A proxy server is an application that acts as a gateway linking the client’s web requests, and the resource servers. It acts as an intermediary redirecting the traffic from your origin URL to a decoy destination. Modern proxy servers are not only effective for masking your web imprints, but they also serve as web filters.
Other popular applications include caching browsing data, speeding up repetitive requests, load balancing, and enhancing connectivity over shared networks.
Difference Between Proxies and Firewalls
Many people often confuse firewalls to be proxy servers. Yes, firewalls are used to block or deny certain web requests, but unlike proxies, they can’t be used to reroute incoming requests.
How Proxy Servers Work
Every computer must have its unique IP Address to access the World Wide Web, (WWW). This IP address helps to direct the requested data to your designated computer. Your computer’s Internet Protocol or IP addresses are likened to the physical addresses used to ship out deliveries to your locations.
By allowing your data to bounce off proxy servers, it becomes impossible for the resource web servers to figure out your exact IP address. Servers are designed to encrypt your outgoing requests making your transit data completely unreadable.
When to Use Proxy Servers?
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As an individual or organization, there comes a time when it’s necessary to use proxy technologies. Here are some instances when you should consider using proxy servers.
- Controlling Internet Access
Organizations like schools often feel the need to limit and monitor Internet access for their students. These dummy servers allow schools and companies to restrict access to specific sites for a variety of reasons. Many organizations rely on proxy servers to block off unwanted content and achieve full control over their users. Additionally, organizations use these gateways to track and scrutinize their employees’ weblogs.
- Bandwidth Load Shedding
Proxies are used to improve the overall network performances by caching popular URL destinations. This technology saves you valuable bandwidth that would have otherwise been spent on reloading the popular pages visited by your employees.
- Improved Network Performances
Caching popular websites relieve your network servers from undue stress. Caching requests and redirecting traffic to nodes help to improve your companies’ server performances.
- Private Browsing
Individuals and companies of all sizes use proxy technologies for private browsing experiences. The Internet has become a remarkably dangerous place where one false slip and your organization risks losing valuable data to digital pirates. That’s why all browsers are encouraged to piggyback on proxies for assured online security.
- Enhanced Security
Take advantage of proxies to safeguard your private data on the dangerous web. Configure your servers properly to prevent prying eyes from gaining access to your data while it’s in transit. These modifications help to filter out unwanted malware, scams, worms, and Trojans. Some users reinforce proxies with VPNs for improved browsing security.
- Accessing Blocked Sites
Proxy servers help users easily bypass content restrictions put up by organizations or governments. Use proxies to log in with a foreign IP address and get the erstwhile restricted web access. That way, you can appear as if you’re requesting data from the U.S while in essence, you’re in Mainland China.
The Risks Associated with Proxies
In as much as you’re encouraged to use proxies in your daily life or as an organization, there are some risks to note. Here are some neat ideas to help you mitigate the proxy server risks.
- Avoid Free Proxies
These free proxies are often inundated with endless ads that are quite distracting. Additionally, free software is very likely to leak your IP addresses. This leakage leaves you and your organizations vulnerable to countless security threats.
Don’t ever divulge your private data to proxy providers claiming to offer free servers. Be cautious, these entities might only be interested in stealing your sensitive financial information.
- Delete Browsing Logs
Your proxy servers might be configured to automatically save your browsing histories. To stay safe, you should tinker with your server’s settings and instruct it to decrypt your web requests. Use settings that automatically delete your saved data for guaranteed privacy. Failure to check the server’s settings leaves you exposed to data breaches orchestrated by your service provider.
- Select Encrypted Servers
To avoid costly data breaches, always operate on network servers with advanced encryption technology. Encryption turns your outbound traffic into unreadable content. Encrypt outgoing data such as passwords and other sensitive login details to discourage any digital prowlers from adversely affecting you or your organization.
Proxy Server Types
Different proxy servers have different functionalities. In general, proxy servers are classified into two, broad categories. These are:
1. Routing pattern
2. Protocol access
The categories can further be broken down as follows:-
1. Routing Pattern
- Tunneling Proxy Servers
These are the most common and basic browsing gateways available. The proxies simply pass on your browser requests without any alterations.
- Forwarding Proxies
With these proxies, your data first goes through an intermediary node before it passes to the final destination. These applications mimic the functioning of VPNs.
- Reverse proxies
Reverse proxies also called, surrogate servers appear as ordinary proxies to third parties. That way, your clients will not be able to figure out that you’re on proxy networks. Classical examples of reverse or surrogate proxies include OpenVPN, Psiphon, and hideMyAss applications.
2. Protocol Access
These proxies are classified according to the network ports they source their requests from. Protocol access servers include:-
- SOCKS5 Proxies — These applications rely on port 1080 to route your private data.
- HTTP Proxies — These options function by accessing port 80 to transmit secure internet data.
- FTP Proxies — The FTP or SFTP gateways pass data securely via ports 21 and 22.
- SSL or HTTPS Proxies — These technologies use digital security certificates for authenticating Internet connections. These work via HTTPS port 443.
The more you engage and interact with others via the World Wide Web, the more you need to learn the uses of proxies. As you’ve seen, proxies are secure gateways meant to mask your true IP addresses. Proxy servers are ideal for restricting specific web content from minors or your companies employees. Company whistleblowers need proxies to hide their true identities as they expose a potential corruption in their organizations.
Apart from heightening browser privacy, proxies allow users to balance server traffic and avoid annoying network crushes. Before you invest in any proxies, it’s in your best interests to learn about their applications, pros, and cons for a seamless and secure browsing experience, always.