Proxy Vs VPN: Definitions And Differences – Forbes Advisor – Forbes

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VPNs and proxies both obscure your internet protocol (IP) address, making it seem as though you are browsing from a different location. However, while they may have some similar benefits (like spoofing your location so you can override location-specific content restrictions), there are also some key security differences.

Proxy vs. VPN

What’s a VPN? What’s a Proxy? How do they work? Which option is the best for my needs? Here are the answers to all of your questions.

What is a VPN?

A VPN obscures your IP address across all applications by bouncing your data to a different location many miles away. This process makes it seem as though you are browsing from somewhere else. VPNs are helpful tools for both identity protection and getting around regional content blocks.

During this same process, a VPN encrypts your data, converting it into a code and protecting sensitive information like online banking account numbers, confidential work material and other documents. VPNs are used by millions of consumers around the world for their affordability, effectiveness and ease of use.

What is a Proxy?

Like a VPN, a proxy obscures your browsing location, allowing you to watch regionally restricted content and hiding your IP address. A proxy bounces your activity on a single application to a proxy server in another location and makes it appear as though you are browsing from that spot.

However, unlike a VPN, a proxy doesn’t encrypt your data. This means that, beyond a simple IP spoofing process, your data will still have identifying information that might be easily stolen by internet snoops, such as your name and other sites that you visit. Proxies have fewer built-in security measures than VPNs and won’t protect your data or identity.

Moreover, a proxy is downloaded to obscure your IP address on a single application like an internet browser, while a VPN’s protection is applied across your entire device. If you move into a new browser or app while using a proxy, its IP-masking will end.

As such, there are different types of proxies for different computer applications:

  • An HTTP proxy works on web browsers, which can be useful for protecting your IP address and accessing regional content while browsing the internet.
  • A SOCKS proxy can be downloaded to specific applications that you use like a Wi-Fi connected video game.
  • A transparent proxy is something a person is unlikely to install but may be used by an employer to monitor browsing activity and block certain sites. It may also be used by a business to authenticate users—for example, before you sign into a Wi-Fi network—you may have seen this when logging into your local coffee shop’s Wi-Fi.

Proxies are useful for these purposes, but security-minded users will likely want to go with a VPN.

Why Should I Use a VPN?

There are multiple reasons for using a VPN. First and foremost, VPNs can be used for internet security. Not only does a VPN hide your online identity, it also encrypts your data. If you are browsing on a public Wi-Fi network, where security isn’t guaranteed, a VPN is one way to protect your sensitive data from hackers and thieves. This is useful for everyone, whether you are a small-business owner or just browsing social media in your spare time.

If you are browsing on your own network, a VPN is a great way to protect your own ISP, or internet service provider. While it may seem paranoid to protect your data from Comcast or Spectrum, these companies are legally allowed to sell your data to other companies and even your own government.

VPNs also allow you to bypass content restrictions, browse confidential work documents off-site securely and generally can protect all of your smart devices under a single plan.

Why Should I Use a Proxy?

A proxy provides much less security than a VPN. However, it still can be used as an initial data protection step, as proxies do blur your IP address. Proxies are also great tools to get around content restrictions, so you can make it easier to watch and read anything on the internet in any location, even if it’s region-locked in a different part of the world

Ironically, proxies are also great tools to limit content. If you are an employer, proxies installed on company laptops can stop employees from viewing certain sites during and after the workday.

Is a Proxy or a VPN Better?

A VPN has a larger capacity to protect your data across multiple applications and multiple devices than a proxy.
If you plan on browsing on a public Wi-Fi network, have multiple smart devices, work with sensitive data that needs encryption or need protection across multiple applications, then a VPN is your best bet.

However, if you simply want to watch a regionally gated television episode at home and don’t care about protecting your data from your own ISP, then a proxy can help you do that.

Most publicly available proxies are free, while premium VPN services can cost $10 to $15 per month. There are some free VPN services, but we recommend paid services that won’t sell your data or run malware-ridden advertisements in their product.

VPNs generally offer faster internet speeds, as the paid VPN services have worked hard to maintain quick speeds despite both spoofing your location and encrypting your data, while proxies can sometimes slow down your applications.

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Bottom Line

For maximum security, a VPN is a better investment than a proxy. It offers the same IP-spoofing capacity while better protecting your data from criminals, ISPs, governments and companies alike via encryption and full application coverage. While you may have to pay more for the service in the short-term, it will provide long-term peace of mind and security.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are VPNs and proxies legal?

In the United States, proxy and VPN usage is completely legal. In other countries like China or Russia, use is banned or heavily regulated. Check the laws of the country you are browsing in before using a proxy or a VPN.

Which is better: VPN or proxy?

VPNs offer more security protection than proxies as well as quicker speeds and full application coverage. However, VPNs will cost more than proxies.

Can I use a VPN and a proxy at the same time?

Yes. Running both a VPN and proxy at once is possible. However, running both can slow down browsing speeds, so most prefer to use a VPN alone.

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