Browser-based proxies only work in the context of your browser. All other non-proxied actions (such as Skype, et al) will be performed in the context of your ISP.
Here's a better explanation:
- You use a browser-based proxy for web-surfing. While surfing, if the VPN actually works correctly, you will appear as the proxied address. For example,
- You don't use a proxy to connect to anything else. You will appear as what your ISP designates you as. For example,
c-13-333-33-37.hsd1.ca.comcast.net (fake address) when playing games / Skyping / et al.
I understand that they re-rout your internet traffic through different secure servers making it difficult to track and intercept but what is actually happening?
Here's a dumbed-down version of what's happening:
- You connect to your VPN before sending a request through an encrypted connection.
- Your VPN receives the encrypted content, and decrypts it. If you're using HTTPS, it will be preserved. Remember, you're just encrypting the data to and fro. A man-in-the-middle attack is possible.
- Your VPN connects to the website, and sends the request you asked for.
- The website returns the data to the VPN.
- The VPN encrypts the traffic, and sends it back to you.
Does hiding behind proxies protect you?
Using a browser-based VPN plugin can betray you if you have Flash, Java, or even other plugins installed. Anything that can get read/write access to your file system will betray your presence.
There has also been a recently-discovered exploit that affected users of private internet access, a VPN provider.
It's also not that difficult to track you online, even if you're behind a bunch of proxies. Why?
- Surfing with Flash Enabled
- Become a victim of Java exploits, or even legitimate Java programs.
- There are multiple tricks to reveal your network interface / computer hardware information. Unique serial numbers on devices are a thing, and this is one of the ways Microsoft attempted to thwart piracy, only to affect legitimate users the most.
- Signing into services/accounts that you normally use, while surfing anonymously.
- For example, keeping Steam, Skype, or something else running, or even having Windows check for updates! These leave a huge bread-trail.
- Using browser plugins with read/write access.
- Analyzing connection logs for recent activity.
- User A connected to Proxy A at X time.
- Proxy A connected to Proxy B close to X time at Y time.
- Proxy B connected to Proxy C close to Y time at Z time.
- Your VPN disconnected you at an inopportune time, and you reestablished connection to all services under your real IP.
Also continuing with the browser plug-in theme, do these VPNs re-route all network traffic or just data that is directed through your browser, specifically will they also redirect traffic from desktop games etc that are played online?
Browser plugins in general will only re-route traffic to and from the browser's requests. That's it. If you're playing a browser-based game, then sure, I don't see why not.
Desktop games will not be redirected unless the browser plugin does some weird tomfoolery that manages to install an application on your desktop which does this.