Have you been wondering what the difference is between VPNs and proxies? Which one offers better protection and security? In this article, we look at the difference between the two, and which one offers the most protection.
The Rise of VPNs
As more and more of our world is ported online, the security and privacy of that digital world become more critical to all of us. VPNs are an attractive solution to all our security problems: a shield over our digital fingerprints and a way to conceal our actual IP address from systems and networks.
To assure their customers of utmost privacy, most even claim that they keep no logs of their users or their data. However, these claims are vague and sometimes don't turn out to be entirely accurate. Unless an extreme amount of care is taken, VPN IPs can be traced back to the user that connected to them. Few services will take the extreme measures required to ensure that this isn't the case. The alternative solution? Private proxies.
An essential factor to bring to the forefront is the different uses each service has. VPNs are exclusively meant to erase your online footprint. That's it. You connect through it to go to various websites or servers, and they (ideally) won't know the actual IP of who is connecting. It's as simple as that. Some might have additional perks, but they usually have a few hidden strings attached.
On the other hand, a private proxy shares the same purpose, with a few additional benefits. Not only are private proxies fundamentally more secure, but they can also come with specific uses without the strings that VPNs have on them. For example, if you're looking to use one for your social media account, you could find a proxy for Facebook. With a Facebook proxy, you can immediately gain access to the tools to upscale your account's traffic without accounts being traced or completely avoid geographical limitations by connecting from anywhere in the world. Your options aren't limited to Facebook proxies, of course. Services offer proxies specialized for all manner of different uses.
The word VPN stands for the virtual private network. The goal of a VPN is to offer a mediating network between the user attempting to connect online and the service that they're connecting to. This way, instead of seeing the user's IP address to track their activity, the network they connect to will only be able to see the VPN's IP address.
On paper, this is great. It would mean total anonymity for those that use them. And usually, this is true. There is a reason these services have become so popular, after all. However, one claim that many VPN providers make is that they run with no logs on user activity. This essentially means that they claim no connection can be traced back to a specific user in the VPN's stored data. For the most part, this is not the case.
VPN services can have their data and logs leaked or searched, and it's happened in the past. There is essentially no such thing as a VPN service that does not keep some sort of log-on user activity. But if you don't plan on doing anything illegal with their service, why should you care if there's the possibility that some employee could look through the records and find where you've used their VPN? That's the issue; it might not be an employee.
These services holding records of your data means that in the event of a hack or data breach, every use of their VPN service could potentially be traced to the website it was used for and the user that made the connection. This puts the total anonymity that these services promise at significant risk. VPNs provide many valuable features to their users. But 100% privacy? That's something they can't achieve.
Despite the popularity of the VPN, it still can't measure up to the security and anonymity of the private proxy. Proxies are large pools of unique IP addresses rotated regularly between users to ensure that IP addresses cannot be traced to specific users. They offer the same benefits as VPNs but with a far greater layer of added protection. Not only do they act as a middle buffer between you and where you're connecting, but they also strip individual data from each proxy once the user disconnects from it or once it is swapped back into the pool.
It keeps your IP entirely concealed and doesn't take a log of your activity with it when you go. As far as complete online anonymity goes, a private proxy is about as close as you can get. The quality of the proxy provider is also a major factor, as some do it better than others. But on a broader scale, proxies as a whole offer privacy that is leagues ahead of what VPNs can manage.
VPNs have a clear use in this new digital world. However, their widespread popularity keeps most users from realizing the flaws in what they offer. Flaws that superior services like private proxies don't have.