The internet may be have started as a total freedom-fest, as a global electronic refuge without borders. But inevitably, such unbounded freedom quickly bought the ‘No’ men to the party. Whether it’s the Chinese government blocking news and social websites, US mega-media companies slamming down a ‘no-to-view’ wall for those outside the US – or just your office or school curtailing your right to wander the web – the once-boundless internet is now crisscrossed with digital barbed wire. But not to worry. Proxy software – wall-hopping and wire-cutting aids that get you to the content you want – have come to rescue us all, from having to do only what The Man says.
And such tools don’t have to cost either. With online freedom at stake, plenty of high-minded internet developers have risen to the challenge, and gifted us free proxy software which helps keep the internet free for all.
Tor is one of the first – and still one of the best – free TCP proxy tools for guarding internet users from snoopers. Tor has many layers to its security and shielding approach, just like the onion Tor is named after (Tor stands for The Onion Router). First up is a gaggle of network servers, who have signed-up to providing its core anonymizing services. Next is the client software installed on your machine. This encrypts all of your traffic, before chucking it onto the network of Tor servers.
These flick your communications around the server network at random, effectively removing any possible trace of where they have come from. And because the encryption is many-layered, your address, or the sites your looking for, can’t be tracked. To make Tor an even more difficult nut to crack, the gates to the network are kept secret, so they can’t be blocked. Tor can be downloaded to Linux, Windows and Mac computers – but not yet to cellphones or smartphones.
GTunnel is a Windows based proxy service developed specifically to help those locked out of the internet by their governments. Garden Networks is a not-for-profit group, working from Canada, to further the goals of internet freedom. It uses SOCKS proxy technology, and the Tor network – supplemented by its own servers, the GTunnel network. This ensures your IP address is kept hidden, while GTunnel’s encryption draws a veil over the content of your messages.
GTunnel also allows you to make GTalk or Skype calls anonymously. Whilst GTunnel is a robust and useful service – providing good reporting and feedback on network usage – it is now (except for Skype calls) only free-to-use for those with IP addresses in China and Iran.
If GTunnel’s recent suspension of free use has affected you, a great place to turn is Ultrasurf. This decade-old tool was also developed to help repressed internet users to get around government restrictions, and is funded in part by the US government. The core encryption algorithm has withstood the test of time, and doesn’t drag on your internet use – you’ll hardly notice the difference when browsing with Ultrasurf turned on.
Whilst Ultrasurf is generally considered a great tool for getting around blocks, and hiding the content of your communications from eavesdroppers, it can leave your IP exposed to tracking. For that reason, it’s best to disable any ‘active content’ features in your browser, to ensure complete anonymity.
Update : It has been reported to us that GPass contains a back door spyware called Backdoor.Win32.Delf.cwo which is used to collect personal information from users, kindly ignore the following review & please help spread the news!
For users who prefer to take their software with them on a USB flash drive, GPass offers a good solution. It’s a full-fledged proxy connection tool that lets you browse anonymously, and is completely portable. That means you can don’t have to worry about installation hassles, as it can be run it from whatever computer your USB drive is plugged into.
As with much of the free proxy software gang, GPass wraps messages in its own encryption algorithm, and then passes them out onto Tor. That keeps both you, and your browsing, invisible to prying eyes. While its servers are generally considered fast, availability can be an issue. And you can’t pick from a list of alternative country IPs, as the service runs from the US only. But neither of these niggles detract from the overall good impression that this portable proxy app makes.
This is another free proxy software tool that makes use of the Tor backbone network. Privoxy provides such value-added proxy services as filtering and ad-blocking, while Tor makes you invisible on the network. Like many of the best packages out there, it is an open software package released under the Gnu license, and is liked by many for its flexible configuration options.
You can use it to manage your cookies, stop time-consuming GIF animations and to prevent scripts from tracking your clicks. All of that power and flexibility does come at a cost – it is a little technical to setup, and there is a noticeable drag on performance – but Privoxy can be run out-of-the-box, if you’d prefer. This is a good proxy toll for those Windows and Linux users who like to delve a bit deeper, so as to assure themselves of the best security and anonymity.
Freegate is one of the most heavily used proxy servers, particularly by users in countries such as China, the UAE, Syria and Iran. It owes its popularity, in part, because of the heavyweight backing its server farms get. The hardware core for this tool, designed by Dynamic Internet Technology, is provided by Hurricane Electric, who maintain one of the world’s major internet backbones. Freegate makes use of strong compression and encryption algorithms for your internet traffic, connecting via using SOCKS technology to some pretty nimble proxy servers.
This give users a combination of a hidden IP, secure browsing and fast performance. Freegate only works natively on Windows platforms – but does extends its coverage back to Windows98. You can, however, use the Windows emulator, WINE, to get Freegate running on Linux machines, too.