Avast Academy Privacy VPN WireGuard VPN Protocol: The New, Secure, and Fast VPN Protocol

WireGuard VPN Protocol: The New, Secure, and Fast VPN Protocol

The WireGuard VPN protocol is a modern, fast, and secure way to connect to a VPN server. Though only recently developed and deployed, WireGuard already outperforms more established protocols in key areas. Learn more about WireGuard VPN, its benefits, and how it compares to other VPN protocols. Then, secure all your internet traffic with an ultra-secure, lightning-quick VPN service that lets you connect with the WireGuard protocol.

Written by Deepan Ghimiray
Published on August 17, 2022

What is the WireGuard VPN protocol?

WireGuard is a new, open-source VPN protocol that uses advanced cryptography when connecting devices like computers or smartphones to a VPN server. Since being introduced in 2016, the WireGuard protocol has been adopted by many VPNs because it’s fast, easy to use, and secure compared to established protocols like OpenVPN.

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    A VPN creates a private, encrypted tunnel between you and the internet — keeping your data and communications private. A VPN protocol is the method by which data travels through a VPN tunnel. The WireGuard protocol is one of many VPN protocols that VPN services can use to transmit data through their networks, with each protocol offering varying levels of security and sophistication.

    Here are some other commonly used VPN protocols, from the most secure to the least secure:

    • OpenVPN

    • IKEv2/IPsec

    • SoftEther

    • L2TP/IPsec

    • SSTP

    • PPTP

    The WireGuard VPN protocol is built on the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) transport layer, which offers quick communication between hosts and clients. UDP is faster than the commonly used Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), because it doesn’t require “handshaking” between two clients for verification and authentication.

    Compared to alternatives, the Wireguard VPN protocol uses less code, which means it has a smaller “attack surface” for hackers to exploit. Its lighter code base also makes software code audits easier, allowing engineers to find potential vulnerabilities and bugs more quickly.

    Although WireGuard uses fewer cryptographic keys to scramble data, it makes up for this by using only the most cutting-edge encoding techniques. Plus, the simpler approach to encryption helps make WireGuard even faster than its rivals. But despite its many benefits, WireGuard is still not supported by all VPN services.

    Wireguard uses cutting edge cryptographic keys to encipher and decipher data travelling across your VPN.The WireGuard VPN protocol uses state-of-the-art encoding techniques to generate secure encryption keys.

    WireGuard protocol benefits

    The WireGuard protocol has two key benefits: it’s fast because of its light design, and it’s secure because it uses the best cryptographic tools available. Usually, when choosing a VPN protocol, there’s a compromise between security and speed — with WireGuard you get both.

    Here’s a closer look at the benefits of the WireGuard VPN protocol:

    • Streamlined design: WireGuard doesn't use handshake authentication between clients, which allows it to quickly connect and reconnect when roaming between networks and speeds up the VPN connection.

    • Secure connection: Using the latest cryptographic technology makes WireGuard highly secure, without sacrificing speed or usability.

    • Lightweight: WireGuard’s minimalist design is less taxing on your CPU’s resources, which helps preserve battery life and decreases load times for other apps.

    • Easy to set up: WireGuard makes it easy to set up a VPN network, and it lets users connect via their VPN application with the click of a button.

    Disadvantages of the WireGuard protocol

    WireGuard has been compared favorably to OpenVPN and IPSec, but there’s no such thing as a perfect VPN protocol — and WireGuard is no exception. Though no major weaknesses have been identified, it’s still a relatively young VPN protocol, so a critical vulnerability may still be discovered.

    Here are some of the downsides to WireGuard:

    • Privacy: The UDP transport layer makes WireGuard faster, but it also makes it obvious that you’re using a VPN. That means you may not be able to bypass firewalls to access specific content. And if you’re trying to hide your VPN usage from your Government, ISP, or employer, WireGuard may give you problems.

    • Compatibility: WireGuard’s compatibility is expanding, but not all VPN services support it or offer it across all major platforms. Avast SecureLine VPN currently supports WireGuard on Windows and Android devices — MacOS and iOS are still under development.

    • Encryption: WireGuard uses the most powerful encryption method available. But given it’s also one of the newest encryption protocols, it’s possible that a critical vulnerability or flaw may be found in the future.

    How the WireGuard VPN protocol works

    The WireGuard VPN protocol works by using state-of-the-art encryption technology and network code to create an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a VPN server. WireGuard’s unique design and encryption methods emphasize both speed and security.

    WireGuard encryption secures your data from third-parties and maintains a high-speed connection  to the VPN server.The WireGuard VPN protocol establishes an encrypted tunnel for all your internet traffic.

    While most VPN protocols use AES-256 encryption, WireGuard uses newer, ChaCha20 authenticated encryption. Both methods are symmetrical forms of encryption, but ChaCha20 has a shorter key. In theory, the shorter key length should make it easier to crack. But in practice, longer keys have proved redundant. So ChaCha20’s simplified encryption method makes it faster than AES-256 without compromising security.

    Initially, WireGuard was released for the Linux kernel, the main component of the Linux operating system known for security and speed. WireGuard works entirely on the kernel, unlike other VPN protocols that have to switch in and out from kernel to userspace. This gives WireGuard faster and more secure networking abilities.

    If you’re having issues connecting to a VPN server, check out our guide to see if your VPN is working properly.

    Is WireGuard secure?

    The WireGuard VPN protocol was built with security at the forefront. Unlike other prominent VPN protocols, it uses next-generation methods for encrypting and securing data, making it both harder to crack and easier to implement security innovations.

    Here’s what makes WireGuard so secure:

    • Open Source code: WireGuard is open-source software, which means the larger VPN community can help fix any issues, audit the code, and improve its design. The fact that it’s open-source also helps ensure that secret features don’t infringe on user privacy and security.

    • Minimal Code: Compared to other VPN protocols, WireGuard is made up of significantly less code. This makes it more difficult for hackers to find vulnerabilities in the software. It also means that it’s easier for researchers to identify weak points and implement improvements.

    • Modern Encryption: Many encryption methods used by other protocols are considered outdated — and therefore vulnerable to hacks. WireGuard uses only the latest encryption tools available for security and speed.

    WireGuard vs OpenVPN

    Currently, OpenVPN is the most popular VPN protocol. Like WireGuard, OpenVPN is open-source, has few vulnerabilities, and usually requires additional files on most devices. But OpenVPN wasn’t designed with newer computer processors in mind. WireGuard’s modern approach gives it several performance and security advantages over other VPN protocols.

    Here’s how WireGuard and OpenVPN stack up:

    WireGuard’s design is simpler

    WireGuard is made up of about 4,000 lines of code, while OpenVPN has 600,000 total lines of code. This helps make Wireguard faster than OpenVPN and less vulnerable to hacking. And its relatively simple design means it uses less computing power, helping to conserve the battery life of your device.

    WireGuard uses UDP

    WireGuards uses the UDP transport layer to transfer data. UDP is ultra-fast, because it doesn’t require additional authentication measures. OpenVPN is also compatible with UDP, but often uses TCP, a much slower method that requires “handshake” authentication between clients.

    WireGuard uses modern encryption

    Though OpenVPN uses longer encryption keys, WireGuard uses only the latest encryption primitives, or cryptographic algorithms. ChaCha20 is its default encryption method, while OpenVPN uses AES-256, an older industry standard. Both encryption methods are powerful, but ChaCha20 is faster.

    OpenVPN is better for hiding

    For users who want to hide their VPN usage, or use a VPN to unblock websites, OpenVpn may be the better option. WireGuard’s distinct design, though advantageous, makes your VPN usage stick out when using UDP network protocols. OpenVPN with TCP is usually less conspicuous.

    WireGuard vs IKEv2

    Like OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec is an older VPN protocol. IKEv2/IPsec is commonly used in business VPNs, and it supports a variety of encryption options. IKEv2/IPsec is a more versatile protocol than Wireguard, but the encryption methods for IKEv2 are older and generally weaker than that used by WireGuard.

    As with other legacy VPN protocols, the design of IPsec is clunkier and heavier, with more lines of code making it more vulnerable to hacking. By contrast, WireGuard is faster, more secure, and specifically designed for modern computer systems.

    Still, IPsec has its benefits. If you have a network environment where legacy encryption methods are required, WireGuard will not be compatible. Depending on your network needs, IPsec and its broad range of encryption methods may be more accommodating.

    If it suits your particular requirements, the IKEv2 protocol is supported on Avast SecureLine VPN for MacOS and iOS platforms.

    How to set up a WireGuard server

    If you don’t want to use a commercial VPN product, you can install WireGuard on your own VPN server. While setting up a personal VPN server is a complex task for the average user, WireGuard makes it comparatively easier.

    Setting up a WireGuard server will vary depending on your system. So refer to the WireGuard website for detailed instructions.

    Here are the general steps for setting up a WireGuard server. For more detailed instructions, consult the WireGuard website:

    1. Set up a VPN connection on your computer.

    2. Download and install WireGuard on your VPN.

      Downloading the WireGuard VPN client in order to set up a WireGuard VPN server.

    3. Generate server and client keys.

    4. Generate server and client configs.

    5. Enable the WireGuard interface on the server.

    6. Enable IP forwarding on the server.

    7. Configure server networking and a firewall.

    8. Configure your Domain Name System (DNS).

    9. Configure clients on WireGuard.

    Encrypt your internet connection easily with a VPN you can trust

    Using a VPN is the best way to establish a secure internet connection that hides your location and identity. With the battle-tested OpenVPN protocol supported across all platforms, and WireGuard now available on Windows and Android, Avast SecureLine VPN offers more speed, security, and flexibility than ever before.

    Protect your internet traffic with bank-grade encryption at the click of a button, hiding it from everyone including hackers, advertisers, employers, and even your ISP. Whether you want to unblock websites, avoid bandwidth throttling, or browse safely on unsecured public Wi-Fi, you can do it all at lightning-fast speeds with Avast SecureLine VPN. Try it for free today.

    Stay secure and private online

    with Avast SecureLine VPN


    Stay secure and private online

    with Avast SecureLine VPN

    Deepan Ghimiray