So you are considering using a free proxy for overcoming some limitations? After all, why should you pay for some VPN service if a free proxy seems to provide a solution to what you are trying to achieve. This is a genuine question. While I’m an advocate for buying a VPN service so as to overcome geo-location limitations as well as keeping some privacy for my internet browsing, I just want to spend some time highlighting some dangers of the use of free proxy.
What’s a web proxy?
As you would guess, proxies are some kind of gateways that will allow you to pretend what you are not when surfing the internet. In fact, proxies rewrite some of your internet packets (those that give some information about you, your computer)- so that it gives some kind of privacy. Simply put, the main use of proxies is for hiding the origin or destination of an internet a query.
If we detail it a bit, a proxy can be used for:
- Accessing a service which is accessible only from a particular country. Popular services like hulu, spotify only make their services available to citizens based in certain countries. If you aren’t physically based in these countries, those platforms just shows an “excuse message” saying that this service isn’t available in your country,
- Overcoming some censorship that can be set at your workplace, or even within a country (for the case of some dictatorship countries for example);
- Visiting sites where you don’t want to leave some kind of traces about your IP address that may allow to track you easily.
Simply put, by using a proxy, you send your internet traffic to a gateway, this gateway then rewrites that query by using his information instead of yours. The destination internet sites that receives the query would think then that the requests originates from the proxy server, instead of your computer.
Why not use a free proxy?
But in fact, this is where the issue lies when using a proxy server: the fact that it acts like a gateway means that the proxy still sees who you are and what you are doing. But what are the information that the proxy server actually sees:
- The name and version of your browser;
- The modules you have (Flash, Quicktime, Java, …);
- Your operating system;
- The resolution of your screen;
- The language of your browser;
You may say to yourself that those aren’t necessarily sensitive information. This is only true for those who don’t know what to do with them. As you would see, there’s more data revealed than your only IP address. And the information revealed here are treasure trove for some hackers: by knowing your browser and modules version, for example, they know what are the flaws and security breach that come with them. What if that same proxy server injected some malicious code for your browser to execute?
Let’s consider another fact: let’s say that you are using a free proxy for accessing your Gmail or Facebook (or whatever online account): this actually means that the proxy need to know the credentials you are entering so as to be able to rewrite it…. Hmm, ain’t that dangerous?
What do you think? Are you using such a free proxy? Let us know in the comments below.