Cloudflare Announces Warp VPN

Back when Cloudflare released its secure DNS application for mobile devices, I wondered what the point was, since (at least on Android) users needed to disable any VPNs they were using in order to use the application. Who is the audience for secure DNS minus a VPN?

This week, Cloudflare closed that gap by announcing Warp, a free VPN (with premium options to follow) that will eventually be rolled into the mobile app.

From Cloudflare’s press release,

Technically, Warp is a VPN. However, we think the market for VPNs as it’s been imagined to date is severely limited. Imagine trying to convince a non-technical friend that they should install an app that will slow down their Internet and drain their battery so they can be a bit more secure. Good luck.

. . .

We built Warp because we’ve had those conversations with our loved ones too and they’ve not gone well. So we knew that we had to start with turning the weaknesses of other VPN solutions into strengths. Under the covers, Warp acts as a VPN. But now in the App, if users decide to enable Warp, instead of just DNS queries being secured and optimized, all Internet traffic is secured and optimized. In other words, Warp is the VPN for people who don’t know what V.P.N. stands for.

. . .

Security is table stakes. What really distinguishes Warp is performance and reliability. While other VPNs slow down the Internet, Warp incorporates all the work that the team from Neumob has done to improve mobile Internet performance. We’ve built Warp around a UDP-based protocol that is optimized for the mobile Internet. We also leveraged Cloudflare’s massive global network, allowing Warp to connect with servers within milliseconds of most the world’s Internet users. With our network’s direct peering connections and uncongested paths we can deliver a great experience around the world. Our tests have shown that Warp will often significantly increase Internet performance. Generally, the worse your network connection the better Warp should make your performance.

. . .

Finally, we knew that if we really wanted Warp to be something that all our less-technical friends would use, then price couldn’t be a barrier to adoption. The basic version of Warp is included as an option with the App for free.

We’re also working on a premium version of Warp — which we call Warp+ — that will be even faster by utilizing Cloudflare’s virtual private backbone and Argo technology. We will charge a low monthly fee for those people, like many of you reading this blog, who want even more speed. The cost of Warp+ will likely vary by region, priced in a way that ensures the fastest possible mobile experience is affordable to as many people as possible.

Users can sign up from the app to be on a waitlist that they’ll move up as the VPN rolls out. I’m currently at #340921, so it may be awhile before I get to use it.

This is certainly an exciting development, but I assume that just as Cloudflare highlights some of the problems with traditional VPNs in its press release, there are some things that traditional VPNs are probably better for than Warp. For example, my suspicions are that Cloudflare isn’t going to be a big fan of people using their VPN for torrenting.

CloudFlare’s Encrypted DNS App for Android and iOS

CloudFlare recently released an app for Android and iOS that makes it easy for users to encrypt their DNS queries using CloudFlare’s DNS resolver.

For once, I’m really not sure what the point is of a security tool like this. One of the criteria for using the app is you need to turn off any VPN you have activated. But I’m not really certain what the use case would be for wanting encrypted DNS but not a VPN.

Personally, I use ProtonMail’s VPN on my phone when I want privacy from the local network operator. There are issues with Proton, but it’s security is more than good enough for anyone not concerned about state actors in their threat model.