It’s no secret that people love free things.
However, as most people have become aware in recent times, anything offered to you as ‘free’ often has a hidden and sometimes very costly price attached to it.
Proxy servers offer a great service for people needing access to content in regions where some websites may be blocked or for people simply looking for anonymity online. But what you may be unaware of is just how much your security and privacy may be at risk with some of these unscrupulous proxies.
Just what exactly is a proxy server?
A proxy server can be a computer or software whose role is to act as an intermediary between an endpoint user on a phone, tablet or PC and the internet.
Each internet user has an IP address assigned to them which can be used to locate where a connection is coming from. By using a proxy server, your IP address is switched out for a different one thus providing you with the security to use the internet anonymously.
Unfortunately, not all services are created equal and below we shall share with you why you should reconsider using free proxy servers.
1. The majority don’t use HTTPS
The vast majority of free proxy servers don’t allow HTTPS traffic. In fact, according to security researcher Christian Haschek, a whopping 79% do not. What this means is that when connecting to the server, your data is not encrypted leaving your information vulnerable to anyone who may be monitoring the connection or the people running the service themselves. Certainly not the privacy and security you are looking for!
2. The proxy server may have malware
Using free proxy servers also requires you to place a significant amount of trust in the service provider not to infect your device with viruses. The trouble is, with free services like these ones, ad placement in the display content is used as a revenue source. And if the sources of the ads are not carefully monitored, it’s very easy for tainted ads to get thrown in the mix and clicking on them will leave you with infected devices.
3. Cookies can be stolen
Normally nothing to worry about, cookies are simply small files on your computer containing data on your interactions with a website. However, in the wrong hands, that information can be exploited. With the questionable security of free proxy servers, your cookies are at risk of interception and if that happens, it will mean someone potentially having access to your credentials and being able to impersonate you online. Scary thought!
4. Risk of being monitored
Another source of concern with free proxy servers is just who is behind the service? A band of criminals looking to collect information on unsuspecting users could easily set up their own service and with HTTPS not in use, gathering data is that much easier. Hackers have been known in the past for collecting sensitive information by employing just such nefarious methods.
So although you may remain anonymous to the websites you are visiting, someone else may potentially be keeping track of your activities. And with no way to know what may be installed on the proxy servers, it may be wiser steering clear.
5. Not actually anonymous
Most free and open proxy servers are not even anonymous. Most of them will still reveal your IP address to those looking for it. If you want real anonymity from a proxy server, using a free proxy will do very little for you. In terms of anonymity levels & privacy protections, the best proxy servers are Elite (level 1), but most free proxy servers are transparent (level 3).
Is the risk worth it?
Given the reasons stated above, engaging a free proxy server may leave you with a lot more trouble than if you had avoided it altogether. Free services always carry significant risk and though it’s no guarantee, signing up for paid proxy servers or VPN services with clearly spelled-out privacy policies is certainly your best bet for data privacy and security.
Don’t put yourself at risk unnecessarily. Invest in a trusted proxy server today.