If you want to make use of a VPN to safeguard your online privacy and enhance your security, you’ll need to consider what protocols it uses.
VPN protocols basically help to create as well as secure your connection.
What are the most widely-used protocols? Both OpenVPN and WireGuard are considered to be two of the best and most popular protocols you can find.
But, they have some important differences you should know about. With that in mind, let’s see what they have to offer.
What Is WireGuard?
WireGuard is a VPN protocol that provides encryption but is light – it only contains 4,000 lines, while many protocols will have more than 100,000 lines of code.
This is important because it means using WireGuard will decrease how much computing power you need to use it.
WireGuard can be thought of as an improvement on previous protocols, including OpenVPN. It’s a simple and user-friendly VPN protocol that makes use of modern cryptography.
It’s said to perform better than OpenVPN because of how it’s much lighter in weight. This makes it faster to use and that’s one of the reasons why it’s been growing in popularity.
WireGuard is also popular because of how easy it is to use and install. And, in case you’re wondering, this simple protocol was created by security researcher Jason A. Donenfeld.
But, how does it work? WireGuard works by using its modern cryptography as well as network code to produce an encrypted tunnel between two devices.
You can also use it to switch from mobile data to Wi-Fi without having to wait for the VPN to first get reconnected.
What Is OpenVPN?
OpenVPN is one of the most popular and most commonly used VPN protocols as a result of its flexibility and reliability.
It can also cross firewalls and Network Address Translators, which further increases why it’s so popular. OpenVPN is an open-source software.
It was developed by James Yonan, but it was founded by Francis Dinha, who is the OpenVPN Inc founder as well as CEO.
How does it work? OpenVPN works by ensuring a secure tunnel between the VPN server and VPN client, to ensure that users can be safer online.
OpenVPN makes use of the OpenSSL library but can also use either the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) in order to transmit data.
FYI, both of these are transport layer protocols, but TCP is considered to be the more reliable one as it has features to correct errors. UDP, however, is faster.
WireGuard Vs OpenVPN: How Do They Compare?
Now that we know a bit more about WireGuard and OpenVPN, let’s compare them across different categories to get a better idea of how they really perform.
In speed tests that were conducted on a 500Mbps wired Ethernet connection on a Macbook Pro, WireGuard came out as the clear winner.
The tests were conducted in four U.S. locations: Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.
The results of the speed tests found that WireGuard was faster than OpenVPN in all locations.
For example, while OpenVPN scored speeds of 222Mbps in Seattle, WireGuard achieved speeds of 445Mbps; similarly, in Chicago, OpenVPN reached speeds of 155Mbps, while WireGuard was able to hit 275Mbps.
When it comes to the devices on which you can use these protocols, it’s interesting to note that they’re quite different.
OpenVPN wins in this category, thanks to how it’s compatible with all devices. It also supports less commonly used platforms like QNX, Windows Mobile, ChromeOS, and Solaris.
WireGuard, on the other hand, can be used on Linux, Android, Windows, and iOS, so while it covers the big hitters it isn’t as versatile as OpenVPN.
Concerning compatibility with VPNs, both OpenVPN and WireGuard can work on many popular VPNs on the market.
Even though most VPNs used to make use of OpenVPN as their default protocol, this is changing as many VPNs are now choosing WireGuard.
When it comes to ensuring your security online, OpenVPN uses strong encryption techniques, such as the OpenSSL library that enables a strong cryptographic primer.
It also uses RSA and AES for data to prevent security attacks. Its minimum key length is 4096bits, which is greater than what you’ll ever require.
WireGuard, by comparison, supports a maximum of 256 bits of key length, which is quite a difference indeed. That said, it doesn’t mean WireGuard falls short in this regard.
This key length is considered to be enough for what users will need so it ticks all the security boxes.
WireGuard beats OpenVPN when it comes to how it uses more modern and updated encryption. As we mentioned earlier, OpenVPN uses AES and RSA.
WireGuard, on the other hand, uses Curve25519, ChaCha20, BLAKE2s, and SipHash24. OpenVPN’s encryption is slightly outdated and since it has more code this gives it a larger attack surface as compared to WireGuard.
FYI, an attack surface refers to the number of all points where unauthorized users can try to access a system and retrieve data from it.
OpenVPN can work without its users having to log IP addresses, which makes it safer and more private to use. WireGuard, on the other hand, makes use of allowed IP addresses to be stored on the server until it reboots.
This can be a privacy risk because if the server gets compromised in any way, the IP addresses will be exposed and this will reveal users’ online activity.
However, since WireGuard works with many popular VPNs, these can take extra security measures to combat this problem. For example, NordVPN combines WireGuard with its proprietary protocol, NordLynx.
This prevents your static IP address from being stored because NordLynx gives users a dynamic IP address for every VPN tunnel.
This means that every internet session has a different address which only remains present for however long the session lasts.
Now, this feature is linked to protocol security, and it’s where WireGuard shines. Crypto-agility refers to a security system’s ability to move between encryption methods and security protocols.
WireGuard is not crypto-agile, whereas OpenVPN is. While you might think that crypto-agility is good, it can actually make your system more vulnerable to security attacks.
When you don’t have crypto-agility, your protocol is much safer because it only needs to support one cryptographic suite.
This lack of complexity means that there are fewer vulnerabilities in the system, boosting your security whenever you use the internet.
Both OpenVPN and WireGuard perform well to give users stable connections in a variety of circumstances.
But, OpenVPN has a slight edge over WireGuard as it offers you the chance to use TCP (Transmission Control Protocol).
This can be used to bypass censorship. The reason for this is that TCP connections use port 443, and this is the same port that HTTPS traffic makes use of.
This port can’t get blocked easily in heavily restricted countries as a result of how essential online activities need to make use of it.
Since WireGuard can only be used with UDP (User Datagram Protocol) instead of TCP, this makes OpenVPN perform better at preventing users from being blocked by censorship.
Ease Of Use
When it comes to VPN protocols, you want something that will be user-friendly and easy to navigate. WireGuard wins in this category again.
This is because OpenVPN has a complex code with hundreds of thousands of lines in it, so if you want to tweak it this will take you a lot of time and you need the experience to do so.
WireGuard, on the other hand, has shorter code that makes it much more user-friendly.
Open Source Or Not?
OpenVPN stands out in the crowd of VPN encryption protocols because it’s open source. This means that anyone can check it, change it, and develop it.
You can download the complete source code for OpenVPN on its website, and you’ll even be able to download its older versions.
With both OpenVPN and WireGuard (which is also open-source software), you can also send the companies bug reports, which is great because it means that developers can take those reports into account when improving the code.
This also works well when updates are produced because they’ll be stronger.
When it comes to pricing, the VPN you choose will determine how much you need to pay to use WireGuard or OpenVPN.
For example, if you choose a VPN that makes use of WireGuard, you’ll pay for the VPN service and get to reap the benefits of the protocol.
The same goes for OpenVPN. Some of the most budget-friendly yet high-quality VPNs on the market include NordVPN, which costs $89 for two years, and Surfshark that costs $47.76 for two years.
Since OpenVPN is a protocol, you can choose it for your VPN service or you can use it to manually set up your own VPN.
OpenVPN is completely free in this regard. Similarly, WireGuard is a completely free protocol that you can also use in a VPN you already subscribe to (provided that the two are compatible) or set up your own WireGuard server.
What About Torrenting?
Torrenting is when you share files, such as movies and music, with an online community.
It’s a form of Peer-2-Peer (P2P) sharing, but you need to ensure you only engage in torrenting when you use a VPN as this will enable you to remain anonymous online.
While torrenting isn’t actually illegal, you could find yourself downloading or uploading files that are copyrighted and this could land you in privacy troubles.
To find out more about this, make sure you read, “Best VPN For Torrenting: Stay Anonymous And Safe.”
If you’re interested in torrenting, you will need to know if OpenVPN or WireGuard work well with this online practice.
If you’re engaging in torrenting, you need to ensure that your VPN protocol is fast, safe, and has a stable connection.
You can use OpenVPN for P2P sharing, but it’s of the utmost importance to ensure that the VPN through which you’re using OpenVPN has safety features in place.
One of the most important is to look for a Kill Switch.
This VPN feature effectively shuts down your web pages if you lose your connection to your VPN, preventing your details and the IP address from being exposed.
When it comes to using WireGuard, it’s still in the early stages of development so you should always ensure that you’re using it with a solid, top-quality VPN before you engage in P2P online activities. This will ensure that you stay safe.
WireGuard Vs OpenVPN: Pros And Cons
When trying to choose between WireGuard and OpenVPN, it helps to know what features as well as drawbacks they have to give you a fuller picture of what they’re about.
Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of both of these protocols.
Top Features Of WireGuard
- WireGuard uses top cryptography to ensure secure online connections for users.
- It’s faster than OpenVPN, as we’ve discussed earlier in this article.
- Since it’s fast, it reduces how much battery your device consumes.
- Popular VPNs support WireGuard. These include Surfshark, Private Internet Access, CyberGhost, and NordVPN.
What About Its Drawbacks?
- WireGuard is not 100-percent complete. It’s considered a work in progress, which means it can still run into issues.
- While it supports the UDP protocol, it doesn’t use the 443 port, so it’s not the best protocol for bypassing content restrictions.
Top Features Of OpenVPN
- OpenVPN is well-established and is always recommended by various auditors and security experts.
- It makes use of the OpenSSL encryption library and TLS, which encrypts all traffic, as its main cryptographic standard.
- OpenVPN works with a variety of top-quality VPNs, such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Surfshark, PureVPN, and CyberGhost.
What Are The Drawbacks Of OpenVPN?
- It’s said to have a larger attack surface as compared to WireGuard.
- Sometimes its very strong encryption results in connection issues for users.
- Its manual configuration can be difficult on some platforms, so advanced users might struggle with it.
Which VPN Protocol Should You Choose?
Now that we’ve looked at the most important features to know about WireGuard and OpenVPN, it’s clear to see that both of these popular protocols have many benefits.
When you choose to use a specific VPN on your devices, it’s worth noting what protocols it uses so that you can choose between WireGuard or OpenVPN.
But, it’s not always easy to know if, and when, you need WireGuard or OpenVPN. So, here are circumstances when you should choose one over the other.
Choose WireGuard if:
- You want to achieve faster speeds than what you’ll achieve with other protocols.
- You want a user-friendly protocol. WireGuard’s shortcode length is easy to navigate.
- You want to ensure greater, updated security. WireGuard is low on crypto-agility. When a security system is less complex, then it will offer less chance of attacks. In addition, WireGuard makes use of more modern encryption methods to boost your safety.
Choose OpenVPN if:
- You want to bypass regional content restrictions. Since it uses TCP, OpenVPN enables better success when it comes to allowing you to access the internet in heavily restricted countries, such as China.
- You want to engage in P2P activities. Its extra privacy makes OpenVPN an excellent choice for P2P and torrenting, and it’s more established than WireGuard which further makes it ideal for such online activities.
When choosing a VPN to make you more secure online, it’s important to consider VPN protocols. These are essential elements that enable secure connections.
If you’re not sure what VPN protocol you should look for in a VPN’s feature list before signing up to the service, after reading this article you now have a better idea between WireGuard and OpenVPN.
These are both popular protocols that perform well in various categories.
There are good reasons why you should choose a VPN that makes use of WireGuard or OpenVPN, so whatever features are most important to you when it comes to VPN protocols is what should influence your choice between these two protocol giants, such as if you’re looking for increased speed or want to bypass geographical restrictions.
Is IKEv2 Faster Than OpenVPN?
IKEv2 is another popular VPN protocol that’s said to be quite fast. It is, indeed, faster than OpenVPN because it is less CPU-intensive.
Why Is OpenVPN Working So Slowly?
Slow speeds can be common with OpenVPN, but you can fix the problem by changing settings such as the Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) value and/or MSSFIX parameters.