Proxy, VPN, and antidetect browser are all transit stations between the user and the target network, which directly transfers (or in an encrypted way) the user’s network access request, mask or hide the user’s real digital identity, enable the user to access the target network anonymously, protecting the user’s rights. It also achieves the purpose of eliminating geographical restrictions while maintaining privacy and security. Although there are similar functions in proxies, VPNs, and antidetect browsers, their principles of usage are different. How are we supposed to choose and use them to achieve security?
Proxy is a special network service and is generally considered to better protect the privacy and security of network terminals and prevent attacks. Proxy is divided into forward proxy and reverse proxy. We usually use forward proxy, which allows a network terminal (usually a client) to connect indirectly to another network terminal (usually a server) through it.
Proxy can be divided into HTTP, HTTP over TLS (HTTPS), Socks, Socks over TLS according to the protocol. Their operation principle is to allow users to send data to a proxy server (Proxy Server) first, then the proxy server forwards it to the destination server, achieving the purpose of anonymous access.
Using a proxy does not require the installation of a specific client. You can set the proxy address and port directly in the browser or app to create a connection to the proxy server. After the connection is successful, the proxy server will use the proxy protocol to send a connection request to the target network address or server resource.
Although you can hide the user’s real IP address through using a proxy, due to the difference in the type and protocol of the proxy used, your behavior data will not be encrypted and protected, but will also be saved as a log by the proxy service provider, which has a high potential security risk. Some agency service providers would also display their own advertisements, which adversely impacts the user experience.
VPN, short for virtual private network, is an encrypted communication technology that is often used to connect private networks between medium and large enterprises or groups. It uses the tunneling protocol to achieve sender authentication, message confidentiality and accuracy assurance.
To use the VPN, you need to log in to the client to obtain the license. Then, the VPN establishes a tunnel between the client and the VPN server and between the VPN server and the target network address through the tunneling protocol, and encrypts the traffic for transmission to achieve anonymity.
The VPN connection process is more complicated than the proxy workflow, but it is easier to use for the user as there is no parameter configuration. It just requires a log-in with the client. A VPN is highly secure because it not only assigns you an IP address, making it easy to be anonymous online, but also uses encryption technologies such as military-grade AES-256/128 and ECC encryption to protect all traffic and data. Any third parties such as institutions, governments, advertisers, network service providers, hackers, etc. cannot collect your real data. VPN service providers generally also adopt a zero-log policy and do not actively collect and sell user information. (Of course, a free VPN is not necessarily the case. It may record logs or push advertisements, so it is generally not recommended to use a free VPN.)
We may encounter the following situations in our daily Internet access:
1. Browse the specific information of a product on the website, but do not place an order to purchase, or even log in. However, when you used the same computer to visit other websites two days later, you saw many advertisements for similar products;
2. You have opened multiple accounts on a certain website. When you log in to these accounts on the same computer, even if you try to improve the authenticity of each account, and clear the cookies and local cache when switching accounts, or even restart the router, the website will still detect that these accounts are from the same user and ban them.
These situations occur because browser fingerprints record your information.
Browser fingerprint is a method of tracking web browsers through the configuration and setting of information visible to the website by the browser. Browser fingerprints are like fingerprints on human hands and have individual identification. The current browser fingerprinting technology also can track the hardware information of the device to identify the user’s identity.
For a website, getting a browser fingerprint brings no practical value. What is really valuable is the user information corresponding to the browser fingerprint, including the user’s operations and browsing records, especially for scenarios without a user’s identity. For example, on a website with content distribution, user A likes to browse two-dimensional content, and his browser fingerprint would record this preference. When user A visits the website on the same computer next time, the website would also push the content of the second element to user A even without him being logged in. Since personal PCs are so popular, this is also an important way for sites to distribute content.
Browser fingerprint is a combination of the characteristic information of many browsers, and the information entropy of the characteristic value is also different. You can view your browser fingerprint ID and basic information on this website: https://fingerprintjs.com/demo.
The fingerprint information often detected by the website is as follows:
● User agent strings for each browser
● HTTP ACCEPT header sent by the browser
● Screen resolution and color depth
● System time zone
● Browser extensions/plugins installed in the browser, such as Quicktime, Flash, Java or Acrobat, and the versions of these plugins
● Fonts installed on the computer, as reported by Flash or Java.
● Whether the browser can plant various cookies and super cookies
● The hash of the image generated by the Canvas fingerprint
● The hash of the image generated by WebGL fingerprinting
● Whether the browser is set to “Do Not Track”
● System platform (eg Win32, Linux x86)
● System language (eg CN, EN-US)
● Whether the browser supports touch screen
After obtaining this information, the specific information entropy of the browser fingerprint and the uuid of the browser can be obtained through calculation. For users, establishing a link between personal online behavior and browser fingerprints more or less violates personal privacy. The best way to avoid browser fingerprinting by websites is to use an antidetect browser.
The rationale of the antidetect browser is very simple. It randomly generates different browser fingerprints to cover up the original real fingerprint information and help users access the network safely and anonymously.
AdsPower can provide an isolated browser environment for account management, allowing users to customize various information of browser fingerprint such as User Agent, font, proxy (IP address), etc., to avoid being banned due to the association between multiple accounts.
Summary of comparison between proxy, VPN and antidetect browser
They can be compared to the following for a better understanding :
Proxy: It is understood that the document is directly handed over to the courier, the courier takes the document to the destination and returns from the destination with the document.
VPN: You put a document into a safe and ask a courier to take the safe to the destination, then the courier returns with another document in the safe.
Antidetect browser: Putting on a mask or changing your outfit, and using another mode of transportation to get your data back at the target location.
How am I supposed to choose ?
There is no standard answer as each has its own advantages. Please choose according to your needs.
Proxy is faster, VPN encrypts data, and antidetect browser provides more anonymity.
All anonymization tools can come in use, and the one to be used depends on the user’s purpose, budget, and tasks to be performed. In some cases, you can even use them together.
For example, you can use the AdsPower browser to create different browser environments, while each one corresponds to different fingerprint information, which then binds different proxies, achieving the purpose of fast and anonymous access.