The Downside of Free Proxy Servers

skull & crossbones on screen

It’s no secret that people love free things. A free offer, however, may have a hidden and very costly price attached. Proxy servers offer online anonymity and access to content in regions where some websites may be blocked. But free proxies may not encrypt your data. That compromises your security and privacy and puts you at risk. This article discusses the downside of free proxy servers.

What is a proxy server?

A proxy server can be a computer or software whose role is to act as an intermediary between the Internet and a user on a phone, tablet, or PC.

Each Internet user has an assigned IP address which indicating the location of the user’s connection. Proxy servers switch your IP address for a different one which provides the security to use the Internet anonymously. But, with free and open proxies, you’re still not necessarily anonymous. Here are some reasons.

Lack of anonymity

Most free and open proxy servers are not anonymous. Most of them will reveal your IP address to those looking for it. For real anonymity from a proxy server, you need to use a reliable paid service. In terms of anonymity levels & privacy protections, the best proxy servers are Elite (level 1). Most free proxy servers are transparent (level 3).

Lack of security

The vast majority of free proxy servers (79% according to security researcher Christian Haschek) don’t allow HTTPS traffic. Unencrypted information is vulnerable to anyone who may be monitoring the connection, including the people who run the service.

Possibility of malware

Using free proxy servers means placing a significant amount of trust in the service. With free services, ad placement in the display content provides a revenue source. Without careful monitoring, this could include tainted ads. Clicking on them would leave you with infected devices.

Risk of monitoring

You may remain anonymous to the websites you are visiting. But another source of concern with free proxy servers is, who is behind the service that may be tracking your activities? Hackers looking to collect sensitive information on unsuspecting users could easily set up their own service. And with HTTPS not in use, it’s much easier to collect data on you.

Stolen cookies

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, which means someone may have access to your credentials and impersonate you online.

Bottom line

Free proxy services always carry significant risk. Signing up for a reliable paid proxy service with clearly privacy policies is your best bet. You can work without worrying about the security of your information. But if you still want to use free proxies, consider the ProxyMesh Open Proxies API. It checks over 1,000 open proxies every 15 minutes to identify the most reliable and secures proxies, and provides the working IPs in a convenient format for your software.

Core Topic: Free Proxies are Too Good to Be True