What You Need to Know About Proxy Services

By Kimberly Bowen
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Before you use a web proxy, you should learn how proxy services work, the difference between paid and free services, and the risks involved in using one to get around filters.

What is a proxy service?

A proxy service makes you anonymous online and encrypts your data so that no one can intercept it. When you use a proxy browser, it creates a virtual private network (VPN) between your computer and the proxy service. This VPN provides your data a secure path it can travel in. The proxy service provides you with an IP address so that all communication appears to be coming from another computer instead of your own. The IP address can even appear to be coming from another location. You can use your computer in New York City and make it look like you are in Germany, the U.K. or Canada depending on the server locations that the web proxy service has available.

Image of how proxy servers work.

 

What's the difference between free and paid services?

When you're considering proxy services, you can choose from two subscription types, paid and free services. If you use a proxy browser that's free, you're most likely going to deal with a bunch of advertisements. These advertisements obnoxiously fill your internet window as you browse. If you don't mind the continual pop-ups, this can be a great way to go; however, you may find it more practical to pay a small fee and then not have to bother with the distraction of countless ads. Typically, paid subscriptions also come with other benefits, such as access to VIP servers and premium tech support.

Is it dangerous to use a proxy service?

Unfortunately, using a proxy browser can be risky. Not all proxy services are ethical. Some will gather information about you, including your passwords, sites you visit and more. They then sell this information to third parties. The worst part about this is that there's no easy way to identify whether a web proxy is really keeping your information private. Chances are, if they're not ethical, you'll find out when you discover that your identity has been compromised.

Additionally, some proxy services attach applications that you download along with the web proxy. These other applications can gather information from your computer. If you use an anonymous proxy server, it may open your computer up to security risks.

Are there other consequences?

Another thing to consider when preparing to use a proxy browser is what other consequences you might face as a result of using one. While there are legal and legitimate reasons for employing a proxy browser, if you are using one to get around a filter or to hide your online activities, you may face serious repercussions if you're discovered.

When you're at work, your company's IT department can probably identify if you are using a web proxy to get around filters and firewalls. Depending on the proxy service you use, an IT department can sometimes see what you are accessing even though you are surfing anonymously. Even though IT may not be able to identity what content you're accessing online, the simple fact that you are using a proxy browser may be enough to suspend your computer rights, put you on probation or even cause you to lose your job.

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