What is WireGuard?

Posted on March 31st, 2023 by in Privacy deep dives.


WireGuard® is a new VPN protocol used to secure the connection between your device and a VPN server. 

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WireGuard uses state-of-the-art cryptography to keep your connection secure and is extremely lightweight. This makes it faster than traditional VPN protocols such as OpenVPN and IKEv2, especially on lower-end hardware.

Originally developed for Linux, WireGuard was officially integrated into the Linux kernel (versions 5.6+) in March 2020, marking it as a secure, stable, and fast VPN protocol suitable for daily use. The main benefits of WireGuard are:

  • Fast
  • Instant connection
  • Lightweight

Proton VPN now supports WireGuard on the following platforms:

  • Windows 
  • macOS
  • Android
  • iOS/iPadOS 

Learn how to change VPN protocols or select Smart Protocol

It is also possible to manually configure WireGuard for Proton VPN using third-party software (such as the official WireGuard client). 


Although relatively new, WireGuard uses proven state-of-the-art cryptographic primitives to secure your VPN connection. 


Proton VPN’s implementation of the protocol uses double NAT to dynamically provision sessions. This means when your app connects to one of our VPN servers via WireGuard, the first NAT will rewrite the IP address to a random but unique internal IP address that is assigned to your session. 

From this point on, WireGuard works like any other VPN: The second NAT rewrites your session IP address again to the VPN server’s public IP address before it connects to your desired website.

Diagram explaining WireGuard double-NAT

This ensures the same level of privacy when using WireGuard as when using OpenVPN or IKEv2. We do not store your IP address and our strict no-logs policy, which independent security experts have verified, fully applies.

Learn more about how Proton VPN protects your privacy with WireGuard


Unlike the AES encryption usually used by OpenVPN, which often has hardware support built into processors, WireGuard currently enjoys no hardware support. Despite this, WireGuard’s performance is comparable to hardware-accelerated AES (AES-NI) thanks to its greatly improved efficiency.

As with all VPN protocols supported by Proton VPN, WireGuard fully benefits from our unique VPN Accelerator technology that can dramatically improve connection speeds over long distances or when there is high packet loss. 


Low CPU usage translates into better battery life for users running our apps on mobile devices and laptops. 

Instant VPN connection

On Android and iOS devices, WireGuard takes less than one second to establish a VPN connection. 

Open source and audited

WireGuard is open-source software that anyone can inspect to ensure it’s secure. Indeed, the fact it consists of under 4,000 lines of code (compared to over 300,000 for OpenVPN) makes it very easy to audit. 

WireGuard has undergone various formal verifications, and to be incorporated in the Linux kernel, the WireGuard Linux codebase was independently audited by a third party.

Unlike some of our competition, our open-source implementation of WireGuard is 100% compatible with the official version. 

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WireGuard TCP and Stealth

WireGuard usually runs over a specific UDP port only, which makes it easy for governments to block. UDP and TCP are the two main transmission protocols that handle how data is sent across the internet. UDP is faster, while TCP is more reliable, but the main advantage of TCP over UDP is that it can evade government censorship by running over TCP port 443, which is the port used by HTTPS.

Learn more about the difference between UDP and TCP

However, we developed custom implementations of WireGuard that overcome this limitation. WireGuard TCP offers similar anti-censorship benefits to OpenVPN TCP — it allows WireGuard to run over the same port as HTTPS, making it difficult to simply block without also blocking most websites. 

Deep packet inspection techniques, though, can easily spot the difference between HTTPS and VPN packets. 

Stealth is our custom WireGuard-based VPN protocol that uses several technologies to make it much harder to detect and block, including running over an obfuscated TLS tunnel over TCP.

Learn more about Stealth

WireGuard vs. OpenVPN

OpenVPN is the battle-tested veteran of VPN protocols, and while still secure, it’s beginning to show its age. WireGuard offers similar security while being much faster, more lightweight, and more efficient than OpenVPN. 

OpenVPN still offers strong anti-censorship capabilities thanks to  its ability to run over TCP. However, as we mentioned earlier, we have not only  applied this same flexibility to our implementation of WireGuard, we’ve greatly improved upon it with our custom Stealth protocol.

Learn more about OpenVPN

Please note that “WireGuard” and the WireGuard logo are registered trademarks of Jason A. Donenfeld.

Frequently asked questions

Does WireGuard support cost extra?

No. WireGuard is available for free to all members of the Proton VPN community in our Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS/iPadOS apps.

Are all features available with WireGuard?

Yes. WireGuard is fully integrated into our apps and can be used with all features supported by them. This includes Secure Core, NetShield Ad-blocker, DNS leak protection, IPv6 leak protection, kill switch, permanent kill switch (Windows), alternative routing, and VPN Accelerator

How do I use WireGuard?

WireGuard support is also fully integrated into our Smart Protocol feature, which automatically switches your VPN connection to the best VPN protocol for your situation. Smart Protocol is enabled by default, so you don’t need to do anything to automatically use the best protocol (including WireGuard) for your needs.

You can also manually select WireGuard if you prefer. 

Learn how to change VPN protocols or select Smart Protocol

What Proton VPN platforms is WireGaud available on?

WireGuard UDP, WireGuard TCP, and WireGuard Stealth  is available in the following Proton VPN apps:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Android
  • Android TV (via Smart Protocol)
  • iOs and iPadOS
  • Chrome OS

Starting with ProPrivacy and now Proton, Douglas has worked for many years as a technology writer. During this time, he has established himself as a thought leader specializing in online privacy. He has been quoted by the BBC News, national newspapers such as The Independent, The Telegraph, and The Daily Mail, and by international technology publications such as Ars Technica, CNET, and LinuxInsider. Douglas was invited by the EFF to help host a livestream session in support of net neutrality. At Proton, Douglas continues to explore his passion for privacy and all things VPN.

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