Question of the Month

Question of the Month

Dennis Snider

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Question: What is the difference between proxy and VPN?

Answer: When you look at network settings on computers or smart devices, you will frequently see options for VPNs or proxies. Both of them do pretty much the same thing, but they are quite different in the way they operate.

A proxy is a way of making sure that a website can’t tell who you are or where you are when you connect with it. Usually, when you browse the Internet, you connect directly with a website that sends its pages directly back to you. With proxies, you connect with a third party that sends your requests on to the website and send you back their response. This is useful for those who wish to browse anonymously, for whatever reason, and is also a way of bypassing content restrictions, for example accessing content that is not available in your own country. Proxies generally work extremely well, but you do need to remember that anyone operating a proxy can see exactly where your web traffic is going, so you have to be certain that the provider can be trusted. Additionally, it is not possible to encrypt the traffic between yourself and the proxy or the proxy and the website, so it could be vulnerable to hackers.

VPNs serve a very similar purpose to proxies and work in a similar way, in that all your traffic goes through another server which then goes on to your target website. However, unlike with proxies, a VPN encrypts and normalizes everything that passes through it, so that hackers can’t obtain your information. Additionally, many VPN services offer filters that act as an additional layer of security, blocking out malware, phishing expeditions and many other undesirable types of traffic. VPNs are definitely the most secure option if you wish to browse anonymously, and many services are either free or offer free trials.

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