Which are the best Free Anonymous Proxies to use?

It's a question I get asked a lot, what are the best proxies ? And some more like these -

Which is the fastest free proxy?
Which proxies are best to watch Iplayer abroad for free?
What are the best proxies to use for anonymous surfing?

The problem is there is no single answer - sure on any given day there are a huge collection of available open proxies to use. But this list will change from day to day. If one day you happen to find a super fast proxy available which you use to either protect your identity, evade censorship or just stream video from another country like the BBC Iplayer (which is only available in the UK) - there's no guarantee it will be there the next day or week.

This is why I never recommend using free anonymous proxies to anyone, for a start you get locked into this never ending search for open proxies. The problem is the majority of these proxies are simply misconfigured servers. The administrators didn't mean to open up their servers for the world to use, it is usually as the result of an accident or worse a virus or exploit.
idenity theft cartoon

When a fast new open proxy appears it will be quickly picked up by the proxy searching scripts and displayed on web pages across the internet. If it's fast it will soon have thousands of surfers channelling their surfing via it. Whether it's a schoolkid using them to bypass their schools restrictions on myspace, a genuine surfer just wishing to protect their identity online or someone bypassing a countries content filter - the server will get real slow and real fast.

Someone then will usually notice the huge bandwidth flowing through their account and pull the server or close the proxy. Whatever the reason the next time you try to connect it won't be there and the search starts all over again. Of course if you have time this is no big deal, you may not even have a problem with racking up someone's bandwidth charge but there is also a big risk to you and your data.

Why are free anonymous ones, not the best proxies?

The risk is that a large proportion of these anonymous proxies are set up and controlled by identity thieves and hackers. It's a simple concept really, pay a few hackers to break into badly configured servers and PCs on the internet, install some logging software and then open them up as free anonymous proxies. You won't have to wait long before many people are surfing through these proxies and you can start logging all their data.

Passwords, account details and more all flowing through this one server and the majority of it in clear text. Even your SSL connections which are usually encrypted are not safe as there are techniques used to intercept these. IF you have the unfortunate chance to surf via one of these proxies then you may as well type out a list of all accounts and passwords you use online and send them to the administrator of the proxy server because that's what you are doing !

Remember it costs a lot of money to run an anonymous proxy - why should anyone pay the bill for everyone to use it for free ? A free anonymous proxy is nearly always either a mistake or a trap to steal information from the surfers. If you are genuinely looking for the best proxies to use, I guarantee you won't find a free one (unless you start dating a University or ISP system administrator!)