What is a VPN? What is a proxy?

Last updated on January 9th, 2024

What does VPN mean?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This is a service that makes you anonymous on the Internet by encrypting traffic from your device and hiding your IP address. To use a VPN, you need to install VPN software on your computer or other device.

What is a proxy server?

There are other, simpler way to surf the web anonymously than installing a VPN. You can use a proxy server for anonymous browsing. A proxy server is somewhat similar to a VPN. When you use a proxy server, you also get a new IP address, i.e. you can visit a website anonymously. You can use an online proxy service or a browser proxy (some call it a browser VPN).

Online proxy

You can find proxy servers for anonymous browsing online in the form of web pages. These pages have a field where you must type the web address of the site you wish to visit anonymously. Two online proxy servers can be found here:


Browser proxy

You can also use a proxy server as an add-on to your browser. It is also called a browser VPN. If you use the Mozilla Firefox browser, you can add a free proxy extension for anonymous browsing. One of the popular free proxies for Firefox is CyberGhost VPN Free Proxy. Open the Firefox browser, go to https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/cyberghost-vpn-free-proxy/ and add CyberGhost VPN Free Proxy.

Another way – click the Menu button in the top right corner of the Firefox browser, select “Add-ons and themes” and search by keywords CyberGhost VPN Free Proxy. After adding the CyberGhost VPN Free Proxy extension, its icon will appear in the top right corner of the Firefox browser. Click on the icon and select a country name. That way, your traffic will be routed via that server in that country and you’ll get a new IP address.

Another easy way to get a free VPN for your browser is by installing the Opera browser. This browser has a built-in VPN. Download the Opera browser from https://www.opera.com/download and install it in a few clicks. Open the Opera browser, click the Menu button in the top left corner and select Settings -> Privacy and security -> Enable VPN.

Note that with VPN from the Opera browser and with the CyberGhost VPN Free Proxy extension for Firefox, only traffic through your browser will be anonymized. Also, proxies do change your IP address, but they don’t offer a high level of security and anonymity. To anonymize traffic from your entire device, you need to install a VPN on your device.

What is the difference between a VPN and a proxy server?

Unlike a proxy server, a VPN is a more complex service. If you just need to visit some websites anonymously, then a proxy server can be a good solution. However, if you want a higher level of security and anonymity, where all traffic on your device is anonymous and encrypted, then the solution is to use a VPN.

How do VPNs and proxies work?

VPNs and proxies route your internet traffic through a server and thus hide your IP address and geographic location. For example, if you are located in Italy and choose to connect through a VPN server located in the Netherlands, then you will receive a Dutch IP address. Then, when you visit a website, from the point of view of the site you are visiting, you will be located in the Netherlands, not Italy. I.e. the VPN server and proxy server act as an intermediary between you and the page you are visiting.

How to find a free VPN?

There are many free and paid VPNs on the internet. One of the free VPNs is ProtonVPN – download it from https://protonvpn.com/free-vpn/ (you need to create an account first), install it, click the ProtonVPN icon and select a country name. This way your traffic will be routed through a server in that country. Another free VPN is Hide.me – download it from https://hide.me/en/software/windows/download. ProtonVPN and Hide.me also have paid versions.

How do I know if I’m browsing anonymously?

There are many services on the Internet that can show your IP address, for example:

https://whatismyipaddress.com/ and many others.

Open any of the above pages and check what your real IP address is. Then open the same page through a proxy or VPN to see how your IP address has changed.

Are VPN services secure enough?

Note that free VPNs have traffic limits. In addition, some of the free and paid VPNs keep logs of user data (browsing history, real IP addresses, etc.). This data may be given to a third party, for example if the data is requested by a government agency. So some of the VPN services, both paid and free, do not offer a high level of security and anonymity.

Is it a good idea to use the Tor browser over a VPN?

Turning on a VPN and then browsing through Tor seems like a good idea at first glance. It looks like you’re getting even better protection. However, this is actually a bad idea. First, Tor is generally slow, and Tor over a VPN will be even slower. Second, using the Tor browser over a VPN can make your anonymity on the web worse rather than better. In short – it is not recommended to turn on VPN when using Tor.