Due to the drastic increase in the number of internet users, there is always a threat to one’s privacy and internet security. There has also been an increase in the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots and public proxies that are free to use but are quite unsafe. Due to unsecure internet connections or proxies, there is a chance of data theft, leaked documents, unsecure email servers and whatnot. If you don’t want to reveal your identity and browse the web anonymously, two of the best options to choose from are SOCKS proxies and VPNs.
However, when it comes to choosing one of them, it can be a bit difficult. There is a slight difference between them which you must understand to make a decision.
What Are SOCKS Proxies?
SOCKS stands for socket secure and is an advanced and secure proxy. The SOCKS proxy uses a tunneling method for transferring data, which is a safe and secure method and doesn’t allow data to be traced.
Since SOCKS proxies aren’t smart and intelligent, they can’t interpret the data that is being transferred and thus, the user’s identity remains anonymous. A SOCKS proxy covers your IP address so that there are no geographical restrictions and the user can work past a firewall. This proxy is designed in such a way that it routes all the traffic through a layer or a third-party server, which allows you to change your IP address with some other location on the server.
The good thing about SOCKS proxies is that only authenticated clients can access them. They are also available in two versions, SOCKS 4 and SOCKS 5. SOCKS 5 is used for added security and supports UDP and IPv6.
In short, you can use SOCKS proxies to hide your identity and perform various functions on the web anonymously without any restrictions.
What Is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This network masks your IP address or identity so that anonymity is maintained. When a person uses a VPN, it connects the client to a VPN server and the data and information are passed through a remote server that is very secure. The VPN server encrypts all traffic so that privacy and anonymity can be maintained. If you want complete security and privacy, a VPN is the best option.
The process of encryption drops the speed, so you won’t get as much speed as with a SOCKS proxy. On the other hand, the VPN server completely encrypts the data, unlike SOCKS proxies, so it provides a high level of anonymity.
The data being sent is encrypted and the user is assigned a new IP address so that their address isn’t revealed to anyone. Furthermore, with a VPN, you can surf the web without worrying about the geographical restrictions or firewall. This protocol is a very secure one and many people prefer using it because of its great advantages.
SOCKS Proxies vs VPNs
SOCKS proxies and VPNs can hide your identity by masking your IP address, but both these methods differ from each other in some respects. Though they have similar functionality, if you want to choose one of them, you’ll have to consider the following factors:
Speed is an important factor when choosing a particular proxy as without good speed, your web surfing experience will be disappointing. With good speeds, you’ll be able to navigate smoothly from one site to the other and perform all tasks quickly. However, a drop in speed or lag can make you irritated.
SOCKS proxies and VPNs offer different speeds, but you will experience a drop in speed with both. Whenever you use a middleman to access the internet, the speed always drops as the data has to be routed through the middleman before it can reach the user.
If you’re getting SOCKS proxies from a quality and trustworthy service provider, you’ll experience only a slight drop in speed. This is because good companies provide enough bandwidth to their users so that there is no lag and users can get a smooth surfing experience. They also use the most advanced technology to make sure the speed isn’t affected.
VPN has the same issue when it comes to speed. When you use a VPN for hiding your identity or getting past a firewall, you are actually accessing a giant hub. Since there are many people connected to the hub, you might face a drop in speed, particularly at peak hours. A VPN could be faster at times when fewer people are accessing it, for example, in the early mornings. Thus, with a VPN, you might face slower speeds at peak hours but have no issues at other times.
If you want the same speed at all times, you must go for SOCKS proxies. They also provide faster downloads.
SOCKS proxies and VPNs provide security to the users as they let them mask their IP addresses and enjoy the web without revealing their identities. Both these methods allow the user to maintain their anonymity so that no one can trace their location or IP address. This means that with SOCKS proxies and VPNs, you won’t be using your IP address to connect to the servers. As a result, the servers will believe you are in some other location in the world and no one will be able to trace you.
Just like SOCKS proxies, VPN operate through the tunneling method, which is secure and allows the data to pass safely without being logged or detected. This tunnel can’t be penetrated or accessed by the proxy to reveal the user’s identity or interpret the data. HTTP proxies don’t function like this and connect via an open port, which doesn’t mask the IP address. Also, HTTP proxies are able to understand and interpret the data because they are smart. Thus, if security is a concern, SOCKS proxies and VPNs are the best option as they are the most secure.
As VPNs are built on the same idea as SOCKS proxies, they have almost the same level of security. However, in some cases, VPNs might not be as safe. Some VPN service providers allow logging of data and as a result, your data could be interpreted or revealed. With such VPN services, whatever you’re doing on the web could be used to identify you and even used as evidence against you. This happens mostly when someone is engaging in an illegal activity using VPNs.
The logging act can happen with both paid and free services, so it is advised to go through the fine print before using any VPN service so that any bad experience can be avoided. As a VPN is used for maintaining privacy, if logging is supported, there is no use for such networks. While this is common with VPN service providers, SOCKS proxy service providers don’t indulge in this, but there could be exceptions.
Thus, for security, SOCKS proxies are the way to go, provided that you make sure they don’t log anything. However, if you find a VPN service that doesn’t indulge in this practice either, there’s no security reason why you shouldn’t opt for it.
Some SOCKS proxy providers also have the right to sell your bandwidth whenever they want. Thus, it is important to make sure the service provider hasn’t included any such clause in the contract. If your bandwidth is used by someone else, it can be very dangerous from a safety point of view because you can end up being a victim of a DDoS attack.
Thus, while both SOCKS proxies and VPNs provide a high level of security, you need to make sure the service you choose doesn’t compromise on any aspect.
SOCKS proxies and VPNs are both available for free, but it is better to avoid the free services because of privacy issues. Free services can be slower and less secure as compared to the paid ones, so it’s better to go for the paid option. Overall, SOCKS proxies are a bit more expensive than VPNs and provide good value for money.
Which One Is Better?
It can get confusing when it comes to choosing one of the two options. There are different situations for each one, so your decision will depend on what kind of usage you want out of them and the factors detailed above. SOCKS proxies are mostly used for data scraping or for using social media tools, while VPNs are mostly used by people who want to hide their identity such as their location or IP addresses for surfing on the web. VPNs are highly effective if you want to circumvent firewalls or geographical restrictions, which don’t let you use certain sites.
You can use both types of options at the same time and have them set up on your system. If you want to use one of them, you can turn off the other. You can even use both of them simultaneously. SOCKS proxies and VPNs provide an extra layer of security that helps surf the web anonymously.