Home / Uncategorized / Understanding SSL, VPNs, and Proxies

One major part about security, in particular online security, is understanding the various different options out there. Even the terminology can seem confusing.

For most people, it’s that confusion that leads to inaction when it comes to improving your cyber security.

So, let’s dig in and have a quick look at some of the various things out there and what exactly they mean.

First of all, SSL.

Recently Google made some changes that show “Not secure” in your browser when you are visiting certain websites. This is simply because the website is still using “HTTP” rather than “HTTPS”, and therefore doesn’t have a security certificate, known as SSL.

These websites are less secure, so if you are going to be giving them personal data, such as credit card information, then you may want to think twice and absolutely check that you are using a site you trust. In many cases, it doesn’t mean the site itself is untrustworthy or scammy, it just means that there’s an increased chance of them being hacked and someone stealing your data.

You’ll find that many sites that ask for your credit card details will actually send you to a third-party checkout cart, like Stripe, or Paypal, and those sites naturally have an SSL and decent security anyway.

But with that in mind, you may also find a SECURE site sends you to in INSECURE third party, so it goes both ways. Any page that you are entering your email address, your contact info, or your credit card info, make absolutely sure that you are on a secure page.

Now, what about VPNs?

A VPN or “Virtual Private Network” is like accessing the internet through a third party. You use your own internet company to connect to the internet, and then when you turn on your VPN, you are basically re-routing your internet through the VPN service. This means that you can do a few things:

1.) Mask your IP address

2.) Make it harder for your internet to become hacked

3.) Change your IP address to a specific country.

Number 1 and 2 is more of a security thing, where you are basically making it much harder for someone to hack your internet or see your browsing habits.

Number 3 is for situations where your country may be blocked from some services, and you want to trick those services into thinking you are based in a country that isn’t blocked. For example, maybe you want to use Netflix US but you are based in Canada…you can use a VPN to give yourself a US IP address and Netflix will show you the US version instead.

It should be noted that some of the stricter services like Netflix (or China) will be able to detect and block VPNs fairly easily though.

And Proxies?

A proxy has two real definitions. One definition is similar to a VPN, it’s a way of connecting to the internet via a “proxy” service and thus skipping firewalls or IP blocks. The other definition of a proxy is like a mirror website. A lot of these are for piracy purpose. For example, people in the UK can’t access The Pirate Bay, so they’ll use a pirate bay proxy site instead. These sites basically scrape the real PirateBay and create a cloned version of it on a different non-blocked IP address.

So basically a proxy either makes YOU have a different IP address, or it makes a clone of a certain website and gives that the different IP address instead.

What Does This Mean To You?

You really only need to learn about SSL and VPNs, unless you are trying to download something illegally. Many people think VPNs are for illegal internet surfing too, but in reality they are just an added layer of security for many people, much like visiting an SSL encrypted site.

 
 

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