Searching for ways to protect your privacy and to avoid blockages and censorship in the network, we often come across three concepts: proxy, VPN and Tor. The tools hidden under them are able to help both of them, but to a different degree and extent. They differ in the way they act, in security and in the degree of complexity.
In principle, all these three services serve the same and operate on the basis of similar assumptions, but their functioning and capabilities differ in quite important details. In this text, we will look at the proxy, VPN and Tor, compare them, analyze their pros and cons, and indicate in what circumstances it is best to use each of the tools discussed.
Proxy is a special server that redirects traffic and is located between the user's computer and the network. The task of such a server is to mediate network traffic between the user's computer and the Internet. When using a proxy server, before they go out to the network, they have to go through this server. Depending on its configuration, the proxy server can perform different roles and tasks. From the privacy side, proxy servers can work in two ways - forwarding user data ( transparent proxies ) or hide them ( anonymous proxies ).
The two main proxy divisions are:
- web proxy (HTTP and HTTPS) - is the most popular type of proxy servers that only support network traffic related to the use of websites, these types of proxies are very often blocked and banned by website administrators due to the spam that is generated behind through them
- SOCKS proxy - these are more advanced proxies that support more protocols (eg FTP, SMTP) and are thus able to provide slightly more security and anonymity in the network than web-based proxies
Proxies can be private , meaning only available after entering login and password, and public ones that do not require a login and are freely available for free.
Watch out for a free proxy
Unfortunately, free proxy is one of the biggest dangers that lurk for unconscious network users. If something is free, we should always think first of all why. In the case of free proxies, it is the acquisition of user data. Hackers and all kinds of cybercriminals run and make available free proxy counting on the fact that network users will use them and send data or log on to them using websites to bypass the HTTPS protocol (green padlock in the address bar). If this happens, the criminals will intercept all data that pass through the free proxy server without encryption. There is a reason why very many free proxies are on Chinese or Russian servers.
Advantages of proxy
- fast due to lack of advanced encryption (provided that these are private proxies)
- application limited to only a few protocols (eg HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, BitTorrent)
- they allow you to bypass censorship and page blocking
- usually free
- the proxy server owner can capture all unencrypted data
- they do not provide strong encryption
- have limited applications
- if they are public proxies, they can be very slow, on the verge of usability
VPN is a specific, complex and advanced form of proxy server. We have written a lot about it on 100VPNs.com, but for the purposes of this text we will briefly characterize the VPN. Detailed information can be found in the article in which we explain what a VPN is . VPN can be simply imagined as an encrypted tunnel through which the user's computer connects to the network. Encrypted, because all network communication during VPN connection is secured by strong cryptographic algorithms, thanks to which no third party has access to its content. Unlike a proxy, data transmission via VPN is based on special VPN protocols that provide high security.
VPN protocols are also the most difficult to block by Internet providers or authorities that want to censor the network. There is a reason why VPN is still the most effective way to bypass Chinese censorship .
With the help of VPN, you can secure the entire network connection - you can configure it on the router, computer or mobile device. Having a service from a reliable supplier, we will practically not feel (in a negative sense) that we connect to the Internet through an additional server.
Advantages of VPN
- simplicity and convenience of use
- strong network connection encryption
- provides great privacy
- allows simple hiding and changing IP
- gives you a lot of possibilities
- allows virtually any country to connect to the network
- provides all proxy capabilities while ensuring security and privacy
- a good VPN is a paid service
- there is a noticeable drop in speed when we connect through a heavily loaded server
- Free VPN services are usually dangerous and earn money on user data
Tor or The Onion Router is a global network of many independent servers (nodes) that allow anonymous use of the Internet. Tor nodes are maintained by volunteers and independent organizations. Tor repeatedly encrypts the user's connection and then redirects through several nodes, each of which decrypts one layer (hence reference to onions). Tor transmits encrypted communication between successive nodes. Each node decrypts one layer, up to the last one, which completely decrypts the message and forwards it to the destination. For increased security, you can combine Tor and VPN.
Tor is used with the Tor Browser browser , which is a modified FireFox adapted to use the onion network.
The track is free due to the fact that individual servers in its network are maintained by volunteers, unfortunately this is connected with the fact that we never know who is behind the node through which our connection goes, or behind the exit node from which the decrypted data comes out.
The main disadvantage of Tor that limits its use is its slow performance . Due to the fact that the connection goes through several nodes located in different countries with different bandwidth, this has a negative effect on speed. Because of that, Tor is only suitable for browsing or sending messages, and it is not suitable for watching videos or downloading files (which is also not welcome by the community, because it is burdening network resources).
- service completely free
- encrypted connection
- operates on the basis of open source software
- very large privacy protection, it is virtually impossible to track down the user using Tor
- network dispersed between many organizations and people, therefore difficult to block
- allows you to bypass the censorship of the network
- allows access to the so-called Dark Web
- very slow
- it is not suitable for bypassing regional blockades and using P2P
- you never know who manages the given Tor node
- using it is based mainly on the Tor browser
- connecting via the selected country is not as easy as using proxy and VPN
Proxy, VPN and Tor - comparison of features and functions
In the table below you will find a comparison of the most important features of proxy, VPN and Tor. For the purposes of this comparison, we have adopted the possibilities offered by paid VPN services, commonly available proxy services and the standard way of using Tor.
|No login activity|
|Avoiding strong censorship|
|Avoiding regional blockades|
|Protection of all devices|
Each of the tools discussed in this article can fulfill its role well, if we use it wisely. The most versatile and the same secure tool from the point of view of an ordinary network user is VPN. If you want to find a good service for you, then you can look at our current VPN comparison , where we took into account the most important functions and features of the best VPN providers.