We are connected to the Internet most of the time. The more we use the Internet outside of our homes, the more we forget to pay attention to a key aspect of online browsing: security. Your data should remain yours. And you need to protect it.
Why am I saying this? Let me enlighten you!
As soon as the slightest Internet signal reaches your device, you are exposed. The leaked data starts with your IP address and your location and continues with the websites that you access. Or, even worse, very personal information like passwords or bank account details. VPNs and proxy servers are two solutions to enhance your online security while browsing the Internet. What are the differences between them? What is the best solution for you? Let’s find out.
Understanding Proxy Servers
Before digging into the subject, you must rest-assured that the proxy technology is not meant for tech-savvy/online gurus only. On the contrary, the whole principle is super-easy to understand and apply in your daily online routine. A proxy server acts as an intermediate between you (your device) and the website you are visiting. Thus, by using a proxy server you do not connect directly to the website. Consequently, the visited website does not see your real IP address, but the IP address of the proxy server.
There are several benefits to this behavior: by using a proxy service you may unblock restricted websites, get access to forums where you were banned, change your virtual location, and check offers from foreign shopping sites.
The privacy advantage of a proxy is that it hides your IP address.
Just like the proxy, the VPN comes in handy whenever you need to add a pinch of online anonymity to your connection. However, compared to proxy technology, VPNs bring a major improvement to your connection – military-grade encryption. So, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) works on a similar architecture as a proxy. It also acts as intermediates between you and the website you visit. Your data passes the server (VPN server in this case) and it is redirected to the destination.
However, the way data is handled by the VPN server is the main difference between VPNs and proxies.
When a VPN is turned on your mobile device, laptop or desktop, a tunnel is created and your data leaving the device is encrypted and sent to the VPN server. Then the data is decrypted and sent to the destination website. From the security point of view, the data encryption provided by the VPN tunnel is essential.
An important note: you should always test your VPN connection and make sure it works as expected. If the VPN does not work properly, even it is on, your data is not protected!
Proxy vs. VPN
By construction, a proxy does not anonymize your online activity while your data travels from you to the proxy server. Thus, anyone (your ISP, hackers) may intercept your data and see what you are doing.
By contrast, the data that is passed through a VPN channel is secured from the moment it leaves your device. Not even your ISP is not able to see what you are sending over to the VPN server.
Proxy server benefits for online security
A proxy offers some basic privacy protection as it hides your IP address.
Proxies are not the best option when it comes to securing your online activities. However, they are great for performing some sensitive activities, like watching Netflix shows from another country.
VPN benefits for online security
VPNs are the way to go if you are serious about protecting your browsing and downloading activities. A VPN offers a secure and anonymous connection with added layers of encryption.
Besides the protection granted by the data encryption, a VPN exposes additional security features like private DNS, NAT firewalls, or DNS leak protection.
Online shopping, connecting to your online bank account, sending personal information over a public Wi-Fi connection is safer while using a VPN. Even if good VPN services are not cheap, you will find out that VPNs are a worthy investment.
Conclusion – Proxy or VPN for online security?
When you get out of your home and connect your devices to various WiFi networks (public or private) you are exposed. Your data passed unknown routers and servers and it can be logged and processed. Hackers may steal and use your valuable data.
Securing your online connection while connected to unknown WiFi networks is mandatory. And the best solution is provided by a VPN. The data encryption is what you need to keep your data secure.
Using a proxy is useful when you need a quick solution for unblocking websites or getting around geo-restriction, and there is no private data involved. In all other cases, VPN is the clear winner for securing online activities.