While you might love to be online, how protected are you from the threats of hacking, snooping and surveillance?
Staying anonymous online and conducting your activities securely isn't as easy as it sounds. As many as 6.6 million people in the U.S. were stalked online in just a single year. As many as 21% of users reported to having their online or social media accounts hacked at least once. Privacy concerns in the U.S. have made as much as 74% of respondents in a study limit their online activity.
For organizations, losing out on privacy is a big risk factor, and as Pew Research Center found out, not many believe it’s possible to be completely anonymous online.
What Can You Do To Be Safe Online?
Proxies, the Tor network and VPN are some common ways to protect you online. However, how do each of them work and what are the advantages? Let’s investigate…
Proxies – The Different Types
Proxy servers are great if you want to hide your IP and remain safe online. The servers act as an intermediary between your computer and the web service you are trying to access.
- It redirects your traffic through the proxy server, both outbound and inbound.
- You can use it to hide your IP - the website you are trying to connect can see the request coming from the proxy server and not your IP.
- Access websites blocked by your ISP or government.
- You can use your web browser to configure a proxy and then use it to redirect your traffic.
There are 3 types of proxies you can use:
#1. Web Proxies
Great if you want to access HTTP traffic. Even if you’re behind a firewall, you can make TCP connections to servers located outside. Additionally, it can interpret and understand only HTTP traffic.
However, web proxies are sometimes incompatible with plugins and scripts and even blacklisted by ISPs – a reason it’s ideal only for basic web browsing.
#2. Socks Proxies
You can use socks proxies for different types of traffic, and it is more flexible than web proxies. You can use it with FTP for sending emails, downloading files and also for P2P, but be ready to experience a degraded speed.
Socks are not as fast as web proxies and also suffer from security threats. More cumbersome is the fact that you need to set them up for each application.
#3. Public Proxies
These proxies are available for free, and many people use it to overcome network restrictions. However, since they are free, they aren’t really as secure as you would want them to be - one can easily modify the html and send back malicious java scripts to you.
Expect your browsing experience to deteriorate with more users, and sharing personal information while on a public proxy is not a good idea. You never know who might be running the server and spying on you.
Things to Keep in Mind
So, what works for proxies?
- Proxy servers are best for basic web browsing.
- You can go for the free ones - unless you are doing something personal, like making online transactions.
- Unlock content restricted by location and also overcome network restrictions.
- HTTPS sites work great normally, since they are encrypted by default, but if it’s a public proxy, you can still have someone spying on all your activities online.
- Most proxy servers are not encrypted which means your data can be intercepted by third parties.
- Unless you know who’s controlling the proxy server, it could pose security threats as well.
- Unreliable and does not provide a stable connection all the time.
- Many websites block common proxy servers.
VPN – The Most Popular Method to Stay Safe Online
VPN or Virtual Private Network, a popular option, allows you to not only effectively mask your IP address but also to completely encrypt the internet traffic. As many as 41% of Indonesians use VPN when online, compared to only around 16% in the U.S. according to Statista.
Using VPN, you can connect to your web service using a server in another location - and make the request seemingly appear to originate from the other location.
- Your internet traffic is routed through the encrypted virtual tunnel of the VPN, and nobody can decrypt it - be it hackers or somebody conducting surveillance.
- The website you are visiting do not see your IP, recognizing the VPN server as the requester.
- Your ISP or network operator only identifies that you are making an encrypted connection.
Things to keep in Mind
So, what is it that makes VPN the more popular choice?
- It is far more secure and faster than proxies. It is generally a paid service, and you can be sure that a reliable agency or company is running the service.
- You can get a strong encryption and remain anonymous on the web.
- VPN providers offer additional services like malware and DNS leak protection, NAT firewalls and private DNS.
- Many providers go by the no-logging policy. This means they do not keep a log of the users and there is nothing to hand over to the authorities or the law enforcement agencies.
- You can effectively use VPN to route your connection over various servers across the world.
- You need to pay for a reliable VPN service.
- It increases the load on your computer and can make the processes and the internet traffic slower.
TOR – The Reliable but Primitive Way to Go Around
Not many are aware of the TOR or “The Onion Router” and how it can help protect your privacy.
First developed by the US Navy, it's now used by activists, whistleblowers and users from all over the world who want to break the restrictions and remain untraced.
An anonymization system uses the Tor network to relay your requests, and a free volunteer network makes more than 6,000 relays to hide your location – keeping you away from spying eyes. Here is how it works:
- The relays are made randomly through the Tor network which is spread all across the globe.
- The whole traffic remains encrypted while it bounces from node to node till it reaches the exit node or the last volunteer computer in the Tor system.
- There, it is decrypted and sent to the web service you are trying to access without revealing your personal details.
There is no single point where your safety can be compromised, and nobody can trace the activity back to you. It is like running through twists and lanes repeatedly in a bid to throw someone off the scent.
Each time the Tor network will adopt a random path and connect to different nodes. It does not take a direct route, and the multiple relays cover your tracks so that nobody can trace where the data is coming from or heading to.
Things to Keep in Mind
So, what works for TOR and what doesn’t?
- Masks the source of your activities thereby providing anonymity.
- The encryption makes sure no one is snooping on you.
- It is completely free to use and install.
- As Tor is an effective in keeping the users anonymous, it has also attracted a lot of criminal activities. Many governments are apprehensive of Tor users and maintain surveillance on them.
- It has also been compromised by hackers multiple times including the FBI.
- The numerous relays and bouncing make the internet speed slow. So it may not be suitable for sharing large files.
The Big Question - What should you use?
Proxies are best if you are looking to do some simple browsing – but even if it’s a Facebook or Gmail login that you’re looking at, we wouldn’t suggest you to go for a proxy.
Instead, you should consider a good VPN service which keeps you safe and also promises significant speeds.
Looking to get the best results?
You can VPN along with Tor for increased protection. It’s not needed if you have a reliable VPN provider. It’s more difficult than it sounds, with statistics stating that as many as 90% of SSL VPN’s are ‘hopelessly insecure’ - as it can significantly cut down speeds to a fraction of what they were before – making any downloads unviable.
However, Tor is compatible with VPN tunnels, and together they can be more reliable and secure.
If you are looking for the right reliable VPN services that can get the job done, look no more. We offer the best security services for you, and our industrial solutions are designed for all your needs.