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Should You Trust Every Proxy?

There a few things to be aware of when you're choosing and using a proxy server. They're not all alike—there are good ones and not-so-good ones. Here's why it's important to know what you're getting into.

Let's say that you're going to send an email with attachment, or maybe you're filling out a form that has personal or financial information. You need to think about what happens when you hit "Send."

First, your communication must pass through the proxy server before it travels electronically to its destination, which can range from somebody's email account to a retailer's website. Now, most people are only interested in hiding their IP address... but they should want a little more than that. Here's why.

When your data travels with many proxies, it moves mostly in unencrypted form. What does that mean? That means that a hacker who intercepts it can turn the digital information right back into its original format, and your information would be plain to see.

From bad to worse.

That's only part of what might go wrong. There's also something known as a "malicious proxy server"... which is as bad as it sounds. Instead of being a helpful, trustworthy middleman for your Web surfing, you might go through a proxy server run by undesirable types... hackers or crooks.

According to the website DarkReading.com, proxies are not used just by security companies, but by criminals as well. One such malicious proxy was DNSChanger (which has been shut down), that rerouted trusting Internet users to unwanted ads and also put malicious programs on their computers—they turned many of the innocent victims' computers into bots.

And in worst-case scenarios, malicious proxy servers have been known to record everything sent to them... including unencrypted log-ins and passwords of unsuspecting computer users.

Just so you know, even though the website or email server you're trying to reach might not know your IP address (or be able to trace it using geo-location), the proxy will always know your IP address. That's just how it works. That doesn't mean they will exploit it in any way—they simply know what it is. (And that will always bother some people who want MORE anonymity.)

Trust your proxy!

So what should you do if you're just dipping your toe in the proxy pool?
1. Never use or trust a proxy server no one has ever heard of. If you're not sure of the proxy, play it safe—do not pass on any private information that isn't encrypted.
2. The bottom line of this is to be wary when using proxy servers, and use only proxy servers of known integrity (i.e., the owner is known and trusted, has a clear privacy policy, etc.).

Looking for a good proxy?

Check out hidemyass.com. They offer proxy services as well as virtual private networks (VPNs). You can get all the information you need on their website.

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