Before doing any tasks on the internet, there are a few things one should consider. The most common entities to look at are internet security and digital privacy. These two considerations are essential as they ensure you are prepared for whatever risks the internet throws at you such as threats and vulnerabilities. Internet security caters for mechanisms and measures put in place to deal with cyber threats. Digital privacy deals with ways that ensure your identity is not compromised when you are using the internet. Sometimes internet security and digital privacy go hand in hand to ensure you are optimally protected.
Recommended internet security levels can be easy to achieve but getting the right amount of digital privacy can be an intimidating task. For this reason, there are many services that make it simpler to achieve digital privacy. These services are anonymizers, and they include proxies and using a VPN. Below is a detailed analysis of both services.
What’s the difference between a VPN and a Proxy?
Both VPNs and Proxies offer anonymizing services and even security. To differentiate them in a better way, we’ll look at each one of them separately and how they work:
A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is an interconnection of servers and other VPN components that provide an encrypted tunnel through which your traffic passes to and from the internet. In a nutshell, it’s a service that hides your traffic from prying eyes and enabling you safe access to the internet.
How a VPN works?
As said earlier, a VPN (e.g. NordVPN, PrivateVPN) gives you secure and private access to the internet. It does this in two ways, using encryptions and hiding your actual IP address. For security, a VPN uses strong encryptions such as the AES 256-bit encryption, and this ensures your traffic is safe even when its intercepted by cybercriminals, government agencies, and even ISPs. Besides encryptions, VPNs also use protocols for more security and reliability. Protocols are standards that govern how communication is done in a network. The most common VPN protocol is the OpenVPN protocol. Its secure, reliable and it offers a faster VPN connection speed. Other protocols include L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2, SSTP and other proprietary protocols.
For privacy, a VPN employs some methods to ensure your digital privacy is intact including encryption. Primarily, A VPN masks your IP address, and this changes your identity on the internet. For instance, when you connect to a specific server, i.e. a US server, your actual IP address is masked, and the VPN assigns you a virtual US IP address. When surfing the internet, it will look like you are from the US (hence allowing you to access services that you otherwise would not be able to access e.g. US Netflix account). Other VPNs may employ additional features to ensure excellent levels of security and digital privacy.
Pros of using a VPN
- Strong encryptions hence better security and privacy
- Bypasses geo restrictions and censorships – you can watch Netflix US
- Unblocks almost all restricted content
- Faster connection speeds
- Good VPNs are somehow expensive
A proxy is a hardware server mostly a specialized computer that acts as a middleman between you and the internet. That’s, you access the internet via the proxy server – the specified server services all your requests.
How a Proxy works?
When using a proxy server, your IP address will be masked and it will seem like you are accessing the internet from the physical location of the server. Unlike VPNs, there are many types of proxies, and depending on which one you use, your internet security and privacy may or may not be at risk. Majorly they are classified into two broad categories into which other types of proxies fall in. The categories are public and private proxies.
Public proxies are freely available to the public and can be run by individuals or a group of people. Private proxies are not freely available, and sometimes a fee is required to join. Both public and private proxies may offer the other type of proxies which include, secure socket proxies (SOCK), encrypted proxies (HTTPS), unencrypted proxies (HTTP) and web proxies.
Pros of using a proxy
- Fewer compatibility issues, most devices support proxies.
- You gain server accrued benefits, i.e. speed due to caching.
- Unblocks restricted content.
- Can split traffic similar to Split tunneling in VPNs.
- Limited protocols; they only offer HTTP, HTTPS, and SOCKS protocols.
- You gain server disadvantages such as slowness and unreliability.
- Weaker security and privacy levels.
- The owner of the proxy can see your traffic – proxies lack zero logging policies
- Proxies can host malware and can be run by cybercriminals.
Why you should choose a VPN?
Apart from incredible levels of security and privacy, a VPN (e.g. Private Internet Access, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost etc) is more of a specialized service. This makes it more superior in bypassing geo restrictions, gain access to restricted content and even hiding your identity from prying eyes. VPNs also offer other features such as a Killswitch for more privacy and security, DNS leak protection, special servers and they have many globally dispersed servers. VPNs also offer more secure protocols, and they usually have a no logging policy which ensures your privacy is not compromised. With a VPN you can avoid some cons of a proxy such as malware, slowness, and unreliability.