What Are the Dangers of Using Proxy Servers?

By Kiran Bharthapudi

Be wary of open proxy servers and use only accredited providers
i Chad Baker/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Wnen you use a proxy server, your computer or a mobile device is essentially entering the Internet via a server and an IP address different from your own. Connecting to the Web via a proxy server is one way to protect your online anonymity. Web browsers also tend to use proxy servers to access restricted content not made available to their host servers. Despite some apparent benefits, however, use of a proxy server as an Internet gateway entails a number of potential risks.

Security Hack

When you access a Web page -- for example, your email, credit card or a bank account using a proxy server -- all packets of data that flow from and to your computer from that Web page has to pass through a third-party server. These third-party servers are not always recognizable or reliable and the data received by and released from your device is not always encrypted. Thus, malicious proxy servers can potentially record all the data heading from and towards your device and hijack sensitive details such as usernames and passwords of your online accounts.

Spam and Virus Attacks

It is likely you will encounter more banners and ads when you connect to the Internet via a proxy server than otherwise. When you connect to a proxy server, a session is assigned for your online engagements. However, very often, server providers stuff your session with ad links with an objective to generate advertising revenue. Even worse, proxy providers can infiltrate your session with viruses and spam, which you may inadvertently download and cause fatal damage to your computer.

Identity Theft

When you use a proxy server you're essentially surrendering your host name to an often unknown third party. In other words, you may use someone else's IP address to browse the Internet, but you're submitting and exposing your own address for potential abuse. For instance, someone may use your identity as a proxy to conduct nefarious and illegal activities on the Internet. Further, without your knowledge or consent, proxy providers may handover or sell your IP address to others such as marketeers or law enforcement. Thus, proxies can result in severe breach and abuse of your Internet identity.

Broken Internet

Even a well-intended proxy operation may not always deliver desired online security and speed. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of Web users rely on a single server to route data back and forth. Proxy servers require large amounts of bandwidth to sustain the burden of heavy traffic from multiple workstations. However, it costs money, labor and time to buy more bandwidth, install updated security patches and ease pressure that a server experiences. Hence, Web browsing via a proxy can often be agonizingly slow and and almost always insecure.