Free Proxy Servers: The Risks of Using Free Proxies
Online safety is important to most people, and many internet users turn to proxies. Proxy servers are gateways between the user and the websites they visit. They can provide IP anonymity and protect your sensitive data, including your login information, cookies, credit card data, and more. Proxies can also give you the appearance of being located anywhere in the world and increase the speed of your web browsing, game playing, and other online activities.
Many people wonder if proxy servers are safe to use. The most reputable proxy servers are those provided by companies with your online safety, security, and privacy in mind. For the most part, such companies charge for the use of their proxy servers. However, there are also a vast number of free proxies available on the internet, and you may wonder why you should pay for a proxy when so many free options exist.
Are Proxy Servers Safe?
This is a loaded question because it depends on the proxy provider. Many providers focus on the safety and security of their users, while other proxy servers have nefarious intentions of monitoring their users’ connections and gaining access to their sensitive data. Read more about some of the myths about proxy servers and the truth of the matter.
What Are Proxies Used For?
There are several reasons that many internet users prefer to route their online traffic through proxy servers:
- You want to hide your IP address from the websites you visit because you want to maintain your anonymity or because a particular site has banned or blacklisted your IP address.
- You want to gain access to content that is blocked based on geographical restrictions, such as licensed video that is only allowed in certain countries.
- Your internet service provider or local authorities may block certain sites you want to visit.
Some internet users view paying for proxies as pointless because countless free proxies are available for anyone to use. However, before taking this route, you should know that a wide variety of risks are involved with free proxy servers.
What Should I Know About Free Proxy Services?
If you are searching for a way to remain anonymous online, you may wonder how to get free proxies. There are several ways to locate free proxy providers. For example, you could use a free proxy scraper or free proxy API to aggregate information about free proxy services on the web. Or you could simply search online the old-fashioned way with a search engine.
There are multiple categories of free proxy servers with differing levels of anonymity.
This proxy server does not even attempt to protect your online anonymity. Caching proxies provide all your IP address information to the websites you visit. These proxies are designed to cache data and even reduce access to destination servers. Most caching proxies are used within private networks, so it is not common to come across free caching servers for public use.
Anonymous proxy servers make a minimal attempt to maintain your online privacy by withholding your IP address from your destination websites. However, the proxy’s headers still inform the destination or target server that the server accessing the website is a proxy. This acts as the proxy provider’s disclaimer from responsibility, indicating that the proxy server is not originating these access requests but only conveying them to the website from the end user.
Anonymous proxies are the type of free proxy server you will most commonly find available for use by the public.
Some website servers block any traffic that appears to come from proxies. Elite proxy servers attempt to conceal your identity by posing as a client device and preventing the target website from detecting your connection through a proxy server. However, the traffic patterns created by elite proxies can still give away their true nature, revealing you as a proxy user.
Web-based proxies are also sometimes referred to as online proxies. Unlike the other proxies on this list, a web-based proxy does not require you to configure the proxy settings within your internet browser. Instead, you enter your destination URL directly into the web-based proxy’s website. This allows you to keep your computer and IP address anonymous while traversing the internet.
The best free proxies require registration
In terms of reputation and reliability, some of the best free proxies require you to register before using the service. Collecting registration information — at minimum, an email address the proxy provider will require you to verify — tends to discourage most illicit or illegal activity and abuse. Bad actors generally require full anonymity to carry out their malicious deeds, and the registration requirement, even a mere email address, would interfere.
Most of the best free proxy servers have existed for quite some time and generally receive positive reviews from their users. A proxy service requiring users to register often indicates that the proxy service is committed to excluding anyone intending to abuse the service.
Why Do People Run Proxy Sites for Free?
There are various reasons someone might choose to run a free proxy site.
- To pursue an ideal such as providing everyone with uncensored access to the internet
- As a hobby
- To gain the revenue generated by ad-supported free proxy sites
- For criminal reasons
Those who operate a free proxy site for criminal reasons may redirect links to malicious websites, steal your passwords or other sensitive data, or infect your device with malware.
Some proxy providers offer both free and paid proxy server options. This is intentional because savvy proxy providers know that if their users are unsatisfied by slow connection speed or invasive marketing ads on the free option, they will likely level up to the paid option for better service.
Ad revenue tends to support most free proxy servers. Proxy servers can consume a lot of bandwidth, which can quickly get costly. Featuring ads can help the provider to offset the cost of running a proxy server that otherwise generates no income.
Is It Safe To Use Free Proxies?
To answer the question in just two words: probably not. Let’s talk about why free proxy servers are generally not the safest option.
Most free proxies don’t allow an HTTPS connection
A 2015 analysis of free proxy servers by tech blogger Christian Haschek found that the majority (62%) of free proxies blocked HTTPS connections. A secure HTTPS connection allows the proxy to see only the destination server’s domain or IP address, not the target website’s content. However, some proxies can knock your connection down from secure to unencrypted without notifying the user.
You could end up with malware
Injecting malicious content is just one of the ways free proxies can cause you, your device, or your network harm. By using a free proxy, you are opening yourself up to a potential malware infection. Some types of malware can even be injected unintentionally without the knowledge of the proxy server operator. Some third-party ads they depend on for revenue may be based on malware. Ads like these can inject malicious code into an otherwise innocuous website or server and deliver it onto an innocent user’s device.
Free proxy owners can steal your cookies
Whenever you use the internet, it is of the utmost importance that you protect your stored cookies. Cookies hold sensitive information, such as your usernames and passwords. By storing this information, cookies make it easier and faster for you to log into websites and services because you don’t have to enter your login info every time. Many free proxies download, store, or monitor their users’ cookies, which could allow proxy operators with malicious intentions to steal your login information, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data.
They can monitor your connection
By blocking HTTPS connections, free proxy servers make their goals readily apparent: they want to monitor the content of all packets that run through them. This means the free proxy server can access any data you send intentionally or simply as a result of using the internet in the first place. Some free proxies are created for the express purpose of monitoring the connections of anyone who uses them.
They often log their transactions
Many free proxies log all activity and transactions performed by their users. While this practice is common and legitimate, it can reduce or eliminate your online anonymity. A free proxy that tracks and logs your online activity can use that information maliciously.
You get what you pay for
If something seems too good to be true, it very likely is. This old adage applies to free proxy servers, as well. The service you will receive from a free proxy server will come nowhere near the quality paid proxies offer. Free proxy servers tend to be significantly slower than paid proxies for two reasons:
- Their ad-supported status means they are running on drastically less funding than a paid proxy provider would have at their disposal.
- Large numbers of people are often using a free proxy server at any given time.
Due to drastically limited funding, free proxies must handle many user connections with very little bandwidth. A large amount of traffic can cause a free proxy server to bottleneck, further slowing things down.
In addition, free proxies often have a cap on their data speed to prevent users from consuming too large a share of their resources.
Using a free proxy poses several significant risks but offers very few rewards.
What Are the Advantages of Using Premium Proxies?
Premium proxies, alternatively known as paid proxies, are the opposite of free proxy services in many ways. Premium proxies are known to be significantly faster, and they are also much more reliable, trustworthy, and safe. Most premium proxy providers, such as Rayobyte, offer multiple options, including data center proxy servers, residential proxies, and rotating ISP proxies.
Why should you use premium proxy servers instead of free proxies? Here, we will discuss three main advantages of using paid proxies.
They actively protect your data
While free proxies largely fall short of protecting — and sometimes pose an active threat to — the security of your data, premium proxy server operators take your online safety very seriously. Premium proxies offer top-notch security that free proxy servers do not.
By changing the user’s IP address, a premium proxy makes it difficult for a hacker to access devices on the user’s network. Adding an additional layer of security between the user and outside traffic should thwart any bad actor’s attempts to locate, access, or steal any sensitive data located on the user’s network or individual devices.
Most premium proxy servers also make use of robust firewalls. A firewall is essentially a kind of electronic security system that is designed to protect the user’s network from break-ins, malware installation, and any other external threats.
These security features are particularly useful to businesses since they require comprehensive security measures to prevent anyone from accessing sensitive data on their company servers. These security measures help companies to avoid such catastrophic electronic intrusions as data breaches.
They provide a fast, high-quality connection
Paid proxy servers offer vastly faster connection speeds than free proxies. For one thing, the operators of paid proxy servers can invest more money into increased bandwidth than those operating free proxies that are, for the most part, ad-supported.
Also, because premium proxies are generally run by businesses or at least by people who are heavily invested in their customers’ happiness, they tend to provide significantly less downtime. This is a convenience that cannot be overstated.
They use cutting-edge technology
Technology is always changing and improving. If your proxy server provider does not keep up with evolving hardware and software, you risk being bogged down with technology that is hopelessly out of date and obsolete. Because they are mostly ad-supported and receive much less investment capital than premium proxies, free proxies rarely employ the most state-of-the-art technology. Premium proxy services have a vested interest in satisfying their paying customers, which means they have every incentive to keep up with technology as it evolves and improves.
What Should I Look For in a Proxy Provider?
When choosing a proxy provider, some of the most important factors you should consider are reliability, speed, performance, and reputability. A slow proxy server with significant downtime will not do you much good, and a proxy service operated by someone with malicious intentions can actively cause harm to you and your online security.
Consider, at minimum, the following factors when deciding which proxy provider to use.
Most people do not have access to unlimited funds, so the cost must be a huge consideration in many people’s purchasing decisions, and proxy server choices are no different. While price is certainly something to keep in mind, it should not be the sole factor you consider when making your decision. Remember: the lowest price does not necessarily mean a provider will offer the most value for your money.
Types of proxy servers
There are multiple advantages and disadvantages to every type of proxy, so it is essential that you weigh the pros and cons of each type of proxy against your specific needs. For example:
Residential proxy servers
- Pro: Because residential proxy servers are better at making your internet traffic appear less like a bot and more like a human, you have a much lower chance of being blocked or blacklisted by your target website or server.
- Con: Residential proxy servers are more difficult to source, especially ethically, and generally more costly than other proxies.
Data center proxy servers
- Pro: Data center proxies are plentiful and very fast and are usually significantly less costly than residential proxies.
- Con: Many websites can easily determine when traffic originates from an IP address belonging to a data center server. Some websites even block traffic that appears to originate from data center proxy servers outright.
ISP proxy servers
- Pro: An ISP proxy offers the best of both proxy worlds, providing you with the authority of a residential proxy and the speed of a data center proxy.
- Con: IP databases often identify ISP proxies as having data center IP addresses, which means you risk being blacklisted or blocked.
Size of the provider’s proxy pool
Partnering with a provider that offers a large proxy pool is usually the best option. With more volume and diversity of IP addresses at their disposal, these providers can provide ready replacements when one IP address is blacklisted or blocked. Some providers even offer free IP replacements in such cases.
Using a proxy provider that possesses a significant amount of bandwidth is essential. A proxy running with low bandwidth can slow you down considerably, so a proxy service that provides unlimited bandwidth and connections is recommended.
Learning about the reputation a proxy provider has built up among its customers is always a good idea. Researching the trustworthiness of your proxy server provider is of the utmost importance. Hearing what other users have to say about their experiences with the proxy provider is a great way to determine the company’s reputation, reliability, and ethics.
Using proxy servers can seem complicated, especially for beginners, so it’s important to work with a proxy provider that offers comprehensive customer service to help you through any issues you may encounter while using their services.
Ethical sourcing and standards
The most reputable proxy providers are committed to sourcing their residential proxy servers ethically. This means the provider is dedicated to obtaining informed consent from every user whose IP address is used as a proxy. Read more about how Rayobyte set the industry standard for ethical sourcing.
Trust Rayobyte’s Premium Proxies
Proxy servers are safe as long as your using a reputable one. A free proxy server could be harmless, or it could infect your device with malware, store or steal your login information, or perform any other abusive or illicit action that causes you harm. By and large, free proxy servers cannot provide the security, reliability, and authority you get with premium proxies that Rayobyte provides. The proxy provider you choose and the type of proxy server you decide to use should meet your precise needs, so this is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. For more information about the world’s most reliable proxy servers, contact Rayobyte today.
The information contained within this article, including information posted by official staff, guest-submitted material, message board postings, or other third-party material is presented solely for the purposes of education and furtherance of the knowledge of the reader. All trademarks used in this publication are hereby acknowledged as the property of their respective owners.
Start a risk-free, money-back guarantee trial today and see the Rayobyte
difference for yourself!