Have you ever used a proxy (or a VPN)? Did you pay for it or was it made available for free?
Many people use free proxy servers to access sites/content not available in their countries (think Netflix, Pandora, Hulu, and more), or in order to “anonymously” browse the internet. When searching for a suitable proxy, you have surely noticed the relatively large number of free proxies. You try one, and although it’s a little slow, it works. You can now watch The Interview on YouTube even from Sri Lanka.
Did you ever think about why it’s free?
A proxy works as a traffic relay point. When using a proxy, all your traffic goes through that particular proxy server. This means, that someone, somewhere has to pay for a server and for a good internet connection, so that hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of people could access the internet through it. In life, we already know, there is no such thing as free lunch.
Some of the free proxies pay for the internet and hardware by injecting ads into the websites you are visiting. This may help pay for the costs of operating a proxy server, but there is a much more profitable approach (from the perspective of a hacker or a cybercrook).
A free-to-use proxy server is essentially a “Man in the Middle,” which spells trouble. Your traffic can be intercepted and modified. All the information you send or receive over a proxy can be read by the proxy provider, including:
- Logins and passwords
- Credit card numbers
- Banking information
Besides having access to information sent over their server, they can also modify the data that travels to you. This means, they can inject malicious code directly to your computer – without having to look for vulnerabilities at all – you gave them full access, after all. They can easily infect your computer with various types of malware and a free proxy can turn into a nightmare.
Although it is true that paid proxy and VPN providers could do the same. The involvement of money tends to create sort of a bond, a commitment. These providers are already making money. They are usually not in business to steal identities and credit card numbers (at least most of them).
In conclusion, if you are located in most of the world and wish to watch Netflix, it is a better idea to pay $4.99 a month or a similar amount to a trusted provider, than to “save” by using a “free” proxy.