Is there any difference in security between browsing the internet on a remote desktop and using a VPN to browse the internet on a local machine? In this case assume both use the same encryption techniques and VPN server and remote desktop sever are located at the same place.

The direction of attack of primary concern by those in the middle which can watch the encrypted data.

  • In what context are you using remote desktop/VPN to browse the Internet?
    – R15
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 8:49

2 Answers 2


The security provided by Remote Desktop applications are often not top-notch, and can be broken with a little persistence.

VPN offers and additional level of security, as data traveling to the private network is encrypted before it hits the Internet, and decrypted once it reaches the private network. This additional level of security may be a plus for most, but this type of connection suffers from slower speeds than a non-encrypted method.

  • 1
    Depends on which Remote Desktop applications you're using. Microsoft's RDP can be configured to require TLS and network-level authentication.
    – Iszi
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 8:27

The VPN allows malware and attacks to tunnel right to your PC, you are basically putting your local computer on the same network as the remote computer you are surfing on. The VPN only protects your data from inspection while in-transit but does not protect you from the malicious data flowing through the pipe (which could be infected with malware from that remote computer you are surfing on). The RDP option isolates you from the malware, like a window pane. You can see the browser on the remote system... but the infected traffic is not flowing through. Yes, some malware can take advantage of vulnerabilities in RDP but that happens whether or not you are actually using RDP, it looks for vulnerabilities within the RDP service, not the live RDP session.

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