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Whenever you give over personal information to a website or online service, you are entrusting them to keep it secure. However, as we have all learned the hard way, even the biggest corporations are vulnerable to determined cybercriminals. Most of us have had our personal data leaked at some point and to some degree. Services like https://haveibeenpwned.com/ enable you to check if your e-mail address appears in any databases of leaked and stolen data.
One piece of data – your IP address – is routinely shared with every online server that you connect to. Your IP address is like a virtual license plate, identifying your internet connection specifically. Anyone who wants to trace your online activity to a physical address would do so via your IP address.
Given how an IP address can be exploited to track and target an individual, as well as profile their connection, there is a growing interest in VPNs, proxies, and other techniques that can be used to alter or disguise an IP address. Each method has its own advantages, drawbacks, and ideal use cases. When deciding on the best method for hiding your IP address, there are a number of things you need to consider.
Why Do You Want to Hide Your IP?
There are several reasons that you might want to hide your IP address. Interest in VPNs and proxies spiked following the introduction of GDPR throughout the EU, after which many websites became inaccessible to users in the EU. Websites that are not GDPR-compliant have mostly chosen to block all incoming connections from EU IP addresses, leading many EU citizens to investigate IP-obscuring methods.
Similarly, services like Netflix and YouTube will offer different content to people in different regions. By switching your IP address for one from a different region, you can make these services treat you like a user in another country,
For these purposes, a VPN is a better option than a proxy. A VPN is also more secure than a proxy, assuming it is configured correctly. This is why VPNs are preferred by businesses who need workers to log in remotely and send and receive sensitive information.
There are also a growing number of people who want to hide their IP address in order to disguise automation activities. Bots and scrapers are an increasingly common market research tool, as well as being used to make automated purchases. For these kinds of activities, a residential proxy service is often preferred. These are proxy services that use IP addresses associated with residential properties. This contrasts to a VPN, which will use the IP address of the data center it’s located in.
Is Your Proxy Secure?
That’s not to say that a proxy server can’t provide a secure connection as well. When browsing the internet, you may have noticed that some websites used an HTTP prefix, while others use HTTPS. The extra S signifies that the HTTP protocol is using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which has become the standard for online encryption and security for a number of years now.
Using the SSL protocol enhances both the privacy and security benefits of using a proxy. An HTTPS proxy can even provide benefits when connecting to a website still configured to use the standard unencrypted HTTP. With an HTTPS proxy, communications between you and the server will be encrypted, meaning that even if they are intercepted, they still can’t be read.
The use of SSL also reduces the amount of information about your connection that the host is able to discern. This further improves your anonymity and protects against more advanced tracking methods such as fingerprinting.
Is Your Provider Trustworthy?
There are lots of options out there when it comes to choosing a VPN or proxy provider. If you don’t have any previous experience in this area, it can be difficult to know where to begin. However, with a little bit of guidance, it’s actually pretty easy to find suitable service providers; you just need to know what to look for.
First and foremost, you can immediately discount any free services. Providing the infrastructure to run a VPN or proxy service costs a lot of money. In order to cover their costs, these businesses need to make money somehow. If they aren’t making money from selling their services to you then there is a good chance that they are selling your data to other businesses.
It is becoming increasingly more important and increasingly more difficult to protect your privacy and security when browsing the internet. Many of us use public Wi-Fi networks, for example, but give little thought to how insecure our data is as it travels across these networks. By utilizing an HTTPS proxy or VPN, you can obscure your IP address and adopt the IP address of a server in another country. Whether you want to improve your privacy and security, or you want to circumvent geo-blocking restrictions, VPNs and proxies are rapidly becoming essential tools for any internet user.