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Is Your Data Being Collected and Leaked by Online Services?

Privacy is more than just a big concern for many internet users today. Protecting your privacy is crucial, especially when you consider the amount of personal information you can potentially share as you move from one website to another. Your IP address alone can be used for tracking and profiling by websites and advertising networks.

The logical thing to do is masking your real IP address using services like free proxies, but this may no longer be a suitable solution if you are not careful. A lot of VPN service providers are logging your internet activities and still sharing those details with other parties. So, is your data being collected and leaked by online services? How can you avoid this issue?

The Danger of Free Proxies

Free proxy servers are easy to find. They are usually offered as a way to protect your privacy while browsing the web. The only problem is that the zero logging claims from free proxy service providers are not always verifiable. You may end up giving away more of your personal information than you normally would when browsing the internet without a proxy.

Free proxies are also being used as honeypots. Honeypotting is the practice of offering legitimate services using seemingly credible resources for malicious purposes. In the case of free proxies, the zero-logging claim is a mask for active data collection. Every website you visit through the proxy – the data you send and receive through it – is being logged and reported.

There have been a lot of cases of honeypotting, which we will get to in a bit. For now, let’s focus on the solution to this privacy concern. Rather than using free proxies, it is a good idea to switch to private proxies. Private proxies, as explained by Smartproxy, are not only more reliable, but also more secure.

Each private IP address can only be used by you. On top of that, you know exactly how the proxy server is managed. Private proxy service providers honor their privacy policy and operate under strict terms and conditions. Not only will you be safeguarding your personal details, but you also get better performance from the private proxy server.

More About Honeypotting

There have been reports about servers and services being used deliberately for collecting data. Some free proxies are known to be leaking data to other parties. In fact, honeypotting is also found in VPN services, which are advertised as being more secure than proxies. A recent report by Security Brief suggests that 40% of the top 250 VPN services are not protecting their users’ data sufficiently.

Free VPNs and free proxies are particularly prone to this issue. Offering VPN and proxy services for free can only mean the providers are monetizing their services through other means, and that means they are most likely selling user profiles and browsing habits to advertisers and other entities. In July 2020, 7 VPN services were caught leaking terabytes of user data.

Those free VPN services include big names like Rabbit VPN and UFO VPN. Combined, the 7 providers are used by more than 20 million people from around the world. This was a serious data leak. It showed how even services that are advertised as 100% secure can be honeypots designed to exploit user data.

It’s a Serious Risk

Sticking with the July data leak example, it doesn’t take a computer genius to understand just how dangerous using free proxies and VPN services can be. The report found that data leaked by the 7 service providers included sensitive details such as email addresses and plain text passwords. This means the free service providers have access to users’ personal accounts.

The same data leak also includes internet activity logs, which are normally used to profile users’ internet browsing behavior. For advertisers, this type of data is valuable as it helps them display the right ads at the right time with incredible accuracy. There were even payment details and home addresses captured by the free service providers and leaked to other entities.

In the case of the data leak, all 7 services were running from a server maintained by Dreamfii HK. Heavy marketing and bold claims about security were pinned down as some of the reasons why users trusted the free VPN services so much. With this case made public, you now have more reason to stick to paid and reliable proxy services rather than free ones.

Securing Yourself

As mentioned earlier, one of the solutions you can consider as a security measure is a private proxy service. If private proxies with dedicated IP addresses aren’t for you, you can also look into shared proxy servers with millions of IP addresses. Combined with other security measures like up-to-date antivirus and firewall software, you can protect your personal information whenever you browse the internet.

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