What is OpenVPN, and is it Still Safe in 2022?

What is OpenVPN, and is it Still Safe in 2022?

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?

OpenVPN page screenshot

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. 

IPv6 address

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.

IANA page screenshot

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

OpenVPN history page

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
  2. It uses TCH/UPD for data transmission between two points (UDP is the default for most VPN providers)
  3. The data transmits through an AES 256-bit encryption (an algorithm that garbles your data and protects it against third-party access)
  4. 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?

Wireguard page screenshot

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.  

OpenVPN FAQs

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).

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