According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a proxy is the “agency, function, or office of a deputy who acts as a substitute for another.” Therefore, a proxy server, or “proxy”, is a server that acts as an intermediary between your computer and the Internet.
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There are several benefits of using a proxy server and we will explain them in this guide. We will also go over the risks of proxy servers and how you can protect yourself against them by using a VPN instead.
When you use a proxy server, a server essentially acts on your behalf whenever you do anything on the Internet. This allows you to hide some of your private information behind the proxy. Everything that is done through a proxy server is transparent to you, aside from the initial setup.
A proxy server can be beneficial in several different ways. However, there are two functions that are most commonly used by the general public and that is what we will focus on here.
Hiding an IP address is one of the most common reasons that individuals use a proxy server. Your real IP address can reveal private information about you, which we explain in detail here. Instead of using the IP address of your computer, connecting to a proxy server allows you to “borrow” the IP address of the server, thereby masking your personal identity when you are online.
Another benefit to using a proxy server is the ability to access website content that would otherwise be blocked because of your geographic location. For example, some video streaming services only have permission to play movies in certain countries. So if you use the IP address of a proxy server that is located in an approved country, you can get access to those shows, movies, and videos, even if you are not physically there.
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There are certainly benefits to using a proxy server, but there are also some potential risks that you should to be aware of. Here is what you need to know before using a proxy service.
If you do a web search for “proxy server,” you will see a ton of free services. The question you probably have is: Why pay for a service when there are so many free ones?
Well, like most products, proxies are generally worth what you pay for them. Running a proxy service requires time and resources. Without incoming revenue, many of these free services are unable to pay for the hardware, software, and personnel necessary to run a quality service with high uptime, speed, and security.
Even services that are monetized with ads usually don’t make enough money to provide top tier proxy servers. In addition, some services are free because they want to intercept your data and use it for their own benefit.
Therefore, you should stay away from free proxy services whenever possible. Paid services have a certain degree of accountability to their customers and are generally more trustworthy, but you should still do your research before using any paid service.
Many proxy servers log your browsing history and your IP address. So, while you gain a small amount of privacy by using a proxy, your online activity isn’t as anonymous as you think. If a proxy server is compromised or the owners decide to release your information, your data could become public. If you are truly concerned with privacy, then you should not use a proxy server.
Not all proxy services encrypt your data. This means that your information can potentially be intercepted between your computer and the proxy server. Whenever using a proxy service, insist on full encryption, especially when accessing sensitive sites like your bank account.
To protect yourself from all of these risks, download Hotspot Shield instead of using a proxy server.
A connection to a proxy service can be setup in your browser, or in your operating system. If your proxy settings are only added to your browser, only internet connections from your browser will be protected by the proxy. Therefore, it is usually better to setup your proxy connection in your operating system.
To connect to a proxy server, you usually only need two pieces of information:
There may be additional information that is needed, like a username and password, depending on the proxy service you are using. Also keep in mind that you may have to exclude certain websites or services from the proxy settings, to get them to work.
Since a proxy hides your IP address, you might think that it is the same as a VPN. This is not true.
A proxy server masks your IP address, so you can browse the internet without revealing your real IP. But not all proxy services provide data encryption and many log your browsing history, along with your IP address. In addition, if you only set up a proxy server in your browser, other programs that use the Internet could expose your private information.
On the other hand, once you install VPN software on your computer and it is configured correctly, all of your programs are automatically protected, your history is never logged, and your data is heavily encrypted. You don’t have to worry about accidentally using a program that is configured incorrectly.
Comprehensive data protection, strong privacy safeguards, and ease of use, are a few reasons why a VPN provides significantly better protection than the average proxy server.
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