Free proxy: the good and the bad

Ruth C. | April 10, 2020

It’s no surprise free proxy servers have grown in popularity over the years. With the controversies around Net Neutrality and government censorship, more netizens are looking for ways to access restricted content and combat surveillance. Consequently, the use of a proxy became a popular go-to for many netizens around the globe. But while an online proxy is beneficial in several different ways, there are also some potential risks to be aware of. So, what’s the good, the bad, and the ugly behind a free proxy?

What is a proxy server ?

Essentially, a free proxy server acts as a gateway between you and the internet. It’s an intermediary server separating you - the end-user, from the websites you browse. For instance, you want to visit If you use a free proxy, your internet traffic flows through a server on its way to the address you requested. The request then comes back through the same proxy server and forwards the received data back to you.

In general, you can define proxies as web requests forwarders. They can reroute your web traffic, but contrary to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies can’t encrypt it. Also, you cannot configure the proxy server connection computer-wide. You can only set it up on your web browser, BitTorrent client, or any other proxy-compatible software. That is, free proxy covers only a specific part of your traffic, which is not so great if you wish to redirect your entire internet connection.

Still, a modern proxy server can do much more than only forward web requests. Free proxy excels at IP masking and misdirection, which makes it useful for viewing geographically restricted content. Also, a proxy server can act as a firewall or web filter and provide shared network connections. A high-speed proxy server can also cache data to speed up commonly used requests. However, there are different types of proxies that provide varying levels of functionality, privacy, and security, depending on your use case or needs.

Types of proxy servers

Although there are many different types of proxies, the two most common ones are HTTP and SOCKS:

  • HTTP proxies are designed exclusively for web-based traffic. HTTP proxy can reroute all the traffic that happens within your browser. Since it changes your IP address, these proxies are beneficial for accessing geo-restricted websites. Also, HTTP proxies cache the websites you visit, which makes your browsing faster.
  • SOCKS proxies can be configured on both - web and application levels. While HTTP proxies can mainly handle web traffic, the SOCKS server can reroute any traffic it gets. You can set up SOCKS proxies on a P2P platform, streaming app, game, or on the bulk of web browsers. SOCKS proxies are compatible with almost any network protocol, which makes them diverse, easy-to-use options in a wide range of scenarios.

So, what’s the deal with a free proxy ?

You can quickly get a free proxy server list from a ton of providers offering their services online. Many websites claim to provide free proxy server software or IP addresses, which you can use to replace your actual IP. Indeed, not all free proxy servers are harmful by nature. But it can be tough to recognize the merely dangerous from the bad.

Hence, here are the 3 key things you should know before using a free proxy:

  1. Free proxy services often don’t invest as much in their personnel, hardware, or encryption services. That results in performance issues, low speed, and security risks. Also, free proxy services can manipulate users by injecting advertisements into their sessions. Even though they use ad-based revenue models, still, they don’t make enough money to provide top tier proxy servers.
  2. The proxy server has your original IP address and possibly unencrypted web requests. A free proxy can log your browsing history and then sell it to make a profit. Hence, make sure to check what kind of privacy policies the vendor grants you.
  3. A free proxy can be infested with a virus. One test of over 20,000 proxy servers revealed that nearly all of them are injected with some form of malware. It can lead to stealing your private information, such as passwords or bank login information. By this end, your identity is at high risk.

There’s a safer alternative

A free proxy may help you bypass internet censorship, and access restricted content. But it’s clear - replacing your IP with a free proxy server puts your privacy at risk. Proxy servers offer little to no security benefits, so if you’re privacy-conscious, a VPN is the way to go.

Even though VPN and proxy serve similar functions, they are very different if you look at the way they work. VPN encrypts your internet traffic without any exceptions - including your browser, applications, and every other internet-enabled platform. A premium VPN, like Atlas VPN, secures your data with robust encryption protocols, doesn’t keep your activity logs, and prevents any third-party snoopers from intercepting your data.

Get Atlas VPN for your iOS and Android right here:

Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.



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