Our lives are basically online nowadays. From names, images, personal information, credit card info, and address, we have truly integrated a part of our lives online. Though this may be convenient and common nowadays, it also means that online security slowly becomes a priority and a must-have for everyone.
After all, you cannot just access the internet without having a bunch of third-parties become involved. For starters, you will have your Internet Service Provider (ISP), advertising agencies, and even social media sites. All of these have access to the data you type online and the activities you do while connected.
A recent example of this can be seen through Facebook’s scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Basically, they are being accused of using the data they store for their own reasons, the heaviest of which is targeted advertising for political campaigns and advertising agencies. This is done by monitoring the user’s online activities and tracks.
This goes to show that even the applications that may look harmless can still spy its users for profits or for gains. Along with this, the internet is also prominent for the viruses and the malware that lurks along its corners. Phishing scams and data-stealing may also happen if you happen to browse the internet without proper security.
What can I do to stop this?
To ensure internet anonymity and security, users have looked for different applications. Amongst all of them, two stands in particular: Proxies and Virtual Private Networks.
Let’s take proxies first, as they are simpler to understand.
Proxies serve as your internet’s gateway before accessing a website. By accessing their server, your internet address or IP will be hidden. Instead, your chosen proxy will show in the website which you want to access.
The main thing you would want to have if you plan to use a proxy is a change of IP address.
Types of Proxies
There are three types of proxies:
1) SOCKS Proxy
SOCKS Proxies allows users to have an authentication first before allowing you to access the internet. This allows your proxy server to be much more secure. Examples of these include Polipo, Socat, Shadowsocks, and Wingate.
2) Web proxy
3) Public proxy
It is a proxy that is used by many people and the one you might want to try if you are new to using it. They may be slower to use though as many people accesses it.
Pros and Cons of using Proxies
For proxies, everything is simpler. You only need to look for the application of your choice and your IP address is hidden instantly. It is mostly used for simple tasks like going through country-restricted content and security. If you want security for free, this is the go-to application.
However, because of their simplicity, proxies also contain a lot of possible security holes. It only changes your displayed IP address, and it does not prevent you from getting viruses or from being hacked. The proxy that you connect to, being used by many people, may also make you liable for online actions that may be traced to your proxy.
Another risk for using proxies is the risk of having a server that spies on its own users. You may put yourself at a worse scenario if ever you happen to use a proxy that does not respect the privacy of its users.
Aside from this, proxies also make your internet connection slower. It also does not encrypt your data, making it still accessible for hackers.
Virtual Private Networks
Virtual Private Networks, also known as VPNs, are applications that allow a user to go through a private series of tunnels before connecting to the internet. From the host computer, your data will first be transferred to a separate server which will then be sent to your targeted website.
With VPNs, you can show yourself to be coming from a country of your choice. For example, you can display yourself to be coming from Cape Town even if you are accessing the internet through Singapore.
Virtual Private Networks are often used if you want more anonymity.
Pros and Cons of using Virtual Private Networks
VPNs are generally very secure as its way of connecting to the internet goes through a lot of intricacies. It also offers a lot of servers, and depending on your chosen application, some of them reach up to hundreds to thousands, both digital and physical (even for just a single country!). VPNs are also secure enough as to be used for torrenting and breaking through Netflix’s area restrictions.
VPNs have both free and paid versions, and most often, the paid ones are better in terms of quality and customer service. VPNs also slow down your internet connection by a little. With the amount of security it gives you though, this one might be necessary. Some examples of free VPNs include Tunnelbear, Windscribe, and Hotspot Shield Free. Examples of paid ones include ExpressVPN, CyberGhostVPN, and SurfShark.
Which one is better?
In the end, VPNs take the cake if you want the one that is more secure and more reliable. VPNs makes your data encrypted, a big difference that sets it miles apart from proxies. In the case of a hacker breaking through your defences, your data will still be encrypted, and therefore, unreadable for them.
VPNs also protect all internet activities you do. You can secure your actions and choose a location of origin from other applications that use the internet aside from your browser.
Virtual Private Networks are for those who want long-term and reliable online security and anonymity. They give you all the functions of a proxy, but with better protection.