Using a VPN or proxy to protect yourself while browsing the internet is one of those things that can save you a large amount of time and money. Especially nowadays with the growing amount of personal information transmitted over the internet. Your credit card information, banking passwords, and even access to your home are transmitted online.
Most people still do the minimum amount of security required to stay safe. This usually entails a password that meets the minimum requirements and using a wifi password. However, the most dangerous online activities are often done with no regard for security. This includes downloading torrents and using public wifi.
Picking the right security measures are critical. If you choose the wrong security measure, then that can leave you vulnerable to identity theft and other undesirable consequences. The two security measures this article will focus on are VPNs and proxies.
The difference between a proxy and a VPN
You might have heard the words “proxy” and “VPN” used online when discussing hacking, but you might not have any idea the difference between the two. They do actually have some major differences despite the fact that they both target the same security conscious internet users.
Internet Proxy Explained
A proxy works by routing your internet connection through a server located in another country. In other words, you could be located in Vietnam and connect to the internet via a Vietnamese internet service provider (ISP). You would then connect to a US based proxy. This proxy would make your internet connection appear to originate from the United States.
A proxy will allow you to view blocked websites in your country (Vietnam in the previous example). Additionally, it prevents the website that you visit from knowing your IP address, which stops them from knowing your location and your ISP.
A proxy changes the IP address of one specific instance of the connection. For example, if you use a proxy in Google Chrome, then Google Chrome will have the proxy IP address. However, if you download a torrent, then that connection is not routed through the proxy.
Those benefits make proxies great for relatively low-risk content such as viewing a blocked website or changing your location. Many Netflix customers use proxies to change their location because Netflix has different content available in different locations. Obviously, this activity is a relatively low risk.
The main disadvantage of a proxy is that it does not force all network traffic through the remote server as mentioned earlier. Only network traffic on one specific instance of the connection goes through the remote server.
The other disadvantage and perhaps more relevant to some is that a proxy server does not provide any form of encryption. This means you are still open to surveillance and hacking.
First, VPN stands for very private network. As the name suggests, a VPN offers a very private network and it does this through the use of encryption. A VPN actually works in a similar manner as a proxy because it does connect to a remote server. However, the similarities end at that point.
As mentioned earlier, a VPN uses a heavily encrypted connection. This encryption works on an operating system and network level. In other words, all internet traffic from the connection will go through an encrypted remote server.
This encryption provides an extra level of security that prevents others from viewing your data. Encryption is especially useful for those that live, or travel, in countries that have a high amount of internet censorship such as China.
A VPN is also useful for those that frequently connect to public wifi networks. With a VPN you do not have to worry about poor security measures by the network administrator. Poor security measures could allow for anyone on the network to view your personal information.
Using a VPN allows you take your internet security into your own hands. No more relying on anonymous network administrators to protect your sensitive data.
Using a Proxy
A proxy is relatively simple to use, have fast connections, and many of them are free. However, the best proxies will cost a small amount. Keep in mind, proxies are fast because they have no encryption and do not obfuscate the entire network. They only redirect a small portion of the network traffic.
Proxies are best used for tasks that involve getting around a location-based block while still needing to maintain speed. One example is trying to watch Netflix in another country or wanting to view a YouTube video blocked in your country.
Do not expect proxies to protect your private data while connected to a public wifi network. Also, do not use them to avoid internet surveillance. Those two reasons are simply not their intended purpose.
Using a VPN
VPN’s are also as simple to use as a proxy. They just require you to download the software and then the software automatically sets up all the networking. A VPN can accomplish everything a proxy can accomplish and then more.
The entire internet connection from your computer is heavily encrypted. This prevents any form of surveillance or from any source. The only possible party that would have access to the entirety of your browsing would be the owner of the VPN. This is why it is important to choose a VPN that does not keep records of your web traffic.
Encryption, however, comes at a cost. The cost is a reduce connection speed as all traffic must first be encrypted.
Overall, the encryption is the main differentiating factor between a VPN and a proxy. A VPN offers a heavy amount of encryption, which makes it the most effective option for protecting against any form of attack or surveillance. A proxy simply changes the location, which is great for activities that have a low security risk. Proxy servers will also have a much faster connection that makes them great for online activities that require high speed such as streaming videos or browsing pictures.