VPN and proxy have many similar but they are not the same. Let’s find out the difference between vpn and proxy.
What is a VPN?
VPN is a virtual private network. VPN lets you connect to the Internet via a vpn server run by a VPN provider. All the data you send, searches you make and websites you visit is transferred between your device and the “VPN server” and it is encrypted. In particular, a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between two points over a network, one being the user and the other being the VPN server (the termination point). This network can include something as relatively small as a person or company’s private local area network (LAN), or the entire web.
A VPN is, essentially, a private network that uses a public network to connect remote sites or users, while encrypting all of a device’s internet traffic in the process, routing it through a middle-man server in a remote location, granting access to otherwise inaccessible network resources.
Why use VPN?
A VPN is predominantly used by the privacy-minded because it hides your internet activity from your internet service provider, as well as governments or spy agencies. In offices and schools, and even countries, which ban certain websites, VPNs can be used to navigate these restrictions.
A VPN can additionally be used to “trick” a website or service that you’re in a different country, known as “geo-spoofing.” For example, using a VPN to access the BBC iPlayer while abroad can trick the site to believe you’re still in the UK. Geo-spoofing will also let you see Netflix content not currently available in your region.
Elsewhere, a VPN can protect you from hackers when using a public Wi-Fi network and use peer-to-peer sites safely.
What is Proxy?
While a VPN’s primary function is to protect the information being transported by creating a secure tunnel between the end user, or system, and the VPN server, a proxy routes internet traffic through another networked device, typically a remote server.READ NEXT
“When people talk about proxies, in most cases they are talking about web proxies allowing access to the internet, where they provide anonymity to the user as all traffic is seen to originate from the proxy,”
David Kennerley, director of threat research at security firm Webroot told WIRED.
Both proxies and VPNs are used to conceal the end user’s identity, in simple terms this is concealing the user’s external IP address, which is often used to spoof geo-location information. However, there’s a significant difference between the two. Paul Bischoff, Privacy Advocate at Comparitech.com explains:
“A VPN hides what you do online from your internet service provider, and hides who and where you are (your IP address) from the websites you visit and the apps you use. A proxy only does the latter and does not necessarily hide what you do from anyone.”
For example, if you’re in a coffee shop using the public Wi-Fi on a VPN, no-one in the coffee shop, or any other intermediaries, will be able to see the information being sent between your device and the VPN server. Even people with access to the local Wi-Fi hardware will not have visibility. Whereas, this typically isn’t the case when using a proxy.
In most cases, the websites you visit will not know your geo-location as the VPN is keeping your data safe in transport. Proxies are not designed to protect the data being transferred between the end user and the internet, instead anonymity for the user is the main purpose. Web proxies are used frequently to bypass geo-location restrictions on streaming media, for instance.
Are they safe to use?
Despite being controversial, VPNs and proxies will protect your identity and improve your security defences when using the internet. If you’re using public Wi-Fi frequently, VPN solutions are becoming a must for consumers. Why? Bischoff lists the reasons: “Censorship under autocratic regimes, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, is growing [and so] country-specific content licensing isn’t expected to go away anytime soon,” he explained. “Government surveillance powers are getting more advanced, and the US Senate just passed a bill that will allow American ISPs to sell customer’s web histories and other collected data without permission.”
The corporate world has been using VPN technologies for decades as the safest way to access the corporate network when working remotely, such as an office intranet with files only available to company employees. They were later commercialised as a means to bypass censorship, improve online privacy, and unblock geographically restricted content.
Are they legal?
The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean everyone is happy with them. Organisations which rely on spying on users, unsurprisingly, ban them where they can. Netflix disapproves of them, and is clamping down on users who ‘geo-spoof’ to access extra content.