Proxy vs. VPN: 4 differences you should know – Norton
Worried about your privacy when searching the Internet? Wondering if hackers, government agencies, or companies can track what sites you visit, files you download, or links you click?
You might be wondering if it’s time to sign up with a virtual private network (VPN) or proxy server to hide your location and internet-service-provider address from any snoops.
But be aware: There are significant differences between a proxy and a VPN. While both tools can protect your identity, only a VPN will encrypt your data as you browse the web.
This means that only a VPN can help hide your online activity from hackers, government agencies, and companies that might be looking to learn more about how you spend your time on the internet.
What VPNs and proxy servers are
Both VPNs and proxy servers are tools you can use to help keep your activity private when browsing the internet, sending emails, reading online message boards, streaming video, and downloading files. But both of these tools work in different ways.
A proxy server is a computer that sits between you and a server, acting as a gateway when you access the internet. When you connect to a specific website, video-streaming app, or file-sharing program from your laptop, tablet, smart phone, or any other device, you can first connect to a proxy. Once you do this, you’ll be connecting to the site or app through an outside host server.
There’s a clear benefit to this if you want to hide your identity. The website you are visiting — or the streaming service you are accessing or file-sharing site you are using — will only see the IP address belonging to the proxy server. It won’t see your address. This will keep your identity and true location hidden from these sites and apps.
There are different types of proxies. Here are three of the most common ones.
You’d use these proxies to access websites. You can also use this type of proxy to access geo-restricted content. For instance, maybe an online video is restricted in your region. You can use a proxy server to log onto the site hosting the video, hiding the fact that your original IP address is restricted from watching it. Keep in mind, this may violate the user agreement with your content provider.
These proxies don’t work only on websites. You can use a SOCKS5 proxy to access video streaming services, file-sharing sites, or online games. Be aware, though, that connecting to an app through a SOCKS5 proxy might be slower because free proxies can have less configuration options, support, and slower infrastructure.
You might have used a transparent proxy without realizing that. That’s the whole point. Employers — or parents, schools or libraries — might set up a transparent proxy as a way to filter user’s content when they connect to the internet or block users from accessing certain websites.
A VPN is similar to a proxy, but instead of working with single apps or websites, it works with every site you visit or app you access.
Like a proxy, when you visit a website after first logging into a VPN, your IP address is hidden and replaced with the IP address of your VPN provider. This keeps your identity shielded. But unlike a proxy, this protection will remain in place as you surf to new websites, visit online streaming sites, or send emails or download files.
You can access the internet through free VPN providers. But providers that charge for VPN access are less likely to share data with third parties.
How VPNs and proxies differ
Here are four ways VPNs and proxies are different.
1. VPNs encrypt your information
The biggest benefit of a VPN over a proxy server? With VPN enabled, your browsing and any data you send or receive, will be encrypted. This is important: It means that hackers, government agencies, businesses, or anyone else won’t be able to see what you’re doing when online.
Say you access your online bank account while using a VPN. Because your information is encrypted, hackers won’t be able to access your bank account numbers. The same is true if you log onto your credit card provider’s online portal: Because your data is encrypted, criminals won’t be able to snag your credit card number or the password you use to log onto the portal.
2. VPN providers promote online privacy
If you want total privacy, work with a VPN provider that has a no-log policy. “No log” means the providers pledge not to track and store your activity while you are using the service to connect to the internet. This means that these providers won’t have any data to give to anyone else who wants information about what sites you browse or files you share. On the other hand, a free proxy may monitor traffic and sell data to third-parties.
3. Free proxy connections can be slower
Both proxy servers and VPNs can slow down your browsing, depending on how many users are accessing these services. Free proxy connections however can be slower and less secure because of less support, less configuration options, and slower infrastructure.
4. You may spend more with a VPN
You can connect through free VPNs. However, many tech experts recommend going with a VPN provider that charges a fee because paid services often offer more data privacy, more secure connections, and more reliable performance. Security of free VPN can be unreliable, as many providers use only one VPN connection, called point-to-point tunneling protocol (PTTP). A paid VPN service, on the other hand, can offer users data encryption which is more secure.
Do you need a proxy if you have a VPN?
No. A VPN and proxy server both mask your IP address. But a VPN will also encrypt the data you send and receive, something that a proxy server doesn’t do. If you are already using a VPN, then, connecting to a website or app through a proxy server would be an unnecessary step.
What should you use, a VPN or proxy server?
When it comes to proxy vs. VPN and which one to use, the differences between the two might help you decide what’s the best choice for you.
If you want to hide your IP address, using either a proxy server or VPN will work. And if you’re worried about browsing speed, and you’re only worried about hiding your IP address from a single site or app, then a free proxy server will do the job.
If cost is an issue, then connecting to single sites, apps, or file-sharing services through a proxy server might be the smart move. It’s easy to find free proxy servers that will hide your IP address.
But if you want to keep your browsing activity hidden from snoops, logging onto the internet through a VPN is the better choice. Again, it comes down to encryption: VPNs encrypt your data while online. Proxy servers don’t.
If you plan to access several sites while online, especially if you’re connecting to sites such as your bank account or credit card portal, a VPN provides more security.
And while many of the preferred VPN providers will charge for their services, this price might be a small one to pay if it means that your most sensitive personal and financial information is shielded from the eyes of online snoops.
What’s The Difference Between a Proxy and a VPN? – Varonis
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If you’re security conscious, you might be thinking about setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a proxy server.
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Proxy and VPN Defined
Both VPNs and proxies enable a higher degree of privacy than you might otherwise have, allowing you to access the internet anonymously by hiding your IP in various ways. But how they do that is quite different.
A proxy acts as a gateway – it’s ideal for basic functions like anonymous web browsing and managing (or circumventing) content restrictions. Proxy servers excel at IP masking and misdirection, making them good for viewing geographically limited content. They allow users to bypass content restrictions and monitoring, or enforce website content restrictions – so that you can’t log into certain web pages on company time.
A VPN client on your computer establishes a secure tunnel with the VPN server, replacing your local ISP routing. VPN connections encrypt and secure all of your network traffic, not just the HTTP or SOCKS calls from your browser like a proxy server.
VPNs are great when you need to use the WIFI at a local coffee shop: using a VPN instead of the potentially completely unencrypted local WIFI adds another layer of privacy – who knows who is lurking on that network, just sitting in the corner sipping coffee and waiting to steal your credit card digits?
Proxy and VPN Drawbacks
If you’re using proxy servers to mask your internet activity, you might see performance issues that prevent you from streaming or downloading the thing you are trying to get. High ping times and other traffic on the proxy server can cause web pages to load slowly. For this reason, some users pay for a private proxy server which limits the number of users that access it, speeding up your connections.
Proxies are also vulnerable to security exploits: they can be open to attack, allowing the bad guys to infiltrate networks or steal private data. Some proxies can still track (and store) your browsing habits, as well as recording usernames and passwords – rendering that promise of anonymity null.
VPNs can also suffer from performance issues, depending on proximity to the VPN server you’re connecting with. VPNs use a local client to create the connection to the VPN server, so any local CPU or memory issues will slow down the connections. VPNs are typically more expensive to use (and maintain) than a proxy server, and they are often more complex to manage.
Just like proxy servers, VPNs can’t guarantee anonymity while browsing. Neither of these services will always encrypt your traffic all the way to the web server. A VPN only guarantees an end-to-end encrypted connection if you use the HTTPS protocol when you go to a new web address. Your data will be encrypted to the VPN, but from that point on, it could be unencrypted to the web server. For some sites, this may be irrelevant: an information-only webpage with no login or payment options for example, but for any sites that require a login or online payments – or any sensitive data – make sure the website is enabled to use HTTPS. Remember, the S stands for moderately more secure.
Proxy and VPN Benefits
The biggest argument to use a VPN instead of a proxy is the total encryption for all traffic you get with the VPN. Dollar for dollar, a VPN is more secure than a similarly priced proxy. VPN providers maintain their own networks and you use their IP addresses for your connections. The top VPN providers advertise a logless policy, which means they don’t have data to provide to anyone about your browsing habits.
If you’re an IT business owner charged with the security of data and users, there are advantages to both, and you likely have both configured for your company. For users in the network, you might route traffic through a proxy server to log web traffic, protect the organization from malware or other attacks, and enforce a web content policy.
When users are operating out of the office, you will want to use a VPN to create a secure connection to access the company resources (email, internal shares, etc. ).
Proxy vs VPN: Which is Right for me?
Privacy and security matter these days, regardless of if it’s your company data or your own personal data you need to protect. Make sure you’re investing time and money into the correct tools for your security goals: both proxies and VPNs add an additional layer of security and privacy to your data.
If you want to enable your team to work remotely with secure access to the company resources, set up and maintain a VPN users to access the network with the VPN.
If your concerns are more around “what websites are my users hitting, ” a proxy server is a better tool.
To get the most bang for the buck (and to protect your data as a security-aware citizen), sign up for a well-regarded VPN service. For the most part, VPN services allow you to use servers in different locations to work around content restrictions. If you need to use a free proxy server occasionally for that purpose as well, just be aware of the risks.
If you’re just starting to implement your data security strategy on an enterprise level, there are more complex attack vectors to account for. Insider threats, APTs, privileged account escalations – along with plain old social engineering – are just as dangerous to your data as an unencrypted data stream.
Neither a proxy nor a VPN will protect you from 100% of the cybersecurity threats your company will encounter: they won’t stop an insider from stealing personal data, a ransomware attack, or a coordinated infiltration effort.
Varonis Edge adds perimeter telemetry to security analytics – monitoring proxy, VPN, and DNS to help bridge that gap: you’ll be able to see when an attacker breaks through a VPN, get alerts when sensitive data is uploaded to external websites, more. See how it works with a 1:1 demo – and discover how Varonis helps secure your data from perimeter attacks.
Using VPN and Proxy at the same time – Super User
I have one program run through a proxy then turn on my vpn, will the
vpn “override” the proxy?
No, The VPN is more like a Network Adapter (or a virtual “network card” if you like). So if the VPN is on it is possible for the proxy traffic to go through the VPN (not the other way round – at least not when you do it on the same machine).
The case is, I want all my traffic to be encrypted over the vpn but I
want the speed of the proxy in this one program and still be encrypted
by the vpn, is this possible?
If you insist on using the VPN, then the final network speed that you get would be limited by VPN and the speed will be at slower of the two speeds (and in practice, the final speed you end up with will be much slower than either the VPN or the proxy alone).
Can I run this one program through the proxy and still have the
traffic encrypted through the vpn at the same time or will the program
using the proxy be unencrypted?
As I gave the example earlier, your VPN is like another “Network Card” (LAN Interface) except that its virtual. Thats the best analogy that I can give.
Therefore, you can use a proxy or even another VPN (tunnel within a tunnel) for all the traffic from your computer.
This is pretty much standard and we do it sometimes within larger organizations (for added security).
However the price you would pay with would be a drop in the speed of the connection, and this gets worse the more VPNs/Proxies you put in the way of the traffic.
So in other words, if are trying to add a proxy for “speed”, no, it will not solve the problem since the limitig factor will be the SLOWEST passage-way the traffic encounters in its way to the destination (SO if the VPN has a lower speed, it would not make the fact that you added a proxy to the setup, any faster).
Second question, any good program I can use to analyze my network
traffic so I can test this myself?
There are many tools. For a non-professional the easiest but at the same time, a tool that that would give you significant insight into the process would be Fiddler.
If you really want to dig deep, then Wireshark is one of the tools used by professionals.
You did not mention the platform that you are on, but here’s a list of other tools if you do not like the two tools that I mentioned above.
Frequently Asked Questions about is vpn a proxy server
What is difference between VPN and proxy server?
A proxy acts as a gateway – it’s ideal for basic functions like anonymous web browsing and managing (or circumventing) content restrictions. … VPN connections encrypt and secure all of your network traffic, not just the HTTP or SOCKS calls from your browser like a proxy server.Sep 28, 2020
Can I use proxy and VPN together?
Therefore you cannot use both proxy and VPN at the same time. … The VPN connection will grab all of your network traffic and route it to the exiting VPN server while at the same time, your proxied traffic will travel through your VPN tunnel, exit at the exit server, then connect to the proxy server you have setup.