A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It describes the opportunity to establish a protected network connection when using public networks. When connecting to the internet, your data and IP address are hidden by a type of virtual tunnel. These are two of the more popular virtual tunnels.
OpenVPN is a tunneling protocol that has been around since 2001. It transfers data with either UDP or TCP and is considered the “tried and tested” protocol. OpenVPN can be used on a variety of operating systems including all the major platforms as well as the less popular ones such as Solaris, QNX, Maemo, FreeBSD, and ChromeOS. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of OpenVPN is that since it was designed so long ago it was not made with modern processors in mind. This leads to relatively slow speeds in modern times.
WireGuard is a more modern VPN tunneling protocol that was released in 2019. WireGuard is said to be almost twice as fast as OpenVPN and consumes around 15% less data. Another benefit of WireGuard is its audibility. With only 4,000 lines of code, it is much easier to audit WireGuard compared to OpenVPN’s almost 70,000 lines of code. Not all aspects of WireGuard are better than OpenVPN however, one area it currently lacks in is its ability to maintain a user’s privacy. The default design of WireGuard requires user IP addresses to remain on the VPN server for extended periods of time, which means it’s up to the VPN server to protect your privacy and not the tunneling protocol.
WireGuard protocol is best known for:
- Super-fast connection speeds.
- Consumes less bandwidth.
- You are using a mobile device and you’re concerned about data consumption.
- Smaller attack surface
OpenVPN is best known for:
- Uses the vast OpenSSL library for cryptography.
- Thoroughly tested and has stood the test of time.
- Complete zero logs policy
- It is an established open-source VPN tunneling protocol that has the endorsement of a large number of security experts and auditors
- Device compatibility
In conclusion, which one you choose will ultimately depend on what you value more. Individuals may enjoy WireGuard more for its faster speed and the decrease in mobile data consumption. Companies however may not be willing to risk the potential privacy issues and stick to the tried and tested OpenVPN. In either case it is clear that even though WireGuard has many advantages over OpenVPN it is still in its infancy at only 3 years old and problems could arise at any time. Looking at both the advantages and disadvantages of each protocol is the key to making an informed choice about which one you want to use.