Are you aware that everything you do on the Internet can be tracked right back to your computer through the use of your Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is a code assigned to your by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This address is unique to you and your connection, at any one time nobody else will be using the same IP address anywhere in the world and logs are kept of who is using what IP address and when they used it. You may already know about your IP address and are doing your best to protect yourself by using a proxy server. A correctly configured proxy server will appear on the Internet to be just another user, even though in reality there could be thousands of people behind it. While it will be possible to track you back as far as the proxy server it will be impossible to go any further.
 
That is assuming it is a correctly configured proxy server and not one run by a malicious webmaster intent on harvesting as much information as possible!  You see when you use a proxy server you are putting a lot of faith in the people running it, and how well do you really know them?  Probably not well at all, I will highlight some of the issues and how you can best avoid them.
 
Firstly how is your data sent? Most public proxy servers work without encryption, this means that any data you send through the proxy server is sent ‘as is’ so if you are typing in your bank login details and password then those will go through the proxy server. So be sure to never visit any sites which require your personal information while using a proxy. This includes your credit card details, so don’t go buying anything over an unencrypted public proxy, if you do you might just as well advertise your card details in the local newspaper.
 
It is not just criminals and hackers who use the information from proxies, you might be quite surprised how many large companies use such a method for market research. If a big retailer sets up an open proxy they can analyse the information going through it, track your buying history and tailor specific marketing campaigns directly at you. This might seem a bit extreme, but it is only an extension of the existing loyalty card scheme, I presume you know that your supermarket loyalty card only exists so they can track your spending patterns?
 
Next go read through the proxy sites ‘Terms and Conditions’ as well as their ‘Privacy Policy’, if you don’t like something or feel even the slightest level of suspicion move on! If at all possible choose a proxy which has a good reputation, one that IT experts use and that has a reputation for being safe.
 
If you are using a public proxy it should be exactly that, completely public, they should not require you to signup, to provide details of any kind. Obviously this does not apply to private proxies where you are paying for a premium service, however still the information a private proxy should collect is no more than that which is needed to bill you for their services.
 
If you consider your online security to have any value consider using a premium proxy service for cloaking your IP address, preferably one which operates with the highest levels of encryption available and which wipes all server logs so there is no record of even your encrypted activities. There are many proxy options available, but in truth very few which are actually worth using!

 

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