An anonymous proxy is a computer program designed to hide your identity when browsing the Internet. The program runs from a third party server and handles data exchange between you and the servers you want to access, such as websites, web mail, and chat rooms. With an anonymous proxy, you never deal directly with the places you visit; you send and receive data via the proxy. It is "anonymous" because it hides information about you such as your IP address and geographic location. In addition to this, an anonymous proxy can protect you from spyware and tracking devices such cookies, pop-ups and malicious scripts.
Why use an anonymous proxy server? There are a number of benefits to using one, namely:
- Ability to bypass network restrictions
- Increased privacy
- Faster browsing
Suppose you use a computer in school or work. The local area network has banned a website that you want to access. Or you may be trying to access a site that forbids visitors from your country. If you have ever wondered how to bypass network restrictions, an anonymous proxy is the answer. Because your IP address is either changed or hidden, the site doesn't recognize you for who/where you really are and you gain free access. Note however that willfully circumventing network or website restrictions may be illegal. If you want to use a proxy just to access banned sites, ask yourself if it's really worth the risk.
Anonymous proxies may also be used to surf anonymously. Do you want to cover your tracks, hide your surfing interests and/or not be recognized by a web admin? An anonymous proxy will let you do just that. No one will know your IP address, returning visits, browser type or country of origin.
Finally, you can accelerate web browsing using a proxy server. Proxies often cache pages and files that other users have requested before you. If you send a request and the proxy finds it's already there in the cache, it will display it instantly.
An anonymous proxy can also be used for malicious reasons. The server owner could be a hacker or spammer who retrieves e-mail passwords, account numbers and other sensitive data. It is important to find an anonymizer that enables secure connections so you can encrypt your data during transit.
Sometimes knowing how to bypass network restrictions and surf unseen can be a bad thing. Anonymous proxies can be used to harass or stalk people online. If you get e-mail messages and discover from the headers that the sender is using an anonymous server, contact the server owner and the authorities to report the incident. Never reply to the spammer or stalker.
For best and safest results, it is highly advisable that you use only a trusted proxy server with a clean track record. It may cost you a little unlike free proxies, but then again is there a price for your privacy and security?