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Why You Shouldn't Use Free Proxies - Risks & Reasons

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Danielius Radavicius

2022-06-22

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If you were to scrape data from a region-locked website and just found out about proxies, it’s certainly fair to assume that one of the first thoughts would be related to free proxies. After all, why would you pay for a service if there are ways to get it for free? However, upon reading and digging for more information, you’d quickly realize that free proxies bring a plethora of concerning issues. To further examine them, let’s ask the simple question: are free proxies safe?

Are free proxies safe?

Free proxies allure with an image of simplicity. Find the location and website you’d like, and you’re done. Yet, like with most things, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are five reasons why you should avoid using free proxies:

1. The vast majority of free proxies don't use HTTPS

The HTTPS protocol ensures that your connection is encrypted; shockingly, nearly 80% of free proxy servers don’t allow for an HTTPS connection. In practical terms, this means that all data you’re sending can be easily monitored. As such, if data privacy is a concern in any way, then free proxies are a poor choice.

2. Your connection can be easily monitored

It’s theorized that one of the primary reasons why most free proxies don’t use HTTPS is because they wish to monitor you. After all, there have been numerous free proxies set up in the past for this exact reason.

Every time you use a free proxy, you’re essentially gambling and, at best, hoping that the owners won’t use or sell your data/information in any way, which is a worry you certainly don’t want to have.

3. Cookie stealing

It’s essential to protect your cookies since they’re used to store your login details. They exist to simplify the process of logging in (so you don’t have to repeat the login process every time) and, as such, store sensitive data. However, when a proxy server is established between you and a website, the said proxy owners can easily steal cookies as they’re being established. This would allow them to not only impersonate you online but also to login to the deeply sensitive websites you’ve visited.

4. The issue of malicious software

There is a common theme running within all the issues discussed on free proxies, and that's essentially hoping that access to your data will not be abused with no certain guarantees. The issue of malicious malware, for example, suffers from the same problems as, technically, nothing is stopping the proxy owners from infecting your hardware. 

Interestingly, some of the malware could be added unintentionally, even without the owners knowing. Since free proxies often depend on ads for their revenue, they may, even without malicious intent, advertise dangerous malware-based ads.

5. Low quality service

Sadly after taking all the risks mentioned above, the reward is suboptimal. On average free proxies are, compared to paid ones, drastically slower, both due to the lack of funding and the number of people that may be using them simultaneously.

In short, all these factors combined make free proxies a high-risk, low-reward service.

What is a premium proxy?

Premium proxies are effectively the exact opposite of free proxies. They are fast, reliable, transparent, and completely safe. Most offer multiple choices, whether you’d like Datacenter or Residential Proxies, or maybe a Scraper API is a solution you need. All of this allows for significant customization that is most relevant to your projects. Furthermore, with a premium service, you get access to state-of-the-art solutions that aren’t stagnant. A constant improvement in quality and speed is at the top of premium proxy priorities.

Premium vs free proxy: the advantages

Outlining all the benefits and features of premium proxies would probably require an entire article for itself, so in order to stay focused on the topic of why you shouldn’t use free proxies, only the core advantages of paid proxies will be discussed.

1. Safety

Most issues outlined within free proxies are related to safety. Premium proxies offer unparalleled protection, and they take the responsibility upon themselves to ensure your data is as safe as possible. The security of data is both a value-generating property and a factor that, if overlooked, could get a proxy provider into serious trouble. Combining these two points, you can expect near certainty that the levels of data safety within top proxy providers are as good as they can be.

2. Quality and speed

It’s probably unsurprising that paid proxy services offer significantly faster speeds. Yet, what is arguably as important as quickness is the uptime. Free proxies have no obligations to ensure that their connections are always available. Technically, premium proxies don’t as well, but when dealing with large businesses, speeds and an unending uptime are essential; therefore, you usually get both from top proxy providers. 

It should also be noted that within industry-leading proxy businesses, there is a lot of effort put into getting quality, ethical proxies. Such a fact is closely related to uptime and stability as it decreases the chance of various proxies disappearing without notice.

3. State of the art technology

Efficiency is vital for any large-scale project, and the same is for proxies. A sure way to provide the highest levels of it, especially in a field such as IT, is through technological developments, and the proxy/data gathering industry is full of them. By choosing a premium solution, you’ll often be introduced to various advancements like AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) that greatly increase proxies’ effectiveness, especially in fields like web scraping.

Do note that while these state-of-the-art technologies are of great use to massive businesses, they may be of less value on a small scale. After all, there is a reason why free proxies are still being used, as there are cases where a rather simple task may not need the speed, safety, and anonymity of paid proxies.

What to look for when choosing a proxy provider

There is a wide range of factors you ought to consider before choosing a proxy, and below, we’ve listed a handful of key ones:

1. Choose the right proxy for the job

Each proxy type has its own benefits and weaknesses; therefore, determining your exact requirements is a must. For example, Residential Proxies decrease the chances of you getting blocked, but they are more expensive. On the other hand, the faster, less pricey Datacenter Proxies also offer a good testing ground to see if the “simpler” IPs get blocked.

2. Large proxy pools

The larger the pool, the more specified the location. A smaller proxy pool could be unable to provide targeting at a city or even state level. Furthermore, a low number of proxies means blocks become a more dire issue. Most providers say they have massive proxy pools, but you should always make sure, as some will certainly be larger than others.

3. Price

It’s easy to get lost when deciding which proxy provider you ought to choose. On the other hand, in some cases, the price can single-handedly determine if you’re buying the chosen proxy service or picking something else. Yet, with proxies, pricing isn’t very straightforward. This is closely related to the initial factor of choosing the suitable proxy for the job. You may find a service that appears to have all your necessities for a cheaper cost, although, upon further inspection, the technology used in said proxies, their speeds, and overall availability could be lacking.

In short, establish your proxy needs and research and compare why a specific proxy provider prices their services at such a rate.

4. Reviews

This may be somewhat of an obvious tip, but it’s nevertheless essential to mention. We’ve already established that your proxy provider has to be trustworthy, and reviews are a great way to establish that. Make sure that the number of reviews is significant as well. After all, five 5-star reviews are less inspiring than 5000 reviews that average out at 4.5. Look at both high and low ratings so you can figure out if the issues outlined by other users can significantly affect your scraping projects as well.

Conclusion

It’s abundantly clear that using free proxies brings a heap of serious, underlying issues. Sadly, due to the nature of these proxies, such problems will not go away. Yet, even after establishing the myriad of difficulties you could encounter while using free proxies, they still serve a role. On a small scale, using free proxies may not produce harm, though that is still somewhat of a gamble. It’s when projects start to scale up; that’s when free proxies go from a risky choice to a dangerous issue. 

Therefore, similarly to the theme discussed throughout this blog post, you must decide what your exact needs are and, based upon them, make the decision yourself. Even after choosing to pay for proxies, a provider has to be chosen with great care.

For more information on proxies in general, check out this blog post. Also, if the mention of proxy advancements piques your interest, see this article where Next-Gen Residential Proxies are discussed.

About the author

Danielius Radavicius

Junior Copywriter

Danielius Radavicius is a Junior Copywriter at Oxylabs. Having grown up in films, music, books, and a keen interest in the defense industry, he decided to move his career towards tech-related subjects and quickly became interested in all things technology. In his free time, you'll probably find Danielius watching films, listening to music, and planning world domination.

All information on Oxylabs Blog is provided on an "as is" basis and for informational purposes only. We make no representation and disclaim all liability with respect to your use of any information contained on Oxylabs Blog or any third-party websites that may be linked therein. Before engaging in scraping activities of any kind you should consult your legal advisors and carefully read the particular website's terms of service or receive a scraping license.

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IN THIS ARTICLE


  • Are free proxies safe?

  • What is a premium proxy?

  • Premium vs free proxy: the advantages

  • What to look for when choosing a proxy provider

  • Conclusion

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