Heard of the term VPN proxy and got confused? We understand. The two terms are mixed up all the time, sometimes for marketing purposes. The reality is, they have separate definitions and there are distinct differences between a VPN and a proxy. Furthermore, the term isn’t mentioned with every VPN provider, making it seem like a rare feature. That’s not true. It’s either that VPN services don’t need to, or don’t have enough interested users to justify investing in network equipment. Don’t fret, you’ll understand what we mean by this shortly. Let’s get into what is VPN proxy.
VPN proxy vs. regular proxy
VPN proxy is a regular proxy with some VPN features. The biggest difference has to do with security. You see, when you connect to a regular proxy server, your real IP address, identity, and the location is hidden. However, the Internet traffic between your network and the proxy server can be intercepted and spied on, which is why you people use a VPN. Additionally, you will be limited to using HTTP, FTP, and SMTP unless the website has a license, just like a regular Internet connection.
VPN proxy bridges those gaps by adding encryption. The most common choice is using SSH (Secure Shell) or its successor, TLS (Transport Layer Security) network protocols. They can force all Internet traffic to be routed through HTTPS, SFTP, or SMTPS. Some providers choose to implement a 256-bit AES encryption, which is an industry-standard for VPNs, on top of SSH/TLS.
VPN proxy features
Here are some of the features of VPN proxy:
Only works in one application
Just like a regular proxy, a VPN proxy only works in an application it is applied in. The most common application for that is Internet browsers, multiplayer games, torrent clients, or streaming apps. Any traffic sent or received outside of that application is vulnerable and uses your real IP address.
This is a VPN feature that allows you to choose which app to route through a VPN tunnel, and which to route outside of it. And we’re not talking about the fact that it can only be applied to one application at a time. VPN proxy supports split tunneling inside the app it is deployed in. For example, you can choose which tabs will use a VPN proxy. So, you can hide your identity and watch Hulu on some tabs while visiting your local online bank’s website with your real IP address in another.
Because it lacks some security features available to VPNs, VPN proxies cause a small reduction in download/upload speed by increasing TCP or UDP throughput and are ideal for gaming or streaming. Hiding your P2P transfer is also possible, as we mentioned above. However, people usually buy a VPN for unlimited bandwidth and data usage.
Automatic cookie cleaning
If applied in a web browser, VPN proxies can track web requests and clean cookies that can leak your real IP address and thus identity and location.
Hosted alongside VPN servers
VPN proxy servers are usually hosted in the same datacenters as VPN servers, and often on the same machines. However, they need to be configured differently, and VPN providers rather use the space for VPN servers for monetary reasons. For that reason, VPN proxy is often offered for free (with huge privacy risks) or bundled with a VPN subscription.
Where is VPN proxy used?
There are two of the most common practical applications of VPN proxy:
The majority of VPN browser extensions are VPN proxies. Those offered by reputable VPN providers, such as NordVPN for Chrome, have advanced features but are still less secure than their dedicated VPN apps. Free ones are usually community-driven, like Hola VPN for Chrome. If offered by companies, they rarely have a no-log policy and offer their service in return for your private data. That data is sold to third parties for advertising or data research and used to cover the operating cost and make a profit.
The most popular iteration of this VPN protocol is SOCKS5 or SOCKS version 5. It can be used for free, through an open-source application called Shadowsocks. Many VPN providers, as mentioned in our review of Hide.me and IPVanish review, offer SOCKS5 servers alongside their VPN servers. As mentioned above, it provides a perfect balance between speed and sufficient security. It’s also an excellent way to hide a VPN, especially in censored countries such as China, Russia, or United Arab Emirates, and thus bypass VPN blocks.