There are just too many restrictions related to free VPNs. A better solution is needed.
Millions of people use free proxy services to get around censorship, security, and to access websites that are otherwise unavailable. Customers’ privacy and security are at risk because of these free services, according to an inquiry. Proxies, which allow online traffic to be routed through another network, were reviewed by security researcher Christian Haschek from Austria. Proxies were reviewed to see if they altered the content of the site or allowed visitors to use encryption. According to Haschek, only 21% of the tested proxies were not “shady.”
Another 79% of surveyed proxy providers block safe, HTTPS traffic, according to Haschek.
It is usual practise to encrypt Web traffic using HTTPS, making it harder for hackers and middlemen to intercept sensitive information such as credit card numbers and passwords. Haschek cautions that these open proxies “may analyse your traffic and steal your logins” by preventing clients from surfing the Web securely.
Increase in Recognizability
On-demand multimedia streaming services and growing concerns about government surveillance of internet activity have increased proxy usage. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are often used to circumvent geographical restrictions on services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. Software and media pirates have resorted to VPNs to hide their whereabouts, making it harder for content owners to sue them.
Countries with tight Internet rules also use VPN services. Until earlier this year, the Chinese government prohibited VPN use, mostly by foreigners trying to access Western websites blocked by the Great Firewall. Many Australians started using VPNs in April after the government mandated data retention. Between early March and mid-April, CNET reported that one VPN provider’s Australian business grew 500%.
In recent months, free VPN services have been linked to misleading business tactics. Last month, Hola, an Israeli VPN provider with over 48 million customers, was severely condemned for selling idle bandwidth. So Hola’s millions of free users became a botnet used for illicit operations like frequent denial-of-service attacks on the message board 8chan.
There was nothing particularly nefarious found during Haschek’s investigation; however, several of the examined services were labelled “certainly terrible adware.” “An easy approach to infect thousands of individuals and capture their data,” the security researcher wrote in a prior report, citing a free proxy service.
Users can be turned into botnets for distributed denial-of-service attacks, and their online actions can be tracked with ease when a VPN provider is in charge. This observation was made by Haschek in his paper.
Finding Safe Alternatives
Haschek has created a programme called Proxy Checker, which does a brief examination on any proxy service in use to guarantee that it isn’t modifying content or requiring users to renounce encryption when using free proxies.
But Haschek advises against using free proxies at all. Fortunately, there are safe options available to you.
Getting started with a virtual private network (VPN) or proxy service is recommended. These premium services don’t have to breach encryption to show adverts or sell their customers’ traffic off, as was the case with Hola, because they are funded by monthly subscription fees. Personal privacy is a major concern for Private Internet Access’s CEO Jonathan Roudier.
For privacy and security, Roudier told WIRED. “But it costs.”
Besides security, commercial VPN services offer customer assistance, don’t impose bandwidth limits, and let users choose which encryption method to use.
However, not all high-end VPN services place an equal value on consumer security. A VPN provider that does not trace traffic and prevents IPv6 leakage, which reveals users’ IP addresses, should be sought out. Mullvad, a well-known service, and Private Internet Access both provide that level of security. To prevent IPv6 leaks, TorGuard’s VPN client includes an advanced mode that does not monitor user activity.
Users can also use Tor, a free and highly secure anonymous browsing service. However, as Tor relies on volunteer-run servers to relay traffic, you may forget about smooth HD video streaming.
There is no silver bullet for online security and privacy. But entrusting your Internet traffic to a third party is best done with a service that doesn’t serve advertising and compromise your security.
Read more: Main Reasons You Need to Use a VPN