VPNs are simpler than ever nowadays. That’s because providers are competing with each other to come up with minimalist, user-friendly apps that are even more intuitive and only require pushing a button. But there’s actually quite a lot happening in the background every time users turn on their VPN. Connection protocols are one of the most important factors, being responsible for the overall speed and safety of a VPN session. And while much has been debated about the pros and cons of each one, OpenVPN’s distinct features have made it the preferred choice for both VPN providers and users for some time now. However, 2020 has seen the arrival of WireGuard, a new alternative that many VPN companies regard as the future of the industry. But how do OpenVPN and WireGuard compare to each other?
|Code||400,000 lines of code||4,000 lines of code|
|Connection Protocol||TCP/UDP||UDP only|
|IKE||Static Key or SSL/TLS||Curve25519 key exchange|
|Encryption||AES-256 encryption||ChaCha20 encryption|
|Authentication Method||X509 PKI authentication||Poly1305 authentication|
OpenVPN is a stable open-source application with a perfect speed/security balance. It’s also a multiplatform protocol that is compatible with the most popular computer and mobile operating systems. Importantly, OpenVPN connections are hard to block by firewalls. While it can use any TCP or UDP ports, the go-to option is TCP port 443 as this makes an OpenVPN connection appear to be a normal HTTPS one, thereby easily passing through a firewall.
Using its own custom encryption based on TLS/SSL, high security is another OpenVPN trademark. HMAC packet authentication, pre-shared 256-bit encryption keys, and strong ciphers are just some of the top-notch features actively protecting against man-in-the-middle attacks. Its open-source nature also allows the community to alter and further improve OpenVPN’s code. And, as an additional security layer, when OpenVPN goes down there’s no data loss or corruption as the network is paused to allow repairing or reconfiguration.
But OpenVPN isn’t perfect, and one of its biggest downsides is its complexity. At around 400,000 lines of code, OpenVPN has an immense range of options and configurable aspects that make it quite difficult to set up, especially for beginners.
WireGuard was first implemented in March 2020 on the Linux kernel, but now it’s already compatible with other platforms such as Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Despite being quite recent and still under heavy development, it’s considered a game-changer in the VPN industry thanks to its light design and state-of-the-art security features.
Simplicity is actually one of WireGuard’s greatest strengths. While OpenVPN’s codebase contains 400,000 lines, this new protocol cuts that down to roughly 4,000. This not only makes it easier to deploy and audit, but also drastically reduces the possibility of vulnerabilities. Despite its lightness, WireGuard’s security is not compromised as it features advanced cryptography methods. From strong encryption keys and ciphers to IPv4 and IPv6 support over UDP, WireGuard’s top aspects are so sophisticated that some high-tier VPN providers are already using and recommending it over OpenVPN.
But WireGuard has a flaw related to the use of local static IP addresses, which compromises users’ anonymity. However, this has been solved by the VPN providers that already offer WireGuard; each has come up with its own unique solution so that customers can use the protocol without concerns.
In a world becoming ever more digital, dangers lurk in every corner and protecting your connection with a VPN is now more crucial than ever. Connection protocols are the gears that do all the work while you’re circumventing online barriers. OpenVPN is still a very reliable option and because it’s so vastly popular you’re likely to use it most of the time. But the natural evolution of technology has brought us the safer and lighter WireGuard, which will eventually replace its predecessor and conquer the market just like OpenVPN did.
Looking at it from a different perspective, all technology that is now obsolete was once cutting edge. So, while you shouldn’t overlook OpenVPN’s distinct features, it’s recommended that you take a step into the future and choose WireGuard whenever possible.
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