Is it safe to use proxy servers from public lists on the web?
May 19, 2008 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I am outside the US but would like to watch some online TV episodes from US networks websites. I have found many lists of US-based proxy servers online that I could try, but I am concerned about security -- would using such a proxy server make me more vulnerable to viruses, worms, spam, and/or other such things? Many thanks.
posted by leticia to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hostpot Shield is a free app that it's supposed to keep you safe at wireless hotspots, but is supposedly great for allowing you watch shows at the TV networks sites and Hulu.
posted by sharkfu at 10:10 AM on May 19, 2008

I forgot to note that Hotspot Shield is from a reputable company. As for other proxy servers, I would only use them to connect to watch TV, not for anything private (such as checking email, doing banking, etc) as I believe using the proxy opens you up them sniffing your traffic. In theory SSL pages would still be secure, but flaws in the way cookies are handled have shown to be exploitable to allow session jacking even in SSL pages (i.e. they could read your email during the session but wouldn't have your password to log in on their own).
posted by sharkfu at 10:14 AM on May 19, 2008

wait, not using any proxy at a public wifi spot is better than using a service like hotspot shield? that sounds kind of counterintuitive.

I use hotspot shield myself and while I do consider them reputable, it's not really all that great for watching tv. you can use it to watch a few shows but it's (a) a bit too slow to allow you to watch hulu and the likes in real time without much buffering and (b) eventually it'll kick you out for the rest of the month because you used up your traffic. I think the limit made for perhaps ten or so episodes of half-hour sitcoms. while I wouldn't really like to do online banking or even checking my emails from public or shared wifi locations I'd prefer doing it using this than just being completely unshielded there but I'm open to learn more about this if you do have any further opinions.

I haven't gotten tor to work with safari on my os x mac yet and can't tell you how fast it is but since it's eff, I'd be inclined to consider it more secure than not using anything at a public hotspot. I do recall reading about someone analyzing the traffic that went through his nod though.
posted by krautland at 11:17 AM on May 19, 2008

@Krautland-- I was talking about public proxy. Public proxy vs public wifi spot is kinda like "pick your poison". Someone could be sniffing your traffic at the hotspot just as they could be sniffing it through a compromised proxy. A paid VPN service is better than either, or a VPN pack to your home machine.

Tor is NOT secure! Tor is anonymous but not secure. Recently usernames and passwords for embassies were compromised through Tor. Tor is good if you're in a net censored country for browsing sites your government might not like. It might be good for TV, but I suppose similar bandwith issues would exist and I'm not sure if you can select the country of your exit node so it's definitely US.

Back to the original question: if you run out of bandwith from hotspot shield you could use a public proxy, but make sure you don't check email while using the proxy. Maybe you could set up a separate user account with the proxies and just log in to that account to watch TV, no surfing or banking or anything. I could be too paranoid, but that's how I'd do it.
posted by sharkfu at 11:34 AM on May 19, 2008

I've been using WiTopia's personal VPN service. It's not free ($40/year)--but it has been very reliable for me and I don't notice any speed hit when I'm using it.
posted by reflexed at 3:18 PM on May 19, 2008

I have web-hosting with a US company (I'm not US based) and I can ssh into my hosting and setup a socks proxy, which seems to make me seem US based. I get quite good speeds. Obviously you need a host that allows this, and doesn't take you over your bandwidth limit!!

It's a one line command to setup in OS X...can't remember it off the top of my head though...I just press UP and ENTER!
posted by tanc at 3:10 AM on May 20, 2008

Thanks for all replies. The replies have confirmed what I was worried about. I will try hotspot shield, following the hint of only using it for TV, and maybe only on another user account. If it doesn't work, i'll pay for some VPN. I'm out of the country for a long time, so it's probably worth it.

But, i'm still open to more suggestions, if anyone has any other ideas. (I forgot to mention I'm on a PC, not Mac, using Windows XP)
posted by leticia at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2008

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