What is WireGuard? WireGuard Explained

Keeping your data safe through a VPN was simply encrypting your data through a tunnel from the client to the VPN server. There are many security protocols currently in existence whose job is to ensure that you get a high security level as your data tunnels through. Some of the servers in existence include PPTP and OpenVPN; OpenVPN is the most popular, but still quite archaic. However, WireGuard came on the scene in 2018 and changed all that. WireGuard is that next-gen security encryption protocol that currently outshines all the existing security protocols in significant ramifications. 

What makes WireGuard so unique? Why is it one of the most-loved security protocol choices? Keep reading to find out all you need to know about WireGuard.

What Is WireGuard?

The protocol describes itself as the ‘Fast, modern, and secure VPN tunnel,’ and it has proven a considerable level of truth in this. Jason A. Donenfeld created this protocol to be fit for operation on embedded services and supercomputers like the ones being developed today. This is a way of making up for the deficiencies of OpenVPN, which has been in existence since 2001 and is now unable to handle next-generation computers effectively.

This protocol was initially designed for Linux Kernel but has managed to warm its way into the hearts of other major platforms, including Android, macOS, iOS, and Windows. You can simply say that WireGuard is the blazing-fast, modern and simple VPN tunnel that uses ‘state-of-the-art’ encryption technology.

How Does WireGuard Work?

This VPN tunnel has one basic goal; to be fast, simple, and avoid the great encryption headache that older tunnels bring. Here is how it works:

In effect, WireGuard is responsible for securely connecting a VPN app and a VPN server, just like other VPN protocols. However, its distinctness lies in the fact that WireGuard runs much lighter and provides encryption that requires less maintenance, unlike the older VPN protocols. It works similar to SSH (Secure Shell) by simply exchanging public keys and establishing the app-server tunnel; once this is done, there is no need to continue manning the connection.

However, the server needs to receive at least one encrypted data packet from the client before using the session. This makes sure that a proper essential confirmation is established.

In comparison to protocols like IPSec, it also offers faster speed and a reduced ping rate. Again, where OpenVPN uses about 329,000+ and IPSec about 100,000 code lines, WireGuard uses only 4,000. This makes it easier and fit for embedded devices with less computing power like routers or Smartphones.

The simplicity of its code and the shorter length makes it easier for developers to audit in as little as in one sitting. It also uses more modern Cryptography ciphers and installation protocols; these include the Curve25519, ChaCha20, and Blake2. These modern ciphers’ perks also ensure that it is less vulnerable and cannot be easily tampered with. In the case of any such occurrences, WireGuard is able to release a new version of the protocol.

What Protocols Does WireGuard Use? Technical Details

WireGuard is a Layer 3 secure network tunnel for modern cryptography protocols, including IPv4 and IPv6. Its built-in stealth and UDP base allows it to break through stringent firewalls easily. Its authentication is also based on SSH’s authentication_keys.

WireGuard also works with some modern ciphers, as we have mentioned above. Let’s also take a look at them and their functions.

  1. ChaCha20 combined with Poly1305 is used to create a symmetric encryption and authentication with the RFC7539’s AEAD construction. These combinations are more effective than AES on embedded CPU architectures that are without cryptographic hardware acceleration.
  2. Curve25519 works as an elliptic-curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) key-agreement protocol.
  3. Blake2s is for hashing and key hashing; it works faster than SHA-3.
  4. HKDF helps with Key derivation.
  5. SipHash24 is for Hashtable Keys

Other Important Technical Details

1. In addition to the symmetric encryption key, this protocol also supports an optional pre-shared key that can be inputted into the public key cryptography.

2. WireGuard is only compatible with UDP; it doesn’t support TCP officially. However, some Programmers at GitHub and other third-parties have managed to create a workaround. However, the official UDP port remains 51820.

3. WireGuard doesn’t repeat the use of nonces. A nonce is a number you find frequently in cryptographic discourse. To avoid replay attacks or wrongly sent UDP packets, WireGuard uses a 64-bit counter which cannot be wound backward.

Why is WireGuard Faster?

In a test of about 114 VPNs, WireGuard came first in roughly 58.8% of them. Speed loss came in about 19%, which means that if you operated on a speed of about 110Mb, with WireGuard, it only drops to about 90MB. That’s still pretty fast! Many users consider WireGuard faster than older protocols for a lot of reasons. 

One major factor it has to thank for its speed is the smaller codebase. This helps to establish connections and handshakes faster, leading to a more reliable protocol. Another factor is its ability to use the CPU core efficiently. It uses fewer resources, and thus, doesn’t drain the battery faster. This makes it a good fit for mobile users.

For Linux devices, it’s only natural that it is blazing fast since the protocol is inbuilt in the Linux Kernel. This, of course, provides high-speed, secure connections. This is not so in other platforms, as WireGuard has access to more limited system memory. Still, it topples other protocols like the OpenVPN protocol.

Is WireGuard Safe?

Numerous security researchers, both in the academia and private sectors, have put this new protocol under review. They have verified it safe for computational proceedings. WireGuard is a stealthy protocol; it doesn’t respond to packets it doesn’t recognize. This means that if anyone is scanning a computer with WireGuard, they cannot detect that the protocol is operating on it. It also makes it more difficult to attack.

Again, it’s small code allows for easier and faster detection of any possible problems before cybercriminals do. It becomes less time-consuming and allows developers to do a more thorough job.

WireGuard also puts an end to cryptographic agility — the ability to hop between different encryption options. While that might sound like a good thing, cryptographic agility can cause a lot of faulty deployments. In place of this, modern cryptographic algorithms, which have been thoroughly tested, is what it uses. This way, there are no loopholes or misconfigurations in the cryptography, which can make user data vulnerable.

The Main Benefits of WireGuard

Based on our above explanations, it’s evident that WireGuard is laden with numerous benefits and profers better than harm. Here are some of its benefits and how they’re useful for securing your devices.

1. Speed and Performance: WireGuard has been proven to be more effective than other protocols like IPSec and OpenVPN by providing bandwidth and more performance. It uses the latest cryptography ciphers as listed above and is executed as a Linux kernel on the side of the servers. Its tiny codebase makes it mobile-friendly, providing a faster user experience for mobile users.

2. More Security: There are many benefits accruing to its smaller codebase alone, and one of them is more security. It makes configuration, installation, and the auditing process more manageable. It is also wonderful in helping developers to track inconsistencies and vulnerabilities faster.

3. Variety and Cross-Platform Usage: Although this protocol was created for Linux devices, it can now be used on various platforms, including macOS, Android, iOS, Windows, etc.

How Easy Is it to Set Up WireGuard?

For Linux users, setting up WireGuard is super simple; it was created for such devices, after all. All that’s to be done is type in some commands, and it’s up and running.

It is not that simple on other platforms, though, but it is also nothing complicated. There are now downloadable clients for significant devices. Again, a few VPNs are now starting to incorporate WireGuard in the build of their apps. Many more are also running the built-in protocol in beta version; the full versions are still in the works.


We have had a good run with many older protocols before WireGuard came along. While we are not undermining the great work they have done before now, WireGuard really puts things in a new perspective. Technology is all about innovation and forward-thinking. With WireGuard, time-consuming cryptography processes have become simplified, easier, and faster — security redefined!