Why You Shouldn’t Use a Free Proxy
As governments and tech giants around the world continue their attempt to weaken online privacy using strict surveillance laws and porous privacy policies, users are also increasingly becoming drawn to anonymous web browsing as a means of enhancing privacy, evading censorship, and accessing websites that aren’t available in their country or workplace network.
How web proxies work
Most Internet users have found solace in the use of web proxies as a means to access the Internet anonymously. The majority of these web proxies are offered for free under the term open proxies – this has partly contributed to its soaring popularity. Think of a web proxy is a computer that acts as an intermediary between yours and a website, allowing you to anonymously browse the Web.
Whenever a user connects to a web proxy server and makes a request for a web page, the proxy responds by reaching out to the website and pulling the requested web page. It then sends it back to you and you can view the website. The advantage is that the website you go to through the proxy only sees the proxies’ internet address and not yours. A proxy is, therefore, a good way to safely navigate the web without revealing your real internet address to the sites you visit.
However, the major problems with using free web proxies are that you may not know who is operating them. They could be cyber criminals, intelligence agencies’ honeypot, or a legitimate company with sinister business practices. Although a proxy server hides your identity and activities from the sites you visit, it can potentially see everything you are doing online. This raises concerns about trust. The question you should ask yourself is: why would someone spend so much money setting up a web proxy only to offer it for free? Can such a business entity be trusted with your data?
You can take a look at our most trusted Proxy services here.
Free Web proxies are not secure
According to an analysis by a security researcher Christian Haschek, the majority of free web proxies are not secure or trustworthy. In his initial analysis, Haschek wrote a computer program to check 443 free web proxies to see if a given proxy allows encrypted (HTTPS) web traffic, and whether the proxy attempts to modify website content or inject ads into the user’s browser session.
With the rising trend in global mass surveillance and theft of sensitive personal information, the use of HTTPS protocol to encrypt web traffic is becoming increasingly important. HTTPS signals the web browser to use an added encryption layer of known as SSL/TLS to protect web traffic. By deliberately preventing customers from using the Web securely, Haschek warns these open proxies can potentially analyze your traffic, force you to participate in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on websites, and steal your sensitive information such as credit card or login details.
Are there better alternatives?
For those already using or insists on using web proxies, Haschek created a free tool to help you confirm if a given proxy is not manipulating web content or forcing users to load unencrypted web pages. He, however, recommends avoiding free proxies completely. In his words, “tell your friends never to use free proxies…” As the saying goes, “if you are not paying for a product, you are most likely the product”.
You can also use vpnMentor’s proxy tool to surf the web anonymously.
But it’s not all gloomy though, secure alternatives do exist. One good example of such is Virtual Private Network (VPN). (Read about the differences between Proxies and VPNs.)
The fact that most VPN providers rely on earnings from monthly or yearly service subscriptions to sustain their operations, they are less likely to resort to manipulating web content or traffic in order to inject ads – this is not to say that all paid VPN services give adequate consideration to their customer’s privacy. To be on the safe side, avoid those that keep logs of your web browsing activities as they are more likely to engage in obnoxious practices. You may want to check out our top VPN picks; it’s definitely a good place to start.