You might have heard that you are continuously tracked online by various agencies. The same companies also sell your data to advertising agencies for targeted ads. These trackers includes your ISP, the website you visit and in some cases, an attacker trying to hack you.
In addition to this, you might have also heard that using VPNs and Proxies can protect you against these trackers. But have you ever wondered, what are these and which of them is better for your privacy? How do these things even protect you? We’ll be discussing exactly these things today.
VPN vs Proxy
A VPN and a proxy both will connect you to a remote computer, but that’s where similarities end. Companies use a VPN for much more things than just connecting to a remote computer.
A proxy connects the host (you) to another remote computer. What this means is that your computer will send the request to the proxy server and it will forward the request to the actual server.
This way, your original IP Address will be masked and only the proxy’s IP will be visible by the website you’re visiting. Your ISP and a MITM attacker will still be able to track you, but not the websites you’re visiting.
Proxies hide your IP Address
A proxy server works by rerouting the traffic by your computer (or application) through another server which changes the final IP address of the device making the request.
This way you can even visit pages as you were visiting them from another country. This is helpful sometimes to unblock some websites that are restricted in certain places.
Besides, a proxy server can also encrypt the data to get improved security. Thus proxy servers work great for low stakes tasks such as viewing geographically blocked content and providing a bit of anonymity.
We won’t bore you with the technical details of a proxy server, however, you can check out the Wikipedia page of Proxy Server to learn more.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A Virtual Private Network or VPN will do the same as a proxy. It will route all your traffic from a remote machine, but that’s where the similarities will end.
VPN essentially creates a tunnel between your device and the VPN server. So all the requests will be exactly if it is made from the VPN server.
By using a VPN, you can also connect to the local network of the VPN server. Companies use this feature of VPN to provide work from home opportunities to its employees.
Security with VPN
Although it’s a common practice to use encryption, VPN inherently doesn’t come with encryption. Using encrypted tunnels, a VPN provides a lot more security and anonymity than a proxy.
There are multiple protocols used to encrypted data across the VPN tunnel. Again, we are not here to bore you. If you wish to, you can read more about VPN on Wikipedia.
Proxy Vs VPN: Which one is better for me?
A proxy is useful when your main aim is to view geographically restricted content like some YouTube videos or want to access pages with a little bit of anonymity.
But if you want a high level of security, you should go for a VPN. Not only it provides almost all the features of a proxy, but you’ll get encrypted data transfer. It’s always good to have extra security.
But neither a Proxy or a VPN will protect you from 100% of the threats. You can always fall victim to insider attacks or a ransomware attack. Nonetheless, taking precautions is a good practice.
There is another security layer you can add for higher protection, TOR.
TOR: The Onion Router
The Onion Router or TOR is a service created my military which allows people to anonymously browse the internet. TOR reroutes your traffic multiple time through different relays.
The data is encrypted at all the nodes. This data is therefore encrypted multiple times, like the layers of an Onion. Thus the name The Onion Router. It is a decentralized system so there’s no one centralized system tracking your movements.
There is one drawback of TOR network, that is due to multiple nodes the speed of transfer becomes slow. You can learn more about TOR here at the official TOR Project page.
So, guys, these were the main differences between a Proxy and a VPN. We also learned about The Onion Router or TOR which gives us more anonymity at the cost of lower network speeds.
Leave a comment if you’d like to learn more about these things.