WireGuard

What Is WireGuard?

WireGuard is a lightweight yet powerful open-source VPN tunneling protocol that surpasses its ancestors’ ability to combine fast connection speeds with durable protection. First released in 2016, a revolutionary tunneling VPN protocol ensures minimal attack surface and has proven to reconnect noticeably faster than previously widely used tunneling protocols, such as OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2.

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Is WireGuard Secure?

Yes, WireGuard is a secure tunneling protocol technology designed to provide a strong foundation for shielded VPN connections. It uses modern cryptographic protocols and algorithms to ensure complete confidentiality of data transmitted over the VPN.

Compared to other tunneling protocols, WireGuard is made of much fewer codes. That said, OpenVPN runs on 600,000 codes and IPsec – on 400,00; meanwhile, the WireGuard tunneling protocol has only 4,000 codes, resulting in smaller chances of security gaps and technical errors overall.

Finally, WireGuard ensures quick connectivity, preventing your data from getting exposed. For example, it can switch from a mobile to a Wi-Fi network without shutting down the connection.

How Does WireGuard Work?

WireGuard is an encryption protocol that creates an encrypted tunnel between the client and the server. As data flows between the two network nodes, the WireGuard client and the server, it gets encrypted, transforming into a code that cannot be understood without the corresponding encryption keys.

To provide high-end data protection, WireGuard incorporates advanced cybersecurity features into its architecture. Here are the primary technologies it uses:

  • The WireGuard tunneling protocol utilizes ChaCha20 for its symmetric encryption,
  • For authentication, there’s an implementation of the Poly1305 hash function,
  • The WireGuard applies Curve25519 for ECDH (Elliptic-curve Diffie–Hellman),
  • For hashing and keyed hashing, WireGuard uses the BLAKE2 function, and for hashtable keys – SipHash24,
  • It utilizes HKDF for key derivation.

Pros and Cons of Using WireGuard

It’s no secret that WireGuard has brought numerous benefits to the VPN industry and continues to do so. However, we must stay unbiased and admit this tunneling protocol’s weaknesses.

Below, you will find two separate lists that identify the pros and cons of using WireGuard with a VPN:

WireGuard Pros

These are the most notable advantages that the WireGuard tunneling protocol boasts: 

  • Excellent performance. WireGuard tunneling protocol has been built for faster connections than its older competitors could showcase. A seemingly lighter package of codes helps this tunneling protocol to divide its resources more efficiently. 
  • Simple technology design. Although we’re used to seeing complex technologies getting praised, sometimes simplicity is the key. Due to a straightforward WireGuard design philosophy, this open-source tunneling protocol is prone to way less technical error and, naturally, security or performance flaws.
  • Next-gen security measures. WireGuard has implemented a handful of open-source security features, ensuring its users lasting online protection. One of the most noticeable features is cryptographic key routing, which ensures that past online inquiries remain private even if a party’s private key is compromised in the future.
  • Easy setup process. The WireGuard VPN doesn’t require one to have certificate-based infrastructure, as it uses public keys for encryption as well as identification.
  • Cross-platform compatibility. This tunneling protocol was initially built for the Linux operating system. However, now it’s available on all popular operating systems, like Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS, allowing Internet users to stay secure no matter the device they use.

WireGuard Cons

There are some disadvantages of WireGuard to bear in mind as well:

  • Lack of maturity. Although state-of-the-art technologies are exciting, they are also risky. The WireGuard tunneling protocol is relatively new to the market, still lacking polishing that only comes with years filled with various experiences.
  • Privacy concerns. Several WireGuard motives raise concerns around privacy. For instance, the technology doesn’t automatically delete the user’s IP address after disconnecting, which may result in your IP address getting logged. Moreover, unlike other VPN protocols, WireGuard uses UDP only, which may cause complicated data transmission.
  • Possible stability issues. As WireGuard is still a considerably new cybersecurity technology and its development continues, its creators warn that there might be stability flaws. For example, you may experience unexpected speed drops. 

WireGuard Compared to Other Protocols

Without a doubt, WireGuard stands out from other tunneling protocols with its modern yet simple design. However, let’s walk through in-depth comparisons of WireGuard and the other two most popular protocols on the market: 

WireGuard vs OpenVPN

The two main differences between WireGuard and OpenVPN tunneling protocols that should be highlighted are speed and privacy. According to the research, the WireGuard protocol performed better than OpenVPN in 58.8% of the download tests. Considering that all VPNs at least slightly affect your initial connection speed, using a tunneling protocol with a better performance score is crucial for a secure and convenient browsing experience.

Although WireGuard tunneling protocol ensures faster connection speed, OpenVPN boasts solid online privacy. While the OpenVPN protocol doesn’t require network administrators to log any information about users when using WireGuard, users’ IP addresses must be stored and deleted only with a system reboot. Consequently, there’s a chance your IP address can get leaked.

WireGuard vs IPSec/IKEv2

IPSec/IKEv2 is a widely-known tunneling protocol that’s been mostly used among mobile device users. Similarly to WireGuard, IPSec/IKEv2 is considerably new and also speedy. Nevertheless, WireGuard is still faster than IPSec/IKEv2 due to its advanced cryptographic primitives.

On the other hand, IPSec/IKEv2 is supported on most operating systems by default. Meanwhile, the WireGuard tunneling protocol may require you to install additional files. But again, even though both tunneling protocols are considered secure, WireGuard runs on way fewer codes, resulting in a lower chance of running into an error.

How to Set Up And Use WireGuard?

To set up and use the WireGuard tunneling protocol, you can either use a top-notch VPN application, such as Surfshark VPN or set it up separately on servers and client devices, which is a more challenging way to go.

Here, you will find steps for both options, starting from the easier and more optimal one – with a VPN:

  1. Select a VPN provider that works with the WireGuard tunneling protocol. Our suggestion is Surfshark
  2. Download the VPN application and install it on your selected device.
  3. Create a Surfshark account or log in to your existing one.
  4. Double-check if the WireGuard tunneling protocol is enabled in the Settings section.
  5. Connect to your desired server location.

As you have probably figured out, setting up and using the WireGuard protocol with a reliable VPN is a very straightforward process. It can be done in just a few minutes, and you won’t have to worry about dealing with any technical issues, as your VPN provider will take care of that for you.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at how you can set up the WireGuard tunneling protocol by installing it on the server and client devices:

  1. Head to the official WireGuard website and download the package for your device.
  2. Generate key pairs for both the server and device.
  3. Set up the WireGuard server by creating a configuration file, indicating the listen port, private key, and the IP addresses that are allowed.
  4. Configure the WireGuard client by creating a configuration file with the items listed in the previous step.
  5. Share the public keys between the server and the device client.
  6. Allow WireGuard traffic by adjusting firewall settings on the server and the client device.
  7. Start the WireGuard on both the server and the device client.

The Bottom Line

In the rapidly evolving market of  VPN tunneling protocols, WireGuard emerges as a game-changer, combining speed and security in a lightweight design. With a minimal codebase of 4,000 lines, it minimizes the risk of security vulnerabilities compared to the other popular tunneling protocols. Moreover, it uses advanced cryptographic primitives to maximize data confidentiality. 

Nonetheless, it has weaknesses that you must stay aware of as well. The fact that it is relatively new raises concerns about its maturity, privacy, and potential stability issues

References

  1. Is Wireguard faster than OpenVPN? (Vlad talks tech)
  2.  WireGuard Install (WireGuard)
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Michael Simon

Michael is a Tech Content Editor at Techopedia, who is passionate about delivering high-quality tech content online and ensuring the accuracy of our guides. With over a decade of experience in editorial and marketing, he has worked with leading publishers and a range of SaaS firms, gaining expertise in the tech sector. Outside of work, Michael's interests include current affairs and behavioral economics.