A proxy service is a way to maintain anonymity on the Internet, by routing one's Internet traffic through an intermediary node known as a proxy. The proxy hides your real IP address from the destination web site. The proxy may also provide other service, such as VPN (Virtual Private Network) and encryption. Someone watching the encrypted traffic going from your PC to a proxy can only tell you are communicating with a proxy, not what's actually in that communication or where the final destination is for the traffic.
Some proxy servers are used only through a browser or other specific application; you configure the browser or other application to route its traffic through the proxy. It is also possible to set up a VPN, which will automatically send all traffic from all applications on your computer through the proxy - this option is nice if you can get it.
There are many lists of free proxy servers out there. These are best avoided. The problems with them include:
- Many of them are hacked servers operating as a proxy without their owner's knowledge.
- Many are "honey pots", set up intentionally to try to steal data going through them.
- They tend to be unstable, often pulled down once discovered, etc.
There are many for-pay services as well.
- TorGuard - Not to be confused with Tor, this provides encrypted VPN connections through a choice of proxy from many different coutries. It is bittorrent-friendly.