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What is OpenVPN, and is it Still Safe in 2023?

What is OpenVPN, and is it Still Safe in 2023?
Jan 5, 2023
OpenVPN is a VPN protocol which is open source and flexible. Since there other VPN protocol, you might need to know the feature, details, pros and cons of OpenVPN.
Berktug Mutlu
What Is OpenVPN? Features and Details - FastVPN
The OpenVPN protocol turned 20 last year, making it one of the oldest protocols that still exist. Regardless, its continued popularity must be for a reason.
Below, I will provide a full explanation for OpenVPN so you can understand what it is and whether it is a viable security option.

What Is OpenVPN?

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OpenVPN is a virtual private network system that is one of the earliest iterations of VPN technology. OpenVPN is widespread, making it the most popular VPN protocol available.
Its open-source emphasis ensures the protocol is across multiple platforms. OpenVPN by itself is free, making it easily accessible to those willing to set up manual connections.
The open-source nature of it also makes it usable across all major platforms. The OpenVPN protocol supports iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux. It is the most flexible point-to-point tool across multiple devices.
Here is where you will commonly see it:
  • Email
  • Messaging
  • Voice over IP (VoIP)
  • Browsers
  • Applications
  • Any PTP connection

Is OpenVPN Safe to Use?

OpenVPN relies on a 256-bit encryption style. This encryption level can take years to break through with brute force attacks. World governments use this military-grade encryption to protect vital data.
The protocol went through three separate security audits in 2017 from a respected cryptographer representing Cryptography Engineering LLC. QuarksLab, a Paris-based firm, performed a second audit. A third company found no significant issues.
The security audit found issues that OpenVPN addressed quickly, while the security groups identified some low to medium risk issues. However, the overall consensus was that the protocol was safe.
OpenVPN’s most significant issue is associating new programs with old code, a potential security risk as new releases come out.

Features and Technical Details

OpenVPN uses SSL/TLS, which we will detail in the next section. It also runs under User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).
The TCP/UDP support makes it a viable alternative to other VPN protocols that are usually blocked. This feature makes it more effective than IPSec regarding convenience.
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OpenVPN supports IPv6, establishing outward connections through external proxy servers. NAT, or Network Address Translation, allows it to mask your IP address while working around firewalls. This is a common feature among most VPNs, but OpenVPN is one of the first who made it regularly available.
OpenVPN uses the LZO compression library (optionally) to compress your data stream. The LZO is a portable lossless data compression library that compresses large amounts of data at a solid speed. It is open-source and available to the general public.
Its official IANA port number is 1194 (IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). This allowance gives it an official software port for port forwarding purposes. This means OpenVPN does have significant recognition from official fields.
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OpenVPN also allows for a Universal TUN/TAP Driver to create a layer-3 (or layer-2), enabling the use of any Ethernet traffic. TUN and TAP are software-supported network drivers. The TUN is for routing, while the TAP is for establishing connections.
OpenVPN has a large amount of reliance on existing and well-known software elements. It spreads that reliance to third parties by extending it with plugins.
The extension allowance applies to those who use OpenVPN for password and username authentication procedures. You can also apply to custom firewalls, a feature that is most helpful when setting up a router.

Encryption Information

OpenVPN creates a secure point-to-point system (or tunnel) using the OpenSSL encryption library and the TLS protocol.
It works with the following encryption types:
  • OpenSSL
  • Camellia
  • CAST-128
  • 3DES
  • Blowfish/Twofish
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is part of most modern websites. Most modern websites have it, identified by the HTTPS seen at the beginning of the URL. Servers that do not use this protocol are out of date.
TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is a current form of SSL. It is used in all communications types above (messaging, email, etc.).
OpenVPN relies on pre-shared keys. This PSK authentication enables quick verification of parties by verifying the existence of 64 hexadecimal digits in the form of ASCII characters. This PSK is WPA or WPA2 encryption, essential for establishing a wireless LAN.
Some modern routers which have OpenVPN built into them also use WPA3. WPA3 is the most advanced form of wireless security.
OpenVPN does not rely on other security protocols:
  • IKE
  • IPsec
  • L2TP
  • PPTP
OpenVPN can also use HMAC (hash-based message authentication code) packet authentication for shared connections. Cryptographic hash functions are a prominent part of SHA-2 (or SHA-3), which provides additional authentication protocols for shared networks.

The History of OpenVPN

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Francis Dian co-founded OpenVPN. Mr. Dinha was born in Iraq and raised during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Saddam installed terrible and oppressive rules, making it illegal to criticize him. Those who spoke out against the government were given incredibly harsh punishments.
Mr. Dinha moved to Sweden and then Texas, which allowed him to further his education. This hunger for knowledge aided him in his pursuit of creating this standard protocol.
James Yonan was from another life but toured through Central Asia in his remote work. The only reliable internet connections were through nearby countries.
Often, this meant taking connections through Asian and Russian internet providers. Both types of ISPs have a history of unsecured connections, which is not great if you want to preserve your privacy.
The two collaborated with concerns for control over personal data. The company has gone through numerous upgrades over the past 20 years, resulting in a solid business today.
Because of a foundation set by OpenVPN, the global VPN market grew by over $100 billion in 2022. Other VPN companies (like ours) got their start because of what was established with these people.

This Protocol’s Future

The company OpenVPN is likely to last and grow for years. But regarding the protocol, that is a different story.
Years ago, hackers developed software to crack encryption codes. These are user-side ciphers developed by those who likely do business on the darknet.
Ciphers refer to both decryption and encryption protocols. So when someone uses the word cipher, that can refer to either said.
The 20-year shelf life of OpenVPN is long, but the original protocol has only persisted because of continuous updates. The initial version is of VPN uses supremely crackable codes (like SSL certificates).
OpenVPN will likely be around for quite a while. Hackers will require more high-end ciphers to crack the gibberish.

How Does OpenVPN Work?

OpenVPN works as a full suite of protocols that work together. Here is how they work:
  1. OpenVPN gathers from the OpenSSL/TCP library for authentication and security purposes
  1. It uses TCH/UPD for data transmission between two points (UDP is the default for most VPN providers)
  1. The data transmits through an AES 256-bit encryption (an algorithm that garbles your data and protects it against third-party access)
  1. It bypasses your firewall, HTTP, and NAT protocols (as needed)

What Are The Advantages of OpenVPN?

OpenVPN is an excellent protocol. It has proven security measures it applies on all platforms. So many people have been using the OpenVPN protocol for its flexible configurations and support for multiple operating systems.
OpenVPN is also open source, giving its source code to the public. This allows its users to customize aspects of it, making it very tech-friendly with its open-source community.
The company is also one of the oldest and most established groups. OpenVPN’s community project team is trustworthy. Regardless, OpenVPN as a protocol has shown its age.

What Are The Disadvantages of OpenVPN?

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With the release of WireGuard, OpenVPN’s automatic disadvantage comes from its slow connection speed. WireGuard is more lightweight and takes less operating power to run, making it better for weaker computers.
You can also apply these slow-speed concerns when comparing this software to SoftEther. SoftEther also supports IPSec and IKE, other VPN protocols that some prefer due to their IP-level protection.
Its offer as a free service is also incredibly concerning to some groups.


Is Open VPN Free?

Yes, you can establish a free connection using OpenVPN. However, you will need to go through a tech-intensive manual setup process.
You can also choose to download The Fast VPN. Our VPN service uses military-grade encryption going beyond the standard OpenVPN service.

How Fast is OpenVPN?

OpenVPN’s connection speed is known to drop your current connection speed heavily. Rates can be slower in the event you connect to a popular server.
You gain faster speeds through WireGuard, a more lightweight system when compared to OpenVPN.

Is OpenVPN Trustworthy?

OpenVPN is a trustworthy company with a solid track record. It is one of the first VPN companies ever to be formed.
The developed protocol is also trustworthy, as it is a proven way to protect yourself online. Those who are tech-savvy can set it up quickly.

Conclusion – Is OpenVPN Still Worth Your Time?

The OpenVPN protocol uses a lot of non-proprietary (open-source) technology. Its reliance on third-party developers combined with its unique code has consistently been through updates since 2001. So yes, OpenVPN is a secure and upfront platform worth your time.
Even with the updates with new protocols like Wireguard, OpenVPN persists. It’s like having a professional mechanic continuously update your old car. With enough work, it could last another 200 thousand miles (or 20 years in this case).
In the battle of Proxy vs VPN, the two might seem comparable. After all, both use off-site servers to protect your identity and hide your location. However, only one of these two is effective at protecting your identity.
But when comparing the two services, there are some extreme differences. Below, we will let you know about proxy servers, compare them to VPNs, and know which is better for your needs.

What is a Proxy Server?

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A proxy server is a middleman between your home network and the internet. It translates traffic between you and the internet, acting as a firewall and web filter for your security.
The ultimate benefit of a proxy server is providing you with a masked IP address. This feature enables you to hide your physical location and IP, providing you with better security than a standard gateway.
There are numerous types of proxies. Here are a few of the most common ones:
  • Web – Specifically protects web traffic and HTTP requests
  • Anonymous – This proxy protects and obscures your IP address. Advanced forms of this proxy include the Tor Onion network.
  • Reverse – Defends you from requests from external servers (includes web traffic and application traffic)
  • Transparent – Protects external data but allows internal entities to track your web traffic easily (i.e., home network)
  • Distorting – Creates a masked IP address to fool trackers.
There are also different protocols for proxies. These include SOCKS, FTP, HTTP, and SSL. These protocols are much like how VPNs operate, providing further security layers.

Why You Should Use a Proxy Server

Proxy servers are best for situations with a specific site or app target. For example, many people use proxies to confuse streaming services into thinking you live elsewhere.
If your only goal is to hide against media streaming, proxies are acceptable.

Why You Shouldn’t Use a Proxy Server

Proxy servers do not hide your identity or encrypt your data. Despite masking your IP, most of the other information behind your IP is there.
Given that proxy servers are free, many of them make money from selling your data. The entities behind these servers like to stay anonymous because of these practices.

Pros and Cons of Using a Proxy Server

What is a VPN?

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A VPN is a Virtual Private Server. It protects your traffic and connection logs while encrypting all data sent and received from your computer. For more details on VPNs, check out our sister article.

Why You Should Use a VPN

VPNs are your test tool if you want to prevent governments, internet service providers, and hackers from stealing your data. This security tool encrypts your connection and traffic logs using ciphers, algorithms built to scramble your data.
These ciphers are not part of proxies, making VPNs way more secure. They also offer IP-concealing features with fewer risks regarding network compatibility because they are part of your computer as VPN client software.

Why You Shouldn’t Choose a VPN

VPNs can be a nuisance if you operate in a capacity that requires you to share personal data consistently. For example, those who drive for Uber, Doordash, or other location-driven services would not effectively use VPNs.
Sometimes local banks will throw up major red flags if you come in from another country. So if you run into issues logging in at your bank, they might require you to connect to a server in your country before you can complete any transactions.

Using a VPN – Pros and Cons

Proxy vs VPN – Which is More Secure

When asking which is more secure, VPNs easily win this competition. Proxies were never intended to be complete security.
While proxies are great for simple unblocking services, they are not great for hiding your internet activity. There is no data encryption, which is a primary feature of VPNs.
Here is a quick roundup comparison between the two so you can better decide which is better:

Proxy vs VPN: A List of Seven Differences

While there are numerous similarities between the two platforms, there are just as many fundamental differences between the two. Below, we will go through eight of those differences to know what will work best for you.

#1: Proxy Servers Do Not Hide Your Web Activity

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Proxies cannot be 100% secure because of their inability to hide traffic. While proxies act as a layer of privacy, they do not protect browsing data.
This data is still accessible to dedicated hackers who want access to your information. Specifically, your connection logs and traffic logs are still available.
Proxies do provide web security by hiding your IP address. However, that often isn’t enough for complete protection for your surfing data.

#2: Proxy Servers are Usually Free

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There are numerous VPNs with enhanced privacy levels. However, many of those VPNs require significant payments.
By comparison, proxies typically require little to no payments. There are way more free proxy servers than there are VPN servers, which can be a benefit to your wallet.
When using some of these free services, be sure to check the company’s privacy policy. Typically, businesses that operate purely on a free model can sell user data, which is a terrible business practice.
However, some providers offer free services to encourage you to get their paid services. These providers are typically the ones you should use. Regardless of either case, your chosen provider needs to prove their dedication to your online privacy.

#3: VPNs Encrypt Your Connection and Traffic Logs

Regardless of what server you access, encryption is the key to anonymity online and protection against privacy invasion. Only VPNs offer protection against government surveillance, ISP tracking, and hacker protection.
Much of this comes from choosing VPNs that specifically mention protecting your connection and traffic logs. These logs contain a record of where you’ve been and what you have done there.
This exposure allows advertisers to target you directly and criminals to get a good idea of who you are. They use this information as a form of social manipulation, calling your bank and regular services to try and get personal data.
Good proxies will confuse data but never hide it. VPNs encrypt all information you do not willingly provide to a business.

#4: Proxy Servers are Generally Slower

Because of proxy servers’ general “freeness,” they are pretty busy. Many of these servers are public without paying anything, making them relatively attractive.
The problem with this open access comes in slowness. Because proxies cannot determine and sort people, everyone will load onto the first server.
May users of proxy services don’t see them as a long-term solution. Instead, they work better as a short-term fix in a pinch.
With speed being a concern, many streaming services are out of reach. But some VPNs suffer from the same problem. So be picky and run a few tests to see your options.
The Fast VPN prides itself on being a speedy VPN service. After all, it is in our title.

#5: Proxies Have Alternative Modes of Use

Despite online proxies being a privacy solution, not all are made alike. Some are made for the opposite, tracking your data and selling them to third-party providers.
Sometimes, nosey parents (or business owners) use transparent proxies to discover what their kids are doing. This situation can be helpful in limited scenarios but does raise significant privacy concerns.
There are alternative benefits to proxies that VPNs do not have in this case. This process includes specialized blocking in cases where you think a VPN is overkill (i.e., blocking one website or app)

#6: VPNs Include Data Encryption

Regardless of what type of proxy you use, none of them will encrypt your data. As an online security feature, VPNs are much more effective.
Encryption is the process of taking your data and scrambling it using an algorithmic generator. To unscramble it, you would need access to a decryption device working at the same level.
There are numerous encryption types that hackers cannot crack to this day. Here are some of the most robust encryption methods:
  • RSA & Rivest-Shamir-Alderman
  • Blowfish & Twofish
  • AES (Advanced Encryption Standard. Specifically, limited to 256-bit keys)
  • Triple DES (Data Encryption Standard)
Without encryption, VPNs wouldn’t have the enhanced security we come to expect.

#7: Proxies Are Effective At Blocking One Application or Website

In situations where automatic security isn’t your priority, proxy servers offer more straightforward control measures. Proxies are better if you want a layer of security between you and one site.
Online services, like Google, Amazon, or Facebook, trade your data in exchange for services. Those who don’t care for this will find proxies more situationally helpful.
For example, accessing another country’s version of Netflix is more cost-effective through proxies. However, VPNs are still much better overall due to a total lack of security under any proxy.

#8: VPNs are Better for Public Networks

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If you go to your local coffee house and access their public Wi-Fi network, you might want to think twice. Hackers regularly access these public networks to gather your information.
In some cases, nearby servers duplicate the name of these business networks. Their ability to mask themselves continues to get creative.
With a VPN, you still need to be wary about connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, but encryption starts at the computer level. This security ensures that whatever data they get from your computer is gibberish.
If your ultimate goal is complete anonymity online, you will avoid public networks regardless. But if you are in a pinch, having a VPN prevents you from a great deal of public exposure.

Proxy vs VPN – Similarities Between the Two

When it comes to a security comparison, VPNs are much better. Regardless, this doesn’t mean that there is no use in using a proxy.
Below are two similarities worth noting.

#1: Both Will Effectively Hide Your IP Address

A crucial component to maintaining online anonymity is hiding your IP. Your IP is a constant telegraph to servers seeking your information. Hiding it is vital to remain secure.
Whether you hide it from government agencies or your ISP is up to you, but this is the first step to security. Both proxies and VPNs offer this as a default service, providing you with more protection than you had before.
Hiding your IP is also a form of identity protection, as it contains your location and your Internet Service Provider. Whether you use VPN software or a proxy, it is better than having nothing.

#2: You Can View Geo-Blocked Content

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Because you can hide your IP from nosey neighbors, this allows you to view geo-blocked content. So if you want to see what Netflix looks like in the UK, you can start your VPN or set up a specific proxy.
Both will offer you the option to access usually blocked content. But if you are doing so in a media-restrictive country, proxies will not provide you a method to hide.
In these cases, a VPN is better overall to hide your location and prevent unwanted eyes from seeing you view restricted content. However, less restrictive countries can benefit from a proxy to view usually blocked content.

#3: You Still Need To Delete Cookies

VPNs and proxies are worthless if you do not delete your pre-use cookies regardless of your best privacy efforts. These cookies contain old location data based on where you live. So instead of hiding your location, you are just slowing your connection.
Clearing your cache should be a regular habit regardless of what you do. You can do so by checking your browser settings and searching for “clear personal data.”
Regardless, some proxies and VPNs have the potential to cause location leaks. So removing your cookies even if you are secure is a good practice.

Proxy FAQs

Do You Need a Proxy if You Have a VPN?

No. Having a VPN and a proxy at the same time is redundant. If you are going to pick one, stick with using a VPN.
VPNs offer the same connection hiding as proxies but with more security features. From almost all perspectives, getting a VPN client is a better choice.

Is The Tor Network a Proxy Server?

The Tor Onion network is a proxy server with an incredibly unique twist. Instead of providing a single point for proxy, Tor bounces off numerous locations to trick would-be hackers on your site.
Tor is one of the few proxies with the same security level as VPNs. However, because it is limited to browser activity, it is still less helpful than a VPN.

Smart DNS vs Proxy: Which is Better?

A Smart DNS is not a proxy; it acts as a system that fools websites and apps into thinking you are in a different location. It doesn’t hide anything other than changing an aspect of your IP.
In this case, a proxy is usually better than choosing a Smart DNS. However, VPNs are better than both due to included security options.

Can You Use Proxies and VPNs Together?

Conclusion – Proxy vs. VPN: Which is More Secure?

When comparing proxy vs VPN, virtual private networks offer a better overall security package. If you had to choose between the two, VPNs encrypt your data while proxies do not.
However, there are reasons for using a proxy server. Proxies are best when you need to confuse one app or website. Proxy users usually have their security addressed by other needs. Typically, those who use proxies are watching “forbidden Netflix.”
VPNs are an all-in-one security suite to protect your data. It works across all your connections, creating a blanket of misdirection. It protects against criminals, ISPs, and trackers in all situations.
Neither will be effective if you don’t follow good security advice. So be sure to delete cookies and only share personal details with a small number of companies.
VPNs are the better option because they do everything proxies can but are more effective. VPNs are of higher quality and offer complete protection across all websites. Download The Fast VPN today to fully secure all of your connections.
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