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Circumvention Tools

CircumventionTools: ConfiguringSwitchProxy

Using Switch Proxy

SwitchProxy lets you quickly change the proxy settings of your Firefox browser. You can do this in order to use a public proxy available to everyone, a specific private proxy to which you've arranged access, or a local proxy provided by a client application such as SSH. Usually, you will need to have a particular application proxy or list of application proxies that you want to use before using SwitchProxy; SwitchProxy mainly helps you use proxies, not find them. SwitchProxy also supports loading a list of several proxies and switching frequently among them.

SwitchProxy configuration

To configure SwitchProxy, you need to open its configuration window, accessed through the Firefox "Tools" menu:


Choose "Add-ons". You should see "SwitchProxy Tool" listed in the Add-ons menu. Click the link once to reveal the "Preferences" button:


Click the "Preferences" button to display the panel for setting a simple set of preferences:


The items in the General section relate only to where SwitchProxy information will be displayed in the Browser.

The second section (When I switch proxies) is more important, as this determines how SwitchProxy will behave. When you switch proxies, SwitchProxy can do a number of things. It can automatically clear your Cookies and it can reload the page that you were using through the new proxy. These behaviors are controlled by the check boxes displayed.

You should choose "Clear my cookies" when reloading a proxy, as some sites might be able to correlate your previous IP address with a cookie. Reloading the page automatically when you change a proxy will ensure there no is communication still taking place through the old proxy settings.

You manage the core of SwitchProxy's functionality with the last button, "Manage Proxies". If you click this button you can add, edit and remove proxies.

Adding a Basic Proxy

Let's add a proxy to SwitchProxy. To do this, we need to first choose "Manage Proxies" above.  The "Mange Proxies" window appears:


If you had other proxies already configured inside SwitchProxy, they would be displayed here. To add a new proxy, click "Add":


Choosing Standard allows you set up a proxy for Web browsing, uploading files, and other typical actions. This is useful for accessing servers that might be blocked.

SwitchProxy also offers an Anonymous option; however, this option is misnamed because it does not guarantee anonymity. It simply allows the use of multiple proxies with frequent switching among them.

Standard Proxy Settings


You need to know the settings for the proxy you wish to add. This can be quite a lot of information depending on what type of access you require and how the proxy manages that type of access.

Ideally, you should already know the settings for the proxies you want to try to use with SwitchProxy.  For purposes of example, we will find a public proxy from the "Public Proxy Servers" web site (http://www.publicproxyservers.com) and add it to SwitchProxy. (We have no information about who operates these proxies, so we don't really know how trustworthy they are.)

First, on the Public Proxy Servers main page, we choose "proxy list [1]" from the left-hand navigation panel (http://www.publicproxyservers.com/page1.html). We then see a list:


We'll enter the IP (in this case, and Port (in this case, 80) information from the list into the first fields of the Standard configuration window:


You can give each proxy a label (we are using "Pub Proxy" in the example). This is all you need to do to set up this proxy. If you want to set up the proxy for other types of access (SSL, FTP, Gopher or Socks), you would need to continue filling out the details in the other fields. Usually the port and IP settings are the same, so you would use the same details for each type of access required.


  1. Many proxies only offer HTTP (Web browsing) access. If you want to use a proxy for other types of Internet use, you can try it to see if it works.
  2. Many open proxies only work for a few hours at a time, so be prepared to switch among several to find one that is working.
  3. The settings are only used by the Firefox browser using SwitchProxy. If you open another browser or use another type of application (for example, an FTP client), it does not have access to the SwitchProxy settings.

After you enter the details, click "OK" to save the settings. The "Manage Proxies" window appears again:


Click "OK" again to close this window and save the new proxy to your list. It is important to note that these proxy settings are not active until you make the proxy active through SwitchProxy.

Adding a list of proxies for automated switching

SwitchProxy also allows you to create a list of proxies and to set an interval for automatically switching between them. This option is confusingly referred to as "Anonymous" proxy configuration, though, in reality, it does not guarantee anonymity.

If you decide to use this feature, you can set the proxy list yourself. It will be a plain text file with a format like this:

The format of each line is simply

IP address:Port number

It is important to place the colon between the two numbers and not to include "http://" before the IP address of the proxy. Each proxy must be on a separate line and the file must be formatted as a text file (sometimes called a .txt file) and not a word processor file (such as a Microsoft Word .doc file or OpenOffice .odt file).

There are also services online that provide public proxy lists compatible with this feature. Although these services are themselves blocked in some places, you may be able to find useful public proxy lists through a Web search.

For instance, a quick search for "switchproxy anonymous proxy lists" in Google recently led to this site: http://www.shroomery.org/ythan/proxylist.php. This service, provided by someone with an interest in this area (apparently an amateur, not a commercial service) takes a list of proxies from XROXY (http://www.xroxy.com/proxylist.php?type=Anonymous) and formats the list so that SwitchProxy can use it.

You can add any of these lists -- a list you produce, or an online list -- to SwitchProxy's configuration as a set of "Anonymous" proxies. To do this, choose the "Anonymous" settings option instead of the "Standard" configuration setting.


Click "Next >>" and the settings window appears:


To use the online list, simply enter the URL of the list into the Url field and click "Load". To add a list you have created you must click "Browse" next to the File field, select the file from your computer's hard drive and then click "Load". Don't forget to give the list a name (or "Label"). For example, using the online list mentioned in the example above gave this result after clicking "Load":


Now you must choose the interval for cycling through the proxies. Intervals for automatic switching in SwitchProxy are represented in seconds, so if you want to set an interval of 3 minutes, you would type "180" into the "Change proxy every[ ]" field. After you click "OK", the window closes and SwitchProxy saves your new proxy list:


Using SwitchProxy

To use the proxies you have saved, just click the "Tools" menu in Firefox:


Selecting "SwitchProxy", you should see a list of proxies you have already configured. Selecting one of them activates that proxy item. To use no proxies choose "None".

Disadvantages and Risks

Using a public application proxy does not guarantee that you will be anonymous. Whenever you use any proxy, you are trusting the operator of the proxy not to reveal or abuse information about you or how you use the proxy.

Your communications with the proxy can also be observed by a network operator. If you visit a Web site on different occasions using the same computer, for instance, the site can potentially recognize you as the same person by using mechanisms like cookies -- even if you use different proxy settings for each visit. 

Although Tor provides a local application proxy, you should not use SwitchProxy to activate Tor. Use Torbutton instead. Torbutton protects you against a variety of potential privacy risks (such as DNS leaks) that SwitchProxy does not.