In this article, we shall explain the meaning of VPN and proxy as they relate to internet security and also discuss the difference between VPN and proxy and when it will be necessary to use any of them.

Proxy Explained

The proxy acts as a ‘’middle man" or an intermediary, standing between your computer or device and the website. By default, when browsing takes place, your computer, smartphone, tablet, or any other device, is expected to liaise with the website directly through a direct and simple connection so as to download your desired files. This is the traditional procedure.

But when the proxy is applied, this pattern changes. What happens is that when you browse, your computer will direct your request or web traffic to the proxy server first. The proxy will now send your request to the website and download the required information and then returns it back to you.

One of the reasons this happens is because, since you intend to browse the internet,  anonymously, and you wouldn’t like your identity or location to be revealed, the proxy server will collect your identity or  IP(internet protocol) address and hide it. 

It will then send your request to the website making use of its own IP address and making it appear as if all traffic came from the proxy server and not from your computer. In other words, the proxy server acts as a middle man and hides your original IP address, and enables the website to see only the IP address of the proxy.

Another reason it does this is because of the need to bypass geographically- restricted content. For instance, you are in Nigeria and want to watch the USA Netflix, but the USA Netflix subscription won’t work in Nigeria. All you need to do is to connect to the USA Netflix server from Nigeria and it will appear as if you are streaming from the USA, and it will make no difference.

Proxy servers only work at the apps level. By its nature, it is only enabled to reroute the traffic coming from the app in which you’ve set the proxy. But it is important to know that the web traffic between your computer and proxy, and between proxy and website is not encrypted.

This denotes that it is vulnerable. A cyber hacker can intercept and steal sensitive information. Apart from this, the whole process that involves web traffic passing through a proxy is visible to the server owner. This makes your information to be at the mercy of the server owner most of whom cannot be trusted.

The Role of VPN 

‘’VPN”, as the name suggests, stands for a virtual private network. Like a proxy server, VPN can also hide your IP address and your location so that websites or ISPs cannot trace your original IP or where you’re located. While proxy is enabled to work at the app level, VPN is made to work on the operating system (OS)level.

Simply put, VPN functions as a proxy, but  VPN does not only work with single applications or websites, rather, it works with any site or app you browse. In this regard, whether your traffic is coming from your browser or from a background app, VPN can redirect all your traffic and make them anonymous, as it is not only restricted to single applications.

Like proxy, you’ll log into a VPN first if you want to access a website. The VPN hides your IP address and provides the address of your VPN provider. This will keep your identity hidden. With VPN, this privacy will remain intact even when you browse other websites and perform other online activities. 

But with proxy, this protection is only restricted to that app with which you have set it. VPN has the capacity to encrypt the online activities between the internet and your device. Even if your ISP is monitoring your activities on the internet and collecting your data, with VPN-enabled encryption, your ISP will not be able to see your online activities.

With VPN, you’re protected from the surveillance activities of the government and cybercriminals. VPN obviously has a unique edge on proxy servers because it can encrypt and route all your network traffic. VPNs do not only make your online activities anonymous, they also provide other premium offers.

Take SymlexVPN as an example. SymlexVPN does not only make your internet activities anonymous, it also ensures that traffic is meticulously inspected and filtered. SymlexVPN servers also scrutinize every request and block whatever that can be considered perilous, such as some websites that accommodate malware.

When your online activities are routed through a superior VPN like Symlex, fake websites and phishing scams become a thing of the past. Since SymlexVPN is one of the few VPNs that update their servers on regular basis, it is certain that you’re protected from unnecessary incursions by internet snoopers.

When it has to do with online activities and security generally, VPN is the best. Conversely, in terms of cyber security, VPN has some things in common with proxy.

What They Have in Common

Both VPN and proxy are meant to ensure that you browse the internet anonymously without hassles, by hiding your IP address and your location. Like proxy, VPN can hide your IP address so that websites cannot see your original IP or where you’re browsing from. Therefore, both of them protect the identity of users. Both VPN and proxy can reroute the internet traffic of users through a remote server.

What Makes Them Different?

Although  VPN and proxy servers can be said to have functional similarities, they  also have remarkable differences:

  • While VPN can encrypt your online activities, proxy servers cannot encrypt your internet activities, thus making it accessible to even the owners of servers.
  • Whereas VPN can protect you from hackers, cybercriminals, and government surveillance, proxies will not be able to protect you from these intruders. It is not advisable to use a proxy on classified information.
  • VPNs work on the operating system level and reroute your traffic, while proxies work on the application level and can only reroute the traffic of a specific app or browser.
  • Because VPN is designed to encrypt your data, this can make them be slower than a proxy. But there are other ways of increasing internet speed and connection of VPNs.
  • Quality VPN services, like SymlexVPN, are usually subscribed and paid for, but proxy servers are offered free.
  • VPN connections are more reliable, whereas proxy servers are less dependable because they’re not consistent as they usually fluctuate.
  • Whereas a proxy server can only redirect your requests and hide your IP address, a VPN connection can route and make all your network activities anonymous.

Types of Proxy 

If your interest is in proxy, then it’s worthwhile to know the types of proxy servers you will likely come across.

  • SOCKS5: This proxy server is good for use in activities like video streaming, file sharing, and online games. It’s pretty slower than the next type: HTTP.
  • HTTP: It is widely known because it’s good at bypassing geo-restricted sites. If you find yourself in a country with an alarming rate of internet censorship, HTTP is your best choice.
  • Transparent: Proxy servers, like VPN, are ideally used to unlock and get access to websites, but transparent proxy servers are rather used to block access to some sites.

You may go to a public mall, airport or hotel, and would like to surf the internet, but only to discover that you are not able to access some sites, for example, you’re not able to log on to Twitter. This happens because they are using transparent proxy servers to block these sites.

Parents and employers use it to monitor and control the online activities of their wards and employees respectively and restrict access to some websites. Hotels also use it to check the abuse of online activities.

When is it Necessary to Use a VPN or Proxy?

Which one to use between proxy and VPN depends solely on you and what you’re looking for. Assuming you just want to hide your IP address, you can go for either proxy or VPN. Either of these can serve the purpose. If your concern is about the speed of browsing, and you would like to hide your IP address just on a single app or website, then a free proxy server is what you need.

Conversely, if you just want to hide your IP address but you’re worried about cost, then go for the free proxy server where you can connect to a single site or app with file-sharing services. If your primary concern is to shield your online activities from cyber hackers and snoopers, the best would be to log into the internet through a VPN.

In this case, VPN can encrypt your web activities and make your browsing experience totally secure and private. What if your concern is to connect to as many sites as possible and still remain protected without being confined to only a single site app, you would rather go for a VPN.

Even if you have to spend some money to get fully secure VPN services, the value of the protection it offers cannot be compared to the loss you would have incurred if you’re private information was stolen by internet hackers.

Final Words

Both VPN and proxy protect your online identity by hiding your IP address, but VPN is better than a proxy. VPN provides privacy and security through secure VPN servers and encrypts your online activities.

Proxy just passes your request through a mediating server which absolves your IP address and impersonates it but does not offer any other protection. VPNs work on the operating system level to secure all your online activities. Indeed, VPN has an edge on the proxy.

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