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Free Proxy Servers: Friend or Foe?!

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Do you like free proxy servers?

I am talking about those “free” proxy servers you enter either directly into your web browser configuration or use some automated software to do this automatically “in the background” for you.

I will tell you one thing. I am an IT guy and I am pretty sure I understand my stuff quite well. In my opinion, the “free proxy servers” are borderline scam! I am not talking about the web proxies – i.e. those websites where you enter your URL and click “visit”. Despite that, in my opinion, those are good for the casual use only, they are at least legitimate. Most of them at least.

But do you want to know what those “free” proxy servers are way too often? They are just misconfigured software running on someone’s servers. That someone unintentionally allowed unrestricted access to the proxy server he/she attempted to configure properly but failed at, because it’s not a simple task.

They initially don’t even know they have this problem until someone begins to really abuse the bandwidth resources they have allocated and that usually doesn’t take long – that’s why they stop working so soon. If you use such a proxy, you may be actually stealing their bandwidth! Bandwidth that someone has to pay for in cold cash.

But you know what? Don’t trust me! Just go and find who has the particular proxy IP address assigned and contact them. I bet they will be surprised if you tell them what’s going on.

Some of those “free” proxies work even as so-called “honeypots” operated by hackers. I don’t have exact numbers on this problem but when I was doing some Internet research earlier this year, it indeed lead me to the conclusion there may be quite a few. I don’t think the servers are rented by the hackers themselves. It doesn’t work that way. They are most likely just compromised computers/servers.

In my not-so-humble opinion, using “free” proxies is a pretty risky business no matter how you look at it. There are even many software applications that help you find working free proxy servers and then automate the process of switching your web browser to use one of them. Some of those applications even look relatively professional.

But let me ask you one simple question…

Do they know who owns the free proxy servers? Nope, THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHO OWNS THEM! Well, you get the picture.

Conclusion: If you really do need to use a free service, use web proxy servers (web based), TOR, or JAP. TOR and JAP are usually slow – *very* slow but should offer a relatively good level of anonymity. If using web proxy servers, try to use the established ones only.

Anonymous Internet Surfing: Is Google Chrome or Internet Explorer 8 the Answer to Internet Privacy?

Friday, November 14th, 2008

I often hear about the brand new Google Chrome web browser and the upcoming Microsoft (or is it Windows?) Internet Explorer 8 and how great they are. One of their most important new features is supposedly their privacy mode or how they call it.

Great, “Finally we can get some privacy on the net” I hear you saying! Well, maybe. But not with those tools I am afraid. The term “privacy mode” is a bit misleading in my opinion. Not false marketing, it’s just important to know what it has been designed for and what is beyond its scope.

The privacy modes offered by those, as well as the other web browsers on the market, are good for one thing only. When the privacy mode is enabled, no traces are left in the operating system registry, no cookies and history is stored on the local PC.

So when you want to hide the fact that you have just visited that ton of porn webs from your wife or kids, it will do the job. That’s what it has been designed for – of course not just for the porn webs but we know the truth, right? đŸ˜‰

It can also mask the user-agent browser string pretending you are using a different web browser with a different preferred language. In my opinion, that’s just a feeble attempt at ensuring your anonymity.

So, is that real privacy?! It helps for sure. It’s great when you share your computer with someone else and I am not saying those are bad features. Far from that!

What I am afraid of, however, is that once those web browsers become widespread, many people, mostly those technically less savvy ones, will get that very dangerous false feeling of privacy and anonymity on the Internet.

They will think this way: “I just enable this great privacy mode and nobody will see what I am doing on the net, nobody will know where I am coming from, nobody will be able to steal my private data.”.

But this, my unknown Internet friend, this is not happening. You will need a bigger caliber for that.

Much bigger!

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