Wireguard vs OpenVPN – What Are the Differences?
By Nick Anderson 4 minutes
VPN protocols are a fundamental component that decides how reliable and secure your connection will be. A protocol provides a standard through which two devices can communicate without throwing up errors. There are several VPN protocols in use today, each offering something better or worse. Wireguard is a new VPN protocol that is catching a lot of interest due to the reasons that we’ll explore in this blog and compare Wireguard vs OpenVPN to help you understand which is more capable.
Introduction to Wireguard
Wireguard is a new VPN protocol introduced to the world in early 2021 after a beta phase. The VPN protocol promises to be fast, secure, and more modern than its counterparts.
An immediate plus for Wireguard is its open-source nature. Just like OpenVPN, Wireguard’s source code is not proprietary, which means anyone can take the code and modify it, and set up an implementation based on the protocol. It also allows the community to find security vulnerabilities so that they can be addressed quickly.
One of the ways Wireguard addresses vulnerabilities is by eliminating the choice of cipher suites. As a VPN protocol, OpenVPN supports various cipher suites, including multiple key exchange, symmetric key encryption, message authentication, and hashing algorithms. The VPN server will communicate on the highest cipher suite the client supports.
Wireguard does away with this choice by defining the algorithms. Here are the algorithms used by Wireguard:
- Symmetric encryption: ChaCha20
- Message authentication: Poly1305
- Key exchange: Curve25519
- Hashing and keyed hashing: BLAKE2s
- Hashable keys: SipHash24
- Key derivation: HKDF
Wireguard vs OpenVPN
OpenVPN has become a favorite in the VPN industry since its introduction in 2001. The VPN protocol has evolved over the years and has been widely praised for its cryptography support and the fact that it can run in both UDP and TCP mode. Running OpenVPN in TCP is particularly helpful for bypassing firewalls as it uses port 443, which is also the port used by HTTPS traffic. Blocking the port would mean that web traffic cannot pass through the firewall.
But OpenVPN launched 20 years ago. Wireguard wants to be that new protocol that is leaner and faster. And it proves that point by the fact that Wireguard has only 4000 to 5000 lines of code versus 400,000 lines of code for IPsec. Because it has fewer lines of code, there are fewer chances of potential vulnerabilities.
OpenVPN supports various cipher suites that allow older devices to support the protocol. But it also opens the door to poor implementations that can expose vulnerabilities. By defining the cipher suites, Wireguard ensures that devices and servers follow the best security protocols.
Another difference between Wireguard and OpenVPN is the way they authenticate the server. OpenVPN is based on SSL/TLS, and it uses the OpenSSL library for cryptography. It can use username and password or certificates for authentication. In comparison, Wireguard uses public-key encryption for authentication.
We’ll discuss that in more detail as we explain the advantages and disadvantages of Wireguard and OpenVPN.
Wireguard vs OpenVPN – Advantages and Disadvantages
Because Wireguard uses public-key encryption, Wireguard requires static IP addresses. It is problematic for VPN as a service that dynamically assigns an IP address. Another thing that Wireguard does is keep the user’s IP address in the memory until the server is rebooted. This is in contrast to VPN protocols like OpenVPN that clear the IP address information from the memory once the user ends the connections.
One way to address the static IP address requirement of Wireguard is to establish Double NAT, which will dynamically assign a public-facing IP address to the user’s static IP address so that destinations cannot recognize the user.
The main disadvantages of OpenVPN are configurations and lack of native support when it comes to OpenVPN. Setting up OpenVPN can be challenging and a long process. Due to its relatively complex setup, there is potential for improper configurations.
OpenVPN is not built into Windows, Linux, or macOS, which means that additional software is required to get it working.
In a nutshell:
- Leaner and faster.
- Stronger cipher suite.
- Reliable for switching between wireless networks.
- Modifications are required to handle the static IP address and memory persistence.
- Does not work on older devices.
- Faster and more secure than older VPN protocols.
- Support for various cipher suites.
- Difficult to configure.
- Lacks native support in operating systems.
- High overhead can introduce more latency.
There is no doubt about the importance of a VPN protocol in ensuring that your VPN connection is secure and does not leak your IP address. FastestVPN gives you the option to choose between IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and PPTP. However, for the best security, we recommend using IKEv2 and OpenVPN.