One advantage to online safety and security is the use of proxies. The goal for most people online is to stay secure and anonymous.
One option that's touted to provide security and anonymity is the use of proxy servers. Proxy servers are quick and (usually) free solutions that hide your IP address while you browse the internet. Sounds great, right?
Not so fast. Proxies are not the end-all-be-all solution to internet security and privacy.
Proxies Do Not Encrypt Your Data
Even though proxies hide your IP address, they do not hide any of your data that travels through the server. That's because it usually travels in an unencrypted format.
This means that nefarious actors that intercept your data could see any information that you send (login information, baking details, etc.)
Not All Proxies Are Created Equal
Browsing the internet through a proxy server, your IP address is hidden to the websites you're browsing. To clarify, the IP address is not hidden to the proxy. You essentially give the proxy your IP address in order to use their IP address.
In theory, this would be fine. If all proxies were ethical and right-minded. Looking to protect their users' interests, then proxies would be a great solution. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Proxy servers can be set up by anyone (security-minded companies and criminals alike).
What Can "Bad" Proxies Do?
Using a proxy server puts you at risk of identity theft and other cyber crimes. This is because proxy owners and webmasters have unlimited access to your data. This means they can sell your personal information to criminals without your consent.
Do Your Research
By now, you might be thinking that it would be a good idea to simply stay away from proxies altogether. The good news, however, is that there are some trusted, reputable proxy servers out there. The only drawback is they usually charge a fee for usage. But with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Just do a little research before you jump into any random proxy.
A good proxy option is Smartproxy, which is a company that manages trusted proxies.
A Better Option?
If the idea of using a proxy has you uneasy, a more secure alternative is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs are more secure, reliable, and faster than proxies. Also, they encrypt all traffic, meaning they are essentially hacker-proof.
With a proxy, though, just know that you'll get what you pay for. The trusted, reputable VPNs typically charge a fee for usage unless you use a free VPN.