Top Proxy Services of 2017
(Technical writer, ex-robot manual creator gone privacy enthusiast/VPN expert)
In your search for a VPN, you may have come across proxy servers. Proxy servers are similar to VPNs in the way they work, but bear differences that make them very dissimilar in their effectiveness. A VPN and a proxy are similar in that they both allow you to appear as if you are connecting to the internet from another location. How they accomplish this task and the degree to which they offer privacy, encryption, and anonymity, however, varies greatly.
A proxy server acts as an intermediary between your computer (or phone, tablet, etc.) and the Internet. It is similar to a VPN in that it changes your IP address. Say, for instance, that you live in England and want to access a video on a website located in the US; you could use a proxy server to spoof your location and access content as if you were located in the US. This is a low-risk situation, which really does not require encryption of any sort. Another example would be surfing the internet through a server in a location in which airfare may be cheaper (yes, airline companies do this). Also important to know is that proxy server connections are configured application-by-application, not on the entire computer, meaning that you must configure your Torrent client or web browser separately to accept the proxy connection. A VPN, on the other hand, encrypts all internet-connected applications via one setup; it is computer-wide.
What a proxy does NOT do is encrypt your connection. While it does hide your true IP, it does not strip away the identifying information from your transmissions; essentially, there are no privacy or security considerations built in. A proxy server, for instance, would not be good for someone who is trying to protect themselves while using WiFi. Additionally, when the user encounters Flash or Java script, their true IP can be easily detected. Additionally, many proxy IP addresses that are widely used are known to websites, and therefore blocked by them.
There are two different types of proxy server protocols: HTTP and SOCKS.
The older of the two proxy types, HTTP proxies work only for web-based traffic. In order to use an HTTP proxy, you plug the proxy server into your web browser’s configuration file (or use a browser extension if your browser doesn’t natively support proxies) and all your web traffic is routed through the remote proxy. If you are using an HTTP proxy to perform activities involving sensitive data, like banking or email, you must use an SSL enabled browser and connect to a website that supports SSL encryption. This is because, as stated above, proxies do not encrypt.
The SOCKS proxy is an extension of the HTTP proxy system that is indifferent to the type of traffic that passes through it, meaning it is useful for more than just web browser traffic, and can handle things like Torrents. SOCKS, unfortunately, is slower than HTTP, which is especially noticeable if you are using it to download Torrents.
The final thing we should mention is that like VPNs, not all proxy were created equal. There are more than a handful of free proxy services out there that you can take advantage of but in our experience, when it comes to protecting your information it pays to well… pay. Free proxy (and VPN) services are free for a reason; they generally have poor uptime, are riddled with advertisements, and are fraught with danger. They are sometimes run by hackers who are looking to steal your information (e.g. wait for you to use your financial information such as bank or credit card information).
So, which proxies do we recommend using?
Nord does not offer a separate subscription to a proxy service. Instead, a subscription to their VPN service comes with access to their list of 3,000 private HTTP and SOCKS5 proxies located all over the world. Their website features a search feature to find any proxy you like, and setup instructions for every application (Chrome, Firefox, Torrent, etc.) you could think of. Not to mention, if you ever run into any trouble, you can contact them 24/7/365. We cannot stress enough, though, that if you are going to take steps to diverge from your regular internet route and purchase a Nord subscription anyway, that you use their VPN wherever possible as it offers superb protection, whereas a proxy leaves you open to man-in-the-middle attacks. See current nord deals here.
Like Nord, IPVanish includes access to their private proxy with a subscription to their VPN. Unlike Nord’s, however, they only offer SOCKS5 and not HTTP, so it will work with Bittorent clients like Deluge, Utorrent and Deluge, but not with a web browser. This is great for Torrent clients, as you can use a proxy for your Torrent client while still using IPVanish VPN for other applications. This is good as proxies are faster than VPN (due to the lack of encryption, and Torrenting is relatively safe using a Proxy.
Unlike NordVPN and IPVanish, TorGuard offers a separate subscription to their Proxy service, in addition to their VPN. You can also purchase them together for marginally more than the cost of just VPN. Torguard offers a wide variety of proxy servers – 2,000 IPs in over 50 countries, with SOCKS5 servers in 8 countries, and also supports up to 5 simultaneous connections.
We love PIA because they provide a very good service at an extremely reasonable price. Like the first two vendors on our list, PIA includes a proxy server with the purchase of their VPN. And like IPVanish, only a SOCKS5 proxy is available, so it will only work with Torrent clients and not internet browsers. While PIA does not provide chat support as they used to – certainly a drawback – they do, nonetheless, provide good customer support and respond rather quickly, should you have any issues.
Overplay is a SmartDNS and VPN provider. A SmartDNS proxy server is specifically used to allow users to access geo-restricted content, though you can use it for other purposes, such as surfing the internet. While a VPN can also do this, SmartDNS is better for this in that it enables a faster connection due to the lack of encryption. While we are not crazy about not having encryption, Overplay provides secure DNS servers from which to connect. If you are looking to use a proxy to access geo-restricted content from the likes of Netflix, Kodi, Hulu, etc., we highly recommend using Overplay.