Many people assume that a virtual private network (VPN) is the same as a proxy. After all, they are both designed to mask a user’s Internet Protocol (IP) address, allowing for the circumvention of geoblocking restrictions while providing a higher level of privacy in the process. VPNs and proxies, however, use different technologies. If you’re thinking about using one, you should learn the differences between VPNs and proxies.

What Is a Proxy

Also known as a proxy server, a proxy is an intermediary device that routes an internet user’s traffic to the websites he or she visits. Rather than visiting a website directly, you can connect to a proxy. Once connected to the proxy, you can then visit the website while taking advantage of its IP-masking feature. Since the proxy performs traffic routing, your IP address will be hidden.

There are different types of proxies, some of which include forward, shared, residential and transparent. Regardless, they are all intermediary devices that route traffic on behalf of their respective users.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN is an application client that works in conjunction with an intermediary device to route an internet user’s traffic using an encrypted connection. It works in a similar way as a proxy. Whether you use a proxy or a VPN, your traffic will be routed through an intermediary device, which in turn will mask your IP address. With that said, VPNs are characterized by their use of an encrypted connection.

All VPNs use an encrypted connection. Encryption, of course, is a data security technology that involves the use of an encryption algorithm to prevent unauthorized users from seeing or deciphering data. When data is encrypted, it will be turned into a set of seemingly random characters. Only users with the corresponding encryption key will be able to read it.

Differences Between Proxies and VPNs

Proxies and VPNs are undoubtedly similar. They both act as intermediary devices by routing users’ traffic. The difference is that proxies typically don’t use encryption, whereas VPNs do use encryption.

Using a proxy can help you bypass geoblocking restrictions, but it won’t offer any additional data security benefits. Your data won’t be encrypted if you use a proxy. If you visit a compromised website, a bad actor could eavesdrop on your connection to steal your data. A VPN offers a higher level of protection by applying an encryption algorithm to your data.

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