Sign In Sign Up


Proxies and Alternatives: VPN, Free Proxies, Fake IP Generators

Proxies are often the best option for various online activities, including work tasks. What are the proxy alternatives, and why should you avoid some of them?

Team Froxy 20 Jun 2024 10 min read
Proxies and Alternatives: VPN, Free Proxies, Fake IP Generators

Modern tech solutions are the foundation for everything - for both leisure and work. Therefore, it's doubly sad when a person can't access specific information. There are various approaches to bypass restrictions. Let's talk about them below.

This material will be dedicated to the most adequate proxy alternatives (paid services for their rental). We’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each technological solution as well as show situations in which these technologies can be used.

What Are Proxies and Why People Use Them?

What Are Proxies and Why People Use Them?

Proxies are intermediary nodes through which traffic can be redirected to further establish alternative routes instead of inaccessible ones.

Proxies come in different types. The most common division is based on the types of devices they operate on:

  • Residential proxies (operate on the basis of home devices, IP addresses are offered by home internet providers). We'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of residential proxies.
  • Mobile proxies (operate on the basis of devices connected to mobile network operators). Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of mobile proxies.
  • Server proxies (operate on the basis of addresses owned by companies, mainly hosting providers, cloud services etc., these are so-called Internet Service Providers, ISPs).

Additionally, proxies can be classified based on their transparency (when special indicators are added/not added to redirected requests, while these requests are sent by the server/client data is hidden or not) and anonymity (what anonymous proxies are).

Rotating back-connect proxies stand out separately. All requests are sent here to a super proxy, which redistributes traffic within its network based on special rules. We'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of back-connect proxies.

It's important not to confuse high-quality paid proxies with free ones. Here is a detailed list of drawbacks of free proxies.

Proxies are most commonly used for the following tasks:

  • Bypassing regional blocks (to access blocked content);
  • Parsing and organizing bulk connections to target websites (due to the ability for rapid rotation of IP addresses, with sufficient coverage of the proxy provider's network);
  • Testing interfaces, performance and security systems (for web development tasks);
  • Checking the work of contractors (when ordering advertising from partners etc.);
  • SMM and SERM tasks (online reputation management, gathering feedback, managing multiple accounts on social networks etc.);
  • Competitor monitoring and business analytics (including market analysis, price level checks, offer breadth analysis, demand study, etc.);
  • Sales increase (by creating a large number of accounts on trading platforms).

The most likely alternative proxy server options to premium ones include:

  • VPN,
  • free proxies,
  • fake IP generators,
  • Tor networks.

Let’s discuss them below.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

The notion of VPN is quite widespread, but not everyone knows that this tool was originally developed to isolate corporate traffic within open channels.

What a VPN Is and How It Works

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology for establishing secure tunnels for information and data transmitted over public channels.

Information protection is achieved through traffic encryption. Physically, data is transmitted as usual - from node to node. However, if packages are intercepted, their contents cannot be read. Only those with the encryption key can see the real data.

Nowadays, VPNs are increasingly associated with niche services that offer traffic encryption to their servers. In reality, however, such services more closely resemble the work of proxies, as after decryption, requests are redirected to target sites in plain text (otherwise, the target site or service wouldn't be able to decrypt them).

By the way, the HTTPS technology somewhat resembles encrypted VPN tunnels, except that connections are encrypted using public keys - between the website and the browser. Keys are primarily used here for site authentication and to prevent client request tampering on the way back and forth.

Benefits of VPNs for Security and Privacy

Below, we'll describe the advantages of VPN services (as ready-made solutions for bypassing blocks and enhancing network security).

  • Data is securely encrypted. While inside the VPN, nobody can access it;
  • Since data is encrypted and decrypted on the client device, even the communication provider cannot see what and where the user is transmitting. This works similarly to protection in open networks like public Wi-Fi;
  • If the communication provider imposes restrictions on certain types of connections (e.g., torrents), it won’t be able to differentiate connection types within the VPN tunnel, and thus it cannot enforce restrictions. Therefore, data exchange speed can significantly increase in some cases;
  • Since the VPN provider's network is built on geographically distributed backbone servers, it achieves an effect similar to renting rotating proxies. The client can change their location—the backbone server will send requests on their behalf. Thus, regional and local blocks can be bypassed;
  • Changing location allows for other benefits: price comparison, protection of real IP addresses, purchasing goods in other regions, accessing various regional libraries of streaming services etc.
  • Some VPN services offer various additional security features in one subscription: password managers, personal data leak detection, protection against tracking by advertising trackers, full ad blocking, traffic cleaning from viruses etc. However, such features are not always available from all VPN providers.

And one more issue:

You can set up a VPN yourself - based on ready-made public solutions like WireGuard or OpenVPN. You just need to rent a virtual or dedicated server from any hosting provider for them.

Potential Downsides of VPNs and mostly Free VPNs

Common disadvantages of all VPNs:

  • In reality, connection speed may decrease compared to your incoming channel. This is because everything depends on the performance of the VPN server, its current load and the width of its channel. There are too many factors, and they don't always align favorably. Plus, additional time is spent on encryption and decryption (on your PC and on the VPN server);
  • Some communication providers have learned to distinguish encrypted VPN traffic, so they may intentionally slow it down or completely block it (by the way, VPNs are not static either - some have learned to "mimic" HTTPS traffic);
  • Traffic is encrypted only up to the backbone server. Further, requests are sent in plain text (from the server to the target site and back). That is, logs of your connections will at least be stored on the target site;
  • In many countries, VPNs are actively regulated, so using such services can cause legal issues;
  • Even large commercial VPN services may monitor their customers. Information is primarily collected for sales improvement and service quality enhancement purposes. However, the line between total surveillance and sales is very thin;
  • Setting up your own VPN requires specialized knowledge and skills (they are needed when launching and configuring a remote server). Even detailed manuals are not a guaranteed solution, as it's impossible to foresee everything (and software is constantly changing and updated).
  • High-quality VPNs require constant investment;
  • If you compare the coverage of VPNs with rotating proxies (like Froxy), VPNs are clearly inferior. Here, there are usually only 1-2 servers per location. It's practically impossible to change the IP address if it doesn't suit you in a specific country or city;
  • It’s very easy to block the IP address of a VPN server. Therefore, many major websites are inaccessible from VPN. This especially applies to trading platforms, online banking and top streaming services (premium VPNs circumvent video hosting restrictions by using buffer servers where they store regional content, similar to CDN providers);
  • VPNs are not well suited for parsing or competitor monitoring tasks (again, due to the limited number of available backbone points in the network);
  • You won’t be able to choose the address type when using VPN as you can with residential or mobile proxies. Therefore, VPNs are categorically unsuitable for anti-detection browsers or headless browsers.

Separate drawbacks of free VPN:

  • Maintaining VPN infrastructure requires significant investment. Therefore, if a VPN service does not charge its customers, it will earn money through other means. For example, by selling clients' personal data and analytics to large commercial companies;
  • Another common situation is the organization of proxy networks. Clients with installed VPN programs act as backbone points in the proxy network;
  • Low-quality security systems can lead to massive leaks. This has happened more than once already;
  • Servers are regularly overloaded. Connection speed and ping drop significantly. You need patience to use them;
  • The selection of connection locations is noticeably smaller than with premium providers;
  • There is no tech support, obligations or official guarantees.

Free Proxy Servers

Free Proxy Servers

Why pay when you can get proxies for free? It sounds logical, but only until you encounter the drawbacks of free proxies.

Let's go through all the pros and cons of free proxies, comparing them with paid ones.

Overview of Free Proxy Servers

Free proxies are nodes and servers in the global network, access to which is not protected, meaning anyone can use them.

On one hand, this is beneficial because there's no need to pay for anything, but on the other hand, there are numerous pitfalls, from low stability to complete disregard for confidentiality and security.

Sometimes, you may come across free proxies in the form of trial offers. This is a kind of testing format for paid services before making a final purchase.

Completely free proxies are always a "pig in a poke."

Due to technical specifications, free proxies are suitable only for a small range of use cases:

  • Occasional bypassing of regional blocks;
  • Quick and short-term access to target content;
  • Parsing tasks with specialized scripts capable of pre-checking the availability and quality of free proxies.

Advantages of Free Proxies

The major advantage of free proxies is the absence of mandatory payment. However, there may be nuances, as some providers charge for extended access to databases of such proxies.

Other advantages include:

  • Relative anonymity. You don't need to enter usernames and passwords or create personal accounts and pay for anything, thus disclosing your identity through payment details;
  • Sufficient choice of connection spots. Free proxies can be found in various locations, which is beneficial for parsing and monitoring tasks;
  • If one proxy goes down, it can be promptly replaced with another. This can be done practically endlessly.

Major Downsides of Free Proxy Servers

Some of the drawbacks of free proxies are quite significant, nullifying all attempts to use them for serious tasks.

  • General access in the "for all" format often leads to rapid overloading of proxy servers - speed drops and response times increase;
  • A proxy can disconnect or block access anytime. There are no guarantees or quality assurances. The lifespan of free proxies is blatantly random;
  • To cover the "dropouts" of non-functional nodes, you need to compile a huge database of free proxies. And here lies the main problem—it's impossible to find such a database. Even if there are websites with a large pool of free addresses, you can't download lists of them all at once (via API or through parsing). Access to data extraction options is usually paid. Then the proxies are no longer free;
  • You can't control who gets access to specific data. Everything transmitted through free proxies is potentially unsafe - the data is exposed to third parties. This means your logins, passwords, card details, etc. can easily "leak." Someone can use the list of sites and requests against you (if there are legal violations).
  • Public proxies are often of low quality - their addresses are already included in special databases and blacklists. Consequently, attempts to parse large platforms and websites will result in constant errors;
  • To check proxy quality and functionality as well as to rotate addresses, you need specialized software. Setting up and using such software requires specialized skills and knowledge. Such software may be paid.

Fake IP Generators

Fake IP Generators

In general, a fake IP address is generated randomly and it doesn't lead anywhere. That is, it's impossible to connect to the obtained IP addresses as they are inherently non-functional. Any resemblance to a real device or node on the network is purely coincidental.

Fake IPs are typically used by web developers for testing and other specialized tasks. Of course, there are instances of abuse, which we'll discuss further.

How IP-Spoofing Works

Basically, when the data is transmitted across a network from node to node, each of the protocols specifies its fields and attributes inside the packages.

The same fields can be replaced and sent with alterations.

For example, IP spoofing. This is a method of attacking target sites and servers by substituting the sender's IP address. Spoofing works roughly like this:

  • IP spoofing is only suitable for the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) (since TCP is protected from IP spoofing by using sequence numbers and acknowledgment numbers, these are SYN+ACK flags);
  • When a package is sent, special software replaces the actual sender's IP address with either a random IP address or the IP of the device that should receive the response;
  • The server attempts to send a response to the sender and establishes a connection to the target IP;
  • If there are too many requests, an effect similar to the DDoS attack will be observed. Too many active sessions can lead to various errors, allowing the attacker to bypass individual security systems (while they are overloaded);
  • There are other types of attacks: SYN flood, DNS amplification, TCP hijacking, IP-based authentication etc.

Conclusion – spoofing is mainly used for hacking purposes.

What Are IP Scanners and What Are They Used For?

An IP scanner is a specialized software that scans and allows viewing the data transmitted in a local network. Almost all local networks use data exchange in an open format. Hence, technologies like VPN emerged.

Normally, IP scanners are used for the needs of system administrators – they gain the ability to monitor the local network: who is transmitting what, where it's going, from which ports and using which protocols, checking for any violations or privilege escalations.

However, the same software can also be used for hacking purposes (sniffing). Such programs are called "sniffers":

  • They collect data about user requests;
  • A list of visited IP addresses and open IP ports is compiled (these ports can be accessed remotely - for remote control);
  • Data is sniffed and useful information is extracted from it – logins, passwords, phone numbers, credit card details etc.;
  • IP addresses and other data can be used for certain types of attacks like session hijacking etc.;
  • Simultaneously, a list of publicly accessible folders and local servers is compiled, which can also be used for one's purposes (file substitution, downloading of others' content);
  • The obtained IP address data can later be used for IP spoofing.

Major Security and Legal Issues to Consider

As you can see, any technical solutions can be used for both good and harm.

For example, a port and IP address scanner of a local network can be embedded in a network game. This utility lets the game detect other participants and connect to them. Naturally, if this is specified in the user agreement, there is no law violation. Everything is completely legal.

However, if the game starts covertly scanning IPs and literally stealing users' personal information, such behavior can definitely fall under certain articles of legislation in different countries.

You need to know and take into account the requirements of the legislation of the countries where you will be using IP scanners or other means to collect data about private users. To secure yourself, it makes sense to describe all your actions in the user agreement.

Tor Networks (Onion Routing and Nodes)

Tor Networks (Onion Routing and Nodes)

The Tor browser made a splash in the network in its time, establishing itself as a reliable tool for bypassing any blocks. How does it work? Roughly like a proxy.

What Is a Tor Network and an Onion Protocol

  • Tor networks are built in several layers. Each layer is responsible for its own task and does not control the operation of other layers;
  • Incoming traffic is encrypted. This is how it enters the network. Guard nodes are responsible for this (Guard Relay);
  • Then the encrypted traffic is passed inside the network. Intermediate nodes (Middle Relay) are responsible for this. They do not know or understand what exactly they are passing;
  • Traffic exits through special outcoming nodes - Exit Relay;
  • Each layer applies its own encryption. As a result, the transmitted data is wrapped in 3 additional layers, like those of an onion.

How the Traffic Is Anonymized via Onion Routing

Similar to VPN, encryption forms the basis for anonymization and protection.

When connecting to the Tor network, the client can see the list of entry and exit nodes. For this very reason, controlling authorities may use the list of exit nodes to block them by IP in countries where censorship is in place.

Nothing can be done about this.

However, it is possible to get tired of blocking everyone as the nodes can easily be restarted on new IP addresses.

Another aspect is that entry points into the network can be blocked using a similar scheme. This means clients won't be able to bypass blocks from within the country where traffic control is applied. However, this would be noticeably more difficult. The thing is that real entry points are kept secret. The so-called “Bridges” are used to connect to real routers.

When a client attempts to connect to the Tor network, they are provided with only a small portion of entry bridges. Even if they try to block them, the client will receive a new set of addresses with bridges upon the next connection. The entry points remain untouched, even if all bridges are promptly blocked.

Since data to target resources is sent in plain (decrypted) form through exit bridges, they are the most vulnerable part of the Tor network. A library is specially used to monitor the operation of exit bridges, tracking traffic changes. Attempts to modify packages at the exit will result in a "BadExit" label (bad node), and this node will be excluded from the data exchange scheme.

Benefits of Onion Connections for Privacy and Censorship Circumvention

  • High degree of personal data protection and self-cleansing network algorithms;
  • Complex decentralized network, the operation of which cannot be disrupted all at once;
  • Inability to collect user logs and data in one place, even if a malicious device serves as one of the relay nodes;
  • The ONION network partially operates on user devices, creating a residential proxy effect;
  • Data inside the network is securely encrypted;
  • Tor allows bypassing almost any geographical blocks;
  • Specialized browsers are available, so that clients don't need to manually configure anything;
  • Tor network is completely free to use.

Potential Limitations of the Tor Network

The most distinctive demerits of the Onion-based network include:

  • Inability to choose exit nodes, which prevents virtualizing your location;
  • Low network speed: Due to heavy encryption and high-traffic intermediate nodes, streaming content is practically impossible;
  • As opposed to VPN, Tor protects web browser requests only: you cannot route all PC or smartphone traffic through it;
  • Parsing competitor websites or solving other business-related tasks is quite challenging with Tor;
  • There is always the possibility of running the risk of traffic sniffing at exit nodes. Thus, you cannot be 100% sure about confidentiality and anonymity.

What to Use: Proxy, VPN or Tor?

What to Use: Proxy, VPN or Tor?

It’s impossible to say that it makes sense to use proxy, VPN or Tor networks only. Each tool has its own tasks and purposes.

For maximum efficacy and anonymity, we primarily recommend using paid services: renting rotating proxies (preferably residential or mobile) and renting VPN.

Free versions of these services can result in unpleasant consequences: anonymity suffers, personal and sensitive financial data can be stolen, devices can be used for illegitimate tasks without your knowledge.

Let's delve into specific examples to illustrate what option is best suited for.

Samples of Successful Use

VPN services are perfect for personal tasks:

  • Accessing content in regional libraries of streaming services;
  • Safely playing online games. Create a few additional accounts here;
  • Downloading torrents;
  • Bypassing regional blocks and gaining access to certain sites that don't work in your country but work in others;
  • Protecting your data on public networks (e.g., public Wi-Fi);
  • Getting discounts by changing your region (location virtualization);
  • Paying for overseas services that can no longer be purchased directly from your country;
  • Etc.

When it makes sense to use proxies (residential or mobile, with a large pool of addresses):

  • Gathering data about competitors (from search results, their official websites, marketplaces);
  • Managing multiple accounts and promoting channels on social networks;
  • Monitoring market prices and offers;
  • Marketing tasks (checking ads served by partners);
  • Testing and web development tasks (load testing, vulnerability testing, security system checks etc.);
  • Data parsing for other purposes (e.g., for aggregator services);
  • Etc.

It can be noticed that proxies excel in situations where access to a large number of exit nodes is required. VPNs cannot do this.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Proxy, VPN or Tor

There are various technical solutions to bypass geographical restrictions on the network and to enhance one's anonymity/confidentiality. However, each solution has its own advantages and disadvantages. We've tried to cover all the nuances above. Due to the peculiarities of the solutions, the situations in which they are applied will also vary.

For business tasks, the most interesting option would be high-quality proxies with rapid rotation and a large pool of IP addresses. You can find high-quality residential and mobile proxies with us. Froxy offers proxy rental with payment for consumed traffic only. More than 8.5 IPs in the network. Targeting down to the city and telecom operator level.

An inexpensive trial package is provided for quality comprehensive testing.

Get notified on new Froxy features and updates

Be the first to know about new Froxy features to stay up-to-date with the digital marketplace and receive news about new Froxy features.

Related articles

BackConnect Proxies: Advantages and Disadvantages


BackConnect Proxies: Advantages and Disadvantages

When you connect to a website or a web server via proxy, it is usually assumed that there is only one support point along the request path that is...

Team Froxy 20 Apr 2023 5 min read
Using Proxies on Facebook


Using Proxies on Facebook

Why and How to Use Proxy for Facebook? Additionally, proxies are divided into different classes of anonymity - depending on the data hidden from...

Team Froxy 28 Oct 2022 5 min read