For many of us, using a proxy is a convenient way to maintain our online privacy. Like Netflix and chill, proxies make a perfect pair with blocked content. Though they come with many other benefits (they help balance internet traffic, prevent crashes, and save bandwidth, just to mention a few), proxies have soared to popularity once streaming platforms have started geo-blocking our shows and movies.
Still, the main argument for using a proxy is anonymity.
You can rely on a proxy to mask your IP and shield you from prying eyes whenever you want to go somewhere or do something online without being watched.
There’s a trick, though – no proxy can do that for free.
Why Pay for a Proxy When You Can Use It for Free?
It’s a fair question. Everyone who’s ever had to choose between a paid and a free solution has faced this dilemma. Are paid proxy providers trying to sell something that naturally exists for free? To answer that, we need to talk about how proxies work and what they do.
In short, proxies secure your online anonymity by hiding your IP address. Next, they help you piggyback off another device or server with a different IP. To whoever’s watching, your activity looks like you’re in another place altogether. For instance, a US proxy (more info) can reroute your traffic from Canada to California.
That’s how proxies work around geological restrictions.
Is this something that costs money? Of course!
The highest cost for proxy providers is to make proxies secure. Taking an IP address from an insecure server can be more dangerous than exposing your activity.
Why Is Using a Free Proxy Provider So Dangerous?
To cover their costs (and make money), free US proxy providers usually use low-cost public servers, where your traffic is shared with thousands of other users. In addition to that, they sell ad placements or take a commission for clicks. These things are less than secure and can make you very vulnerable.
For starters, public servers are a hotbed of malicious malware.
Unlike private servers, they don’t have centralized incident management, advanced firewalls, or intrusion detection. As their name says, public servers are open for everyone.
Malvertising is another real risk, given that free proxy providers don’t have a unique selection process when selling ad space to third parties. That allows cybercriminals to bootleg malware to a target device using an unencrypted connection.
Speaking of encryption, the risks of using free proxies get worse.
Do Free Proxies Even Ensure Anonymous Browsing?
Though it’s already bad enough that free proxies connect you to malware-infected servers, at least that’s something that providers do out of negligence. However, according to Christian Haschek, an eye-opening number of free proxy providers put you in danger on purpose.
Back in 2015, Haschek found that 79% of free proxies didn’t allow encryption.
Without encryption, your activity, data, and device are completely exposed. Anyone could monitor what you’re doing, which defies the proxy’s purpose.
Even worse, this might mean that free proxy providers are not charging for their services because they are making money from you. It’s not a far-fetched theory that some of these providers are collecting your data and selling it to third parties, some of them malicious.
Isn’t the Risk of Using a Free Proxy Worth the Cost?
There’s no reason to beat around the bush with this – no, free proxies are not worth the risk. The only scenario where you might find them useful is when you need to unblock a website to read an article. If you need to leave your data or click anything, that’s risky.
You should never use a free proxy for a private, sensitive, or money-related activity.
That’s only one example, but it paints a gloomy picture.
Paid proxies are not only more secure than their free counterparts. They are also more reliable in terms of speed and access. If you need a proxy for business reasons, to conduct market research, or mine data, you should know that many websites ban free proxies as suspicious. In addition to all this, a paid proxy provider offers customer support. If you plan on using a proxy regularly, you need all these things.
We should also mention that paid proxies are budget-friendly.
Whatever your reason for using one, paying for a proxy simply makes more sense.
Mahesh Kumar is a dynamic marketing consultant and tech enthusiast with a passion for driving business growth through his innovative strategies and cutting-edge technology. With 6 years of experience in the industry, he has helped numerous businesses leverage the power of digital marketing to reach their target audience, build brand awareness, and increase sales.