When we mention proxy servers, we usually think of enhanced privacy and security they provide to users. When they act as a gateway, they provide us with one more layer in our security “net”. But is that always the case? In the beginning, we can divide proxies into free and paid ones. And with that, we can’t help but think that maybe what is free is not always the best.
Free usually means they are not putting heavy investment in backend hardware or encryption. You’ll likely see performance issues and potential data security issues. So how can you check your proxy or how can you identify a better way to go?
One way to go from there is a free proxy list. Free proxy lists are collected by scanning the web for computers with open connections. Proxy lists, unlike free proxies, require setup and work best with web scraping tools, automation software, and other apps. They differ from free web proxies, which are websites that let you enter URLs and surf through them. Such websites often have known hosts (for example, VPN services) and are best suited for quickly unblocking a resource of browsing from a different location. There are a plethora of free proxy list providers like Proxyway, FreeProxyList, etc.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of using a free proxy because as with everything they also have good and bad sides. When we talk about major concerns regarding free proxy usage there are two: honeypotting and data leaks.
The main reason we are using protective techniques like proxies is to minimize the possibility of losing our data. Today our personal, bank, or other information such as our login name and password is floating around the internet and it is up to us to make them as secure and safe as possible. One disadvantage of using a free proxy is that data is always visible to its host. When we use free proxies, the data is visible to a third-party host as well, and they can collect all our information, making it much less secure and prone to data leaks. Not only that but third parties can monitor all users’ actions on visited websites which is a major footprint that can be saved and used with ill intent.
One other way users’ data can be vulnerable is due to a lack of encryption and security protocols. What does that mean? Well, users can connect or send requests through a certain encrypting proxy. But even those encrypting proxies can refer their job to unencrypted channels which then use servers that do not support encryption. This usually means that proxy is not allowing usage of security protocols such as HTTPS and is also deliberately modifying the code of websites to inject ads or other malicious content. This is of course a major vulnerability and the possibility of data leak or malicious data usage is big.
Honeypotting is one of the luring tactics that can be very tempting for proxies. Honeypot represents a network-attached system set up as a trap to lure cyber attackers and detect, deflect and study potential threat attempts that can compromise the security and data integrity of certain organizations. The function of a honeypot is to represent itself on the internet as a potential target for attackers — usually, a server or other database where potentially sensitive information can be seen — and to gather information and notify defenders of any attempts to access the honeypot by unauthorized users.
Although there can be some cases when a free proxy is not risky and can be useful for example for a quick, anonymous check or when you need browsing from a different location, a safer and better option would be to opt for proxies offered by providers as a freemium. Rather than making money from users directly, an ecosystem freemium model charges third-party developers or apps. An example would be the Google Play Store.
Users can download and use the app for free forever with no loss of functionality. Google makes its money from the brands that sell through the store. On Proxyway website there is information and a detailed explanation of best choices for free proxy lists such as ProxyScrape, Free-proxy, Spys. They offer frequently updated proxy lists so you can avoid dead IP addresses and proxies and also different filtering options so everyone can choose a proxy for themselves. You can explore the proxy world with all its benefits for a much more affordable price. There are many providers in the field and usually, there is something for everybody.