These days privacy on the internet is a touchy subject. A lot of people feel that their rights are being violated when someone else tracks their activity online. Private parties, site owners, and even federal authorities are tracking internet users every day through a variety of sources. There are ways around these tracking tools but it might take a little practice to use them effectively. The first step is knowing what tools are out there are what they do. One of the most popular tools is the TOR browser. This browser uses layers of computers to make requests online and passes the data through nodes. Hence the name, The Onion Router.
Using a special browser isn’t enough. Even layering requests through several nodes can’t keep some people from gathering IP addresses, data, and other personally identifiable information. When it comes to transferring data a virtual private network is best. When accessing sites that shouldn’t collecting IP addresses (the reason why we say shouldn’t is because there’s no way to be 100% certain), a proxy is recommended. These two tools work completely differently and it’s important to know the difference between proxy and VPN. By mastering the use of these tools, most internet users should be able to avoid detection and prevent private data from being stolen by unscrupulous site owners.
What Are VPNs?
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a private network created over a larger network such as the internet. By creating a sort of tunnel through the internet network administrators can give users permission to access the network. This allows a secure connection with optimal speed and unparalleled security. This type of direction connection is least vulnerable to attacks and often goes without detection by malicious software.
For an extensive explanation of VPNs, check out the video below:
What Are Proxy Servers?
Using a proxy is like borrowing someone else’s internet connection to access a website or service. There are lots of reasons to do this but all that matters is that the server is fast. The biggest pitfall of proxy services is that speed is often at a premium. Region locked services such as Netflix won’t grant some users access. A proxy makes it possible for users to bypass a region lock but without a fast connection, they won’t be able to stream high-definition media. For streaming media if it comes down to a choice between proxy vs VPN, a virtual private network is much faster and more reliable.
To learn more geeky details, watch the video below for more on proxies:
Privacy vs Security
Some users might ask about the benefits of a personal VPN and proxy for torrenting. A VPN isn’t needed for torrenting since files are shared over the network anyways. Proxies for torrenting can be found for free and will most likely provide enough privacy. If users, however, are worried about the possibility of being tracked by their IP, the best option would be to go with a VPN since it effectively replaces the user’s IP with the VPN servers. Hiding an IP address is important in case the law enforcement decides to track the users of a torrent service.
Users decide to start taking precautions online for their own reasons and there are different tools for each user. For those who just don’t feel like sharing their browsing habits with advertisers and online snoops, the TOR browser will probably be adequate. This browser is like a series of proxy servers that make a request on behalf of a user. This method can prevent hackers and snoopers from collecting data on someone’s browsing habits. A proxy server can be used in conjunction with the TOR browser for additional security but both methods are rarely needed together. Virtual private networks are very secure connections but they are mostly useful for file sharing or direct communication. There are many different tools available to maximize privacy online.
Staying secure online is a little different from staying below anyone’s radar. There are lots of malicious programs and websites out there. Using tools to prevent detection doesn’t protect against viruses or other malicious software. Security software is a good start for protection but some of the latest viruses can get around even the best anti-virus.
VPN vs Proxy vs TOR: Which One Is Better?
For the typical user, a proxy server will do just fine for browsing and even sharing smaller files. Whenever the choice is available, a VPN is still preferred for file sharing due to stronger IP protection. Larger files are much easier to share over a direct connection. Depending on the local internet connection download times could be much faster. More importantly, the connection is much more secure. Since both computers are trusted there is little chance of virus or malicious software infections. The biggest VPN vs proxy difference is speed. This means proxy servers are best for anonymous browsing and occasional downloads. The needs of the user will ultimately answer the question of whether to use a VPN, proxy, or Tor, or combination of the two.
The best choice depends on the needs of the user. No matter what, users should have an effective security program before connecting to any network. With all the tools available no one should have a problem staying safe and anonymous online. Using the TOR browser is always a good start. When combined with a strong internet security program most users are adequately protected against online threats. It’s important to avoid sites that are flagged as dangerous or malicious. A good anti-phishing program can help with this. There are also lots of tutorials available for free for those who aren’t sure where to get started.