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The Truth About Proxies

If you search on the internet you’ll find many proxy sites including plenty of USA based proxies – usually they consist of loads of adverts and a little slot in the middle of the page where you type the website you want.

These sites promise you the following –

  • security
  • anonymity
  • ability to bypass firewalls
  • ability to bypass content filters

In reality you’ll normally get none of these although to be fair there are some benefits.  Here’s the truth about these proxies and the claimed benefits to help you make your own decision.

Security

If you’re really concerned about security and your privacy then the answer is don’t use these websites.  certainly never use them to access any site that requires passwords or personal credentials.  These sites normally are set up quickly and easily using a proxy software called Glype.  This is simply installed on some cheap or free hosting account and surrounded by adverts in an attempt to make money.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with that but be aware the server is not secured, they are also not highly anonymous and there will be no mention of what happens to the logs and you are trusting that website with whatever data you send through it.  In reality all you are doing is adding another risk to your browsing.  There are some malicious web sites which exist just to steal any credentials that are sent through it.

Anonymity

The claim for anonymity for these sites can be partially true if they are configured correctly.  What they can protect from is the web site you are visiting storing your IP address in it’s logs.     The main problem with trying to stay anonymous on the web is two fold – firstly your browsing is logged in its entirety at your ISP, secondly it’s all in clear text so is readable by anyone.

The proxies will sometimes stop your IP address being logged at the web site you visit – that’s it.  But in exchange it will be logged on their server which may well be run by a 16 year old in his spare time.

Using Proxies to Bypass Firewalls

This can work in a particularly lax environment but in those cases you probably won’t need a proxy server!   If the firewall just blocks access to specific IP addresses or URLs then this might work.  However most environments are rather more sophisticated than that.  Also the majority of web proxy sites are themselves blocked anyway.  They can be useful in countries with basic blocks on popular sites like Facebook and YouTube for example.

Using Proxies to Bypass Content Filters

This is a complete non starter as no web proxy will have the slightest effect here.  The problem is that although a content filter also looks for specific web sites, IP addresses and content to block it actually looks at the request itself.  Most filters look inside the packet themselves so proxies will have no effect whatsoever apart from getting you flagged by the IT Admins for trying to circumvent any restrictions.  There is only one way to bypass a sophisticated content filter and that’s to use a concealed proxy server plus encrypt all your data.   The encryption means that the content filter can’t look inside the packet and work out the destination. So if you don’t want to have every thing you do online logged and recorded by your ISP and/or employer then encryption is a must. It’s often used when people access pornography online – particularly popular in the middle East where a porn proxy are standard because of the various blocks implemented by the Governments.

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