WireGuard vs. OpenVPN: Which Is Better?

There are quite a few detailed comparisons between popular VPNs to ascertain their functionality and efficiency to match the increasing need for cybersecurity. These comparisons cut across the security level they provide, encryption standards and protocol, connection stability, and speed.

Most VPN users are always stuck in the middle when trying to select which will perform better between WireGuard and OpenVPN. However, a proper analysis of the WireGuard vs OpenVPN’s eternal debate will give you a better understanding of which of them will serve well as a reliable VPN protocol.

The goal of understanding these VPN protocols (WireGuard VS OpenVPN) is to offer you a broader view of their strengths and lapses. This understanding level will help if you wish to switch from any of them or seek an alternative option between both.

What is WireGuard?

WireGuard is an easy-to-use VPN protocol designed as a multi-purpose VPN protocol for embedded interfaces, high-performance systems, and supercomputers. It is also a great cross-platform VPN service for several operating systems like Windows, macOS, iOS, Android as well as Linux Kerne. In addition, it handles diverse internet specifications.

The primary aim of WireGuard is to provide users with an easy-to-configure VPN protocol that performs better than IP Security (IPsec) protocol and deploys like a Secure Shell Protocol (SSH).

WireGuard functions on secured and trusted constructions, running on state-of-the-art cryptography. It combines its cryptographic ability and Linux Kernel background to offer a high-speed network and super fast service.

What is OpenVPN?

OpenVPN is an open-source project launched for cross-platform VPN users. It provides VPN solutions on flexible terms, keeping your data and communication secure.

There are diverse solutions for users to choose from on OpenVPN, depending on their wish to use the private network.

OpenVPN solutions include:

  • Cloud VPN
  • Self-hosted Virtual Applications
  • Access Server VPN for the cloud
  • Self-hosted Packages

OpenVPN makes it easier for developers to test their security and use the service for free as long as they follow the software license agreement conditions. This VPN protocol initially ranked as the best VPN with one of the best protocols till the advent of WireGuard.

The competitive edge between WireGuard vs OpenVPN is centered on major factors that determine their level of reliability.

Comparison of WireGuard and OpenVPN

The major factors to consider between WireGuard vs OpenVPN include:

  • Lines of Code
  • Usability and User Experience
  • Encryption
  • Speed and Performance

These factors help to draw a firm analysis of the similarities and differences between these VPN protocols.

WireGuard vs OpenVPN: Key Similarities 

  1. They make use of tunneling protocols that are specific to each system.
  2. Encapsulation and exchange of data packets are synonymous with both VPNs.
  3. They provide key management and data encryption features.

WireGuard vs OpenVPN: Major Differences

Below, we’ll examine the major differences between WireGuard and OpenVPN based on some metrics:

Speed and Performance

Speed and performance is one factor that offers a clear distinction between WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols. 

WireGuard has a greater advantage on speed and performance as it is embedded in a Linux kernel. It provides unique options that will offer a high performance if optimized properly. These include supporting GRO, locking free queues, core autoscaling, integration into qdisc system, and CPU packet locality.

When it comes to speed, WireGuard is always placed side by side with IPsec protocol, although WireGuard still performs better than IPsec. On the other hand, OpenVPN is slower than WireGuard.

WireGuard protocols could go as far as achieving a high speed of 1011mbps and a lower ping time of 0.403ms. On the other hand, OpenVPN lags on 258mbps and has an extremely high ping time of 1.541ms.

Lines of Code

WireGuard has a codebase of approximately 4000 lines, much less than 70,000 lines of OpenVPN code. Smaller codebases usually equate to higher Performance. These smaller lines of code perform better and faster than larger codebases.

The shorter lines of codes of WireGuard make it much easier for auditing and offer an easier option for developers to address vulnerabilities and bugs.

Usability and User Experience

WireGuard runs on a simple platform that provides users with an easy to handle but strong interface. It eliminates the need to reconfigure connections and set up daemons while roaming between IP addresses easily.

Ranging from implementation, configuration, installation, and setup, WireGuard seems easier compared to OpenVPN. WireGuard supports cross-platform usability while neglecting cryptographic agility. It deploys its security system according to the system version without switching security protocols and encryption patterns.

More importantly, you don’t need to be tech-savvy to install WireGuard. You can easily run a 32-bit or 64-bit installation of the service through different available versions.

Between Wireguard and OpenVPN, the user interface of WireGuard is simple and interactive.

Encryption and Security

It is necessary to ask what type of encryption proves to be the best for a VPN. WireGuard runs with Chacha20 symmetric encryption with a poly1305 authentication and an RFC7539’s AEAD construction. It further works with an ECDH curve25519, uses Blake2s for hashing and keyed hashing, SipHash24 handles hashable keys, HKDF controls key derivation.

OpenVPN runs on an SSL/TLS security model which handles session authentication. It also runs an IPsec ESP protocol that handles secure tunnel UDP transport.

While OpenVPN features a state-of-the-art security system and supports its encryption in Static key mode using pre-shared keys, WireGuard deploys an industry-standard algorithm. 

WireGuard also includes state-of-the-art cryptography to offer an impenetrable network that can withstand brute force attacks. On the other hand, OpenVPN runs encryption that can change after tweaking to suit the user’s preference.

Audits

OpenVPN was released on 13th May 2001. It has passed through over 19 years of regular tests and audits to prove its reliability.

WireGuard is just a new VPN protocol, and there might be a possibility that there could be underlying flaws that are unnoticed.

In general, comparing Wireguard vs OpenVPN on their levels of auditability, WireGuard will win over OpenVPN for having a shorter codebase that is easier to audit. Still, OpenVPN will win over WireGuard as cryptographers and security experts have the assurance of reliability while using OpenVPN, as it has passed the test of time.

Is WireGuard Better Than OpenVPN?

There are numerous VPNs in the market, but WireGuard and OpenVPN have proven effective as the world’s top best VPNs.

Trying to draw the final score-line on WireGuard vs OpenVPN will require answering specific questions like Is WireGuard Faster? Is OpenVPN vulnerable to hacking attempts? Is WireGuard or OpenVPN free?

Although different individuals have different preferences in decision-making, so far, WireGuard proves to be a better VPN than OpenVPN.  Furthermore, even though WireGuard is still new and has not passed through extensive audits, its performance has proven worthwhile.

OpenVPN has been a major contributor in the VPN industry and remains useful despite its flaws. However, the loopholes in OpenVPN, most of which WireGuard tends to address, give WireGuard an edge above OpenVPN. 

OpenVPN runs an OpenSSL library that supports cryptography, uses RSA and AES for data control, and runs a max encryption key length of 4096 bits. The encryption pattern of OpenVPN sums together to provide a firm wall against brute attacks.

WireGuard runs its security framework with algorithms, and it is an unarguable fact that algorithms will always be more secure. OpenVPN’s security framework does not make it a porous or weak VPN protocol. OpenVPN makes use of HMAC authentication code and performs as a certificate-based protocol. In all these, WireGuard still stands out when compared to OpenVPN. 

There have been ongoing concerns about the usage of these VPNs and the issues of the No-Log policy. WireGuard stores users’ IP addresses on its servers, unlike OpenVPN. Although this could be an easier option to log in, it might pose a potential privacy risk.

Major VPN services like NordVPN use a double NAT system that hinders storing personal data on the server to tackle this issue. This unique system grants each IP address access to the server for the limited time they are active. The double NAT system indicates that each dynamic local IP address is assigned to the server only when they are active.

Currently, OpenVPN has no record of penetrability or third-party phishing. It makes use of certificates for identification and implementation. Although WireGuard is still in its early days of public testing and implementation, different positive reviews from users and security experts attest to its functionality and reliability.

Conclusion

Choosing between these VPN protocols boils down to choice and what you want to get from them. Most users might prefer a more complex configurable program to a simple and basic VPN protocol.

Different VPN providers have optimized their services with WireGuard and OpenVPN. These providers tackle issues of privacy and security by pairing both VPN protocols. While we hope that WireGuard maintains the progress it records and continues living up to expectations, we also believe that OpenVPN is not an entirely bad choice for a VPN protocol.