PenguinProxy Review

Editor's Rating

Penguin Proxy UiNot long ago, online anonymity was taken for granted and most people believed that their identity was hidden when they were using the internet. While these days, users are aware of the risks surrounding privacy and the fact that they are not anonymous by default when they are connected to the internet, not everybody is taking the necessary steps to protect their data. Things are set to change since more and more anonymity and privacy solutions are being launched. PenguinProxy is one of them and while it is still new, it is already gaining a lot of attention. This proxy service has a different approach than other options available in the market and at the moment, by using a more decentralized method of peer-to peer IP obfuscation. PenguinProxy has been around for just a little over a year and it will remain free, at least until it remains in Beta. This peer-to-peer based application is set to give users the chance to browse the internet without revealing their real IP address. Online tutorials also provide tips to help better secure all web browsing activity. However, since it is free and it works as a peer-to-peer proxy solution, there are some concerns about how secure Penguin Proxy really is. In this review, we will take a closer look at what this service offers, and will discuss its pros and cons.

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Security and Privacy

Although privacy and security are not the only benefits of using a VPN, for many people, they are the main reason to use this service. The truth is that at the moment, this is not an area in which PenguinProxy shines, nor do they claim to. However, they do a pretty good job of explaining how their service affects your connection, and what extra steps to take to better secure your surfing data. They only support HTTP and HTTPS protocols and they encrypt data using TLP. It is not likely that more protocols are added once the service moves beyond the Beta stage, since they state not planning to ever expand their protocol. This means that although the website says it is a peer-to-peer VPN, it really only  provides web proxy encryption. PenguinProxy simply can’t provide the security that you get from advanced encryption protocols and the latest technology to defend all of your data from eavesdroppers and hackers, but instead adds a layer of security through a random proxy connection. It currently lacks a built-in killswitch in case of a connection drop. But, you can add some level of anonymity when you are surfing the web and the service is meant to be simple, it just won’t encrypt your entire traffic. With that said, their decentralized approach is an argument that centralized VPN services can never fully be trusted with your data either.

PenguinProxy is very honest about the fact that peer-to-peer system comes with some risks. Unlike Tor, which tunnels your connection through multiple nodes before sending your http request through, with PenguinProxy your online traffic is routed through someone else’s computer and vice-versa. A one hop proxy node doesn’t slow down your bandwidth speed as much as Tor does, but this also means that the host proxy can see your IP, and in return for their service, your machine also acts as a host to other users, allowing them to use your internet IP for their web traffic. By sharing your connection on the peer-to-peer network, you can also expect internet usage to increase, but you can control your bandwidth caps under settings. While on its website, PenguinProxy mentions that all the requests leave its servers encrypted before they are forwarded via other users, there are no details provided about the encryption grade used. Simplicity is the main focus of PenguinProxy, and this is why they suggest to run their service combined with HTTPS Anywhere browser extension to ensure that at a minimum, all websites pass through HTTPS encryption and protect against man in the middle attacks. But if you want to protect all your traffic from online surveillance, cyber crime and other threats, you will be better off with a fully-fledged, high quality VPN or Tor. PenguinProxy can help you to browse the internet more anonymously, and provide quick access to IPs in multiple locations.

Since Penguin Proxy is free, there is also a concern about how it makes money. After all, even free services need funds to support themselves and some of them obtain them by selling their users’ data to third-parties, or featuring ads. PenguinProxy states that it doesn’t sell its customers’ data and that the app doesn’t include ads. They use Hola’s malware VPN as a prime example of what they are not. The software is simple, safe and unable to execute or read any data on your device. They mention that once the app is no longer in Beta, they will charge a small yearly fee for the service. Since they do not have to pay for hosting their own infrastructure of encrypted servers, they can offer their proxy VPN at a much lower cost. The users pay for their usage by being hosts themselves.

PenguinProxy keeps some logs at this time and although it claims that they are anonymous logs of requests and that they are kept for two weeks, only for debugging and troubleshooting purposes, if privacy is your main concern, this can be a deal breaker. They also claim that they aim to enventually make the service completely logless and verifiable. Once done, this will be something to praise them for, but for now, due to beta development, they keep unidentifiable request logs. It should also be noted that PenguinProxy appears to be based in Canada, judging by their privacy policy, which states that it is under Canadian law. Canada is part of the Five Eyes spying alliance, so your data could be accessed by major government organizations under a court order. The privacy policy also states that the company will never use or sell any personal data from its’ users. That being said, PenguinProxy doesn’t pretend to be a solution for  fully-fledged security, and it only aims to offer anonymity and the chance to bypass geographical restrictions, by hiding your real IP address and location.

Features

PenguinProxy works on Mac, Windows and Linux, and an additional browser extension can be added to Chrome or Firefox, but does not work as a standalone. Currently, Android and iOS are not supported, but there is a chance that they become available in the future. The software can be downloaded from PenguinProxy’s official website. Again, since simplicity is the main focus for PenguinProxy, you won’t find advanced features or complex functionality. After downloading and installing the client, which only takes a few minutes, you can start using the service. There is no need to create an account or provide personal information. Once launched, the app is minimized in the task bar by default under Windows, simply click on it and select Show App. The software has an option to enable or disable the proxy and it also features a list of servers, which is quite limited. You can adjust the settings, select if you want to use a random IP every time you use the service. Since you will also be hosting your machine as a proxy for other user requests, you can also decide how much bandwidth to share per day, with the minimum being 100MB. However, how much of your capped limit will be used also depends on how many hours the proxy is left on for, so if only used sparingly, being that the network is small, you might see very little increase in your usage.

As mentioned before, the main purpose of Penguin Proxy is to provide anonymity by hiding your IP address, forwarding the data through a different IP, which in turn allows for geographically blocked websites to be accessed if needed. Penguin Proxy also supports Adblocking, which prevents any request from advertisement server hosts. This feature might have to be enabled but when I installed the client, it was on by default. Proxy HTTPS is another function available and once it is on, you can make HTTP requests directly or just Proxy HTTPS only. We suggest to follow PenguinProxy’s advice and also add HTTPS Anywhere extension to your browser. Although PenguinProxy has a browser extension, it cannot be used without the client also being installed and turned on. It provides further fine tuning of proxy settings through your browser, and also adds WebRTC leak protection, which we tested successfully. Extra points to Penguin for adding WebRTC leak protection. So if you don’t already use an adblocker like UBlock Origin which also protects against WebRTC attacks, we highly suggest to add their extension or another WebRTC leak protection browser extension. It is possible to add the list of hosts to exempt so you will have to access them directly and not through PenguinProxy. Reverse exceptions works on the opposite way as it only proxies websites that are in the list of exceptions via proxy only. There is also a setting that uses the same IP address when possible and it is called same sessions.

One thing to keep in mind is that it is not possible to see the exact location of all the servers available at this time. Some countries can be individually selected including Britain, Canada, China, and USA while most of Europe remains as one random server. This means that apart from being able to connect to those servers, you also can connect to other countries based on the continent, but the location will depend on the user whose computer you connect to in order to route your internet traffic. I expect this to change with time, as more users join the growing network, allowing them to provide more countries from the selection menu. Another factor to keep in mind is the bandwidth usage as mentioned.  Generally, the performance is good enough for browsing content and since there is not a high level of encryption provided, you won’t experience significant impact on your connection’s speed. Speed tests showed what you would expect from a peer–peer proxy connection, just randomness. Speeds can greatly vary depending on the location and the host connection itself.

IP and DNS Leak Test

It should be noted that while there were not IP leaks detected after testing, Penguin Proxy by default will always use google DNS servers. Although it passes basic DNS leak tests, extended tests remained a hit or miss. For anything beyond browsing, this is not really the solution. Keep in mind that proxy connections are not as secure as OpenVPN, or any up to date VPN protocols, the service also inherently cannot provide advanced privacy or leak protection.

Netflix and Streaming Test

PenguinProxy successfully unblocked US Netflix when using a USA server. Since the client defaults to Google DNS, no IP or DNS leaks occurred, causing Netflix to block us. Additionally, since the random IP addresses obtained from hosts connected to are not part of a private VPN server cluster, it makes it near impossible for Netflix to block them. However, streaming speeds can leave you a little dry. This is because the speed becomes depending on the user you have peer-2-peer connected with. If the speeds are too slow, you can always try to connect to another peer, but due to the nature of P2P, the service is simply not designed for high bandwidth traffic or streaming applications. Connection drop outs can be frequent, interrupting your connection until you re-initialize it.

Customer Support

You can contact Penguin Proxy via email and live chat when available for very fast answers. This an acceptable selection of contact methods, particularly when you consider that this is a free service and in some cases, some free services do not even provide a contact email address at all. When you visit the website, you can access the live chat and get a. There is also an FAQ section with useful information about most aspects of the service, and we highly suggest readers to take a look at their blog post as well. PenguinProxy does a good job of explaining the benefits and downsides of their service, who it is designed for, and what type connections should expect issues with it.

Conclusion

PenguinProxy was easy to setup and use. Although it only offers HTTP web proxy encryption, it works really well for what it is. It is still very new, and it’s likely that more features are added in the near future. By now, it is an interesting and simple solution for people who want to overcome blocks while browsing content online. Although it’s currently free to use, the decentralized peer-to-peer network does require you to share your connection as a host as well. The argument is that you no longer have to trust a VPN company with your encrypted data and private keys, since there are no central servers used. But because it is limited to http web traffic, it can only protect your web browsing. It is not the right choice for higher security or downloading private content. For those who just want to access websites without exposing their public IP address, it is a free and convenient option to try, and since speeds are generally not highly affected, it can also be used for streaming if you don’t plan on capping your shared bandwidth.  As long as you properly understand the nature of peer-to-peer proxy sharing and routing other user’s web requests while exposing your IP and requests to your own host, this could be a good solution for your needs. If you’re really concerned about privacy, we suggest to run PenguinProxy on top of an existing VPN tunnel, similar to a double VPN connection. This way, the VPN server acts as host, and you still get access to various IPs to unblock websites without exposing the rest of your internet data to your ISP or anyone else.

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