of a VPN is to prevent hackers or third parties from compromising the security of the device you’re using to access the internet. The level of privacy a VPN delivers primarily depends on the policies set forth by the VPN service. But, depending on the protocol, there may be some inherent privacy concerns.
The design of OpenVPN doesn’t require storage of a user’s true IP address or any personally identifiable data. Use the OpenVPN protocol with a VPN provider that offers a strict no-log policy, and you can count on your VPN to protect your privacy from prying eyes and hackers.
Unlike OpenVPN, the design of WireGuard requires the server to save the IP address of every user. This easily identifiable information remains on the server until someone reboots it, which may not occur regularly.
WireGuard’s crypto key routing algorithm keeps a record of all public keys and IP addresses on the server. This design helps keep WireGuard lean and streamlined, but it’s at odds with the concept of a no-log VPN, and it’s entirely conceivable that your IP address could become compromised in a WebRTC leak.
Many leading VPN providers recognize that this vulnerability puts WireGuard at odds with users worried about privacy, and they’ve created workarounds to make the WireGuard protocol more private.
NordVPN’s implementation of a double-NAT system for WireGuard is incredibly clever. Instead of each user connecting to the server using their unique IP address, every user on the server receives the same IP. Once a user connects to a VPN tunnel, the NAT system assigns a unique IP to each tunnel, eliminating any identifiable personal data.
Other VPNs have implemented policies where they delete all data related to personal IP addresses after a few minutes of inactivity. While this method isn’t perfect, it ensures that your IP remains only as long as it’s necessary to establish a secure connection.
Which Protocol is Best for Privacy?
OpenVPN has an established track record as the most privacy-friendly VPN protocol, while WireGuard has an inherent privacy flaw given its IP address mapping. If your primary focus is on privacy, OpenVPN is the clear choice for you.
It’s worth noting that many top VPN providers have already implemented solutions that address WireGuard’s IP address issue. It’s a fair assumption that as other VPNs begin to support the WireGuard VPN protocol, they’ll also create workarounds to eliminate the risk of exposing IP addresses.
Users should know that WireGuard is a safe protocol, and it’s only going to grow safer in time as more providers begin implementing the protocol into their platforms. As it stands today, OpenVPN is still the more private of the two protocols.
VPN Providers Support
A VPN protocol is only as useful as the providers that support its use. While virtually every VPN protocol supports OpenVPN, WireGuard is a newer protocol that has yet to reach critical mass from an adoption perspective. Still, many VPNs support both OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols. Here’s a brief recap of the top VPN providers that support both VPN protocols.
NordVPN has long been one of the most popular VPNs among users who demand the utmost in privacy and security. Two independent audits confirm that they’re a no-log VPN provider, and they run RAM-only servers which don’t save any personal information.
NordVPN users can save their auto-connect preferences to default to OpenVPN or WireGuard, and you can use either protocol with any device, including Windows, iOS, Linux, Android, and more. Both protocols deliver impressive speeds, with WireGuard proving to be the faster protocol of the two.
NordVPN also delivers the best solution to the IP logging concern with their proprietary NordLynx system, so you won’t have to worry about sacrificing privacy when using the WireGuard protocol.
This Swedish VPN provider is one of the earliest adopters of WireGuard. They offer support for many protocols, so you can toggle between OpenVPN vs. Wireguard whenever you like.
Support for either protocol is available in the settings menu, and WireGuard is the default for Android and iOS devices. Those concerned with privacy should note that Mullvad’s workaround to IP logging for WireGuard isn’t as sophisticated as NordVPN. Still, it’s a practical solution that offers strong support for either VPN protocol.
SurfShark is an affordable and effective VPN out of the British Virgin Islands that provides a no-log VPN service with support for both protocols. SurfShark supports WireGuard across iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows, and they’re working on extending support to more devices.
VyprVPN is a Swiss company that delivers privacy and speed at a reasonable price. This provider recently rolled out WireGuard support so that users can connect with either protocol.
VyprVPN offers WireGuard support for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, and you can use the OpenVPN protocol across a larger number of devices.
When it comes to WireGuard vs. OpenVPN, both protocols deliver impressive performance to keep you safe from hackers and prying eyes. OpenVPN is the more established of the two, and more users rely on OpenVPN than any other protocol.
WireGuard is the most recent of the two, and it addresses many of the shortcomings inherent with OpenVPN. WireGuard is faster and leverages the most current protocols to deliver both speed and security. But, there are some concerns with privacy because the protocol must keep a database of IP addresses to function correctly.
In the future, we expect to see WireGuard rise to become the dominant VPN protocol. Today, it’s still anybody’s game.