Is it safe and/or secure to use a proxy service?
Whether you’re spending whole days browsing social media or your only contact with the internet is an occasional funny cat picture someone sends you, your private data is always at risk of being stolen. With more and more leaks and breaches every year, there is no such thing as too much caution when browsing the web.
Proxy servers are a great way of increasing your internet security - they introduce another layer between you and the internet, a sort of gateway that helps prevent others from accessing your private network and your personal files.
But is it actually safe to use a proxy server? Are there downsides? And how do you even find a reliable proxy service provider?
If you’re struggling with such questions, we’re here to help you out.
What is a proxy server?
As you might imagine, a proxy server is an intermediary between two computers, or between a user and the server. Whenever you access the internet, open a website, or download a file, your computer is sending a direct request to the server, which then responds back directly to your computer.
Without a proxy, the server you’re connecting to can immediately identify who you are. This is dangerous, as you never know who can get access to this information. Even if the server you’re using is trusted and proven to be safe, you can’t be sure that there isn’t a cyber attacker plugged into the server, watching for internet traffic to identify new targets for his attacks.
When using a proxy, the server or user you’re connecting with won’t know who you are. They will still receive the same request, but their response will be to the proxy, not to your computer. The proxy server then sends you the exact same resources, with no one except you knowing it was you who requested them.
What are the benefits of using a proxy server?
Proxy servers have a wide variety of uses, most of them concerning safety and security when using the internet. If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t access certain websites from your school’s computer lab, it might be because of a proxy server - such a server acts as a filter between you and the internet, ensuring that the way you’re using the internet does not violate the school rules.
This can also work the other way around, though - imagine a situation where you’re trying to access a certain website from your computer, but the server is using IP-based geolocation to restrict access to users from certain countries. By using a proxy server situated in a location that is not restricted, you will be able to access this website, even though your IP should technically be restricted from viewing it.
There are dozens more uses for proxy servers, including:
- A caching proxy server can improve website performance, helping users load files quicker
- Translation proxy servers are used to automate the choice of website language, in order to properly display the website for each user
- Accessing websites and files anonymously
- An additional layer of security that works well with a firewall
- And much more!
Is it safe to use a free proxy?
If you’ve ever tried accessing restricted websites from a school or company computer, you probably encountered many websites offering free proxy services.
Is it secure to use such websites?
The answer here is complex. Since the proxy server acts as an intermediary between you and the target server, all of your information passes through it - and it is not necessarily encrypted.
If the proxy server owner has malicious intents, they are free to access your information and potentially cause a lot of damage. Because of this, it’s usually ill-advised to use free, unproven proxy services.
How to find a reliable proxy service?
Instead of risking leaking your personal information, stay away from fishy proxy services you find online - especially free ones without proper websites set up and without user reviews.
If you’re trying to find the best proxy server available, go with professional reviews written by websites known to post true and reliable information. While most trusted proxy services will cost you, it’s much safer for your data to pass through a properly secured server than buying a pig in a poke.
When browsing reviews of reliable proxy service providers, search for features like live customer service, limitless traffic, unrestricted threads, and proper security protocols. You also want to take performance into consideration - after all, it can be a huge pain in the neck to have your proxy server limit your browsing speed, sometimes to the extreme.