A proxy can be defined as anything that can be used to represent something or someone else. For instance, there are a few daytime television shows that have a backup cast to replace the main actors when they are sick or unable to come themselves. These backup actors are the proxy because they stand in and represent the other person. In the realm of technology, it is very much the same. A person might desire to use a proxy if they do not want to appear quite like themselves.
It is common knowledge that the Internet, in general, is an enormous machine of data that constantly takes and gives a stream of information. On most occasions, this stream will also take at least basic information from the person accessing the internet, such as location and general demographics. In an age of increasing worry for internet security, this is quite a concern for the people that need to get to access content on the internet freely without worrying about their personal information being stored by companies with ill-intent.
While there are nefarious reasons to use a proxy service to hide internet activity, it has to be accepted that there are just as many valid purposes. There is, after all, the overriding concern for security and privacy as technology and the internet expand into unexplored realms of growth. Many users may desire to access their internet through a proxy for the sole means of keeping their personal information personal.
Outside of privacy reasons, there are also many companies that use various methods (i.e. firewalls) to limit a person’s access to their internet. Schools will use this to ensure that students are not browsing the web for sites that have games, violence, or any content that the school district deems inappropriate or overtly distracting for the students. On the same hand, workplaces will restrict their workers from doing many activities on the internet that would either cause their data to be insecure or lessen that particular worker’s productivity.
It is in this light that using a proxy will shine. Since the person accessing the internet is using the proxy to ‘represent’ them, the rules placed on that interconnection will no longer apply. By running the online activities through a proxy connection, the internet restrictions will only see the proxy instead of a gaming website, personal email, or any other innocent application that a student or worker could want to use.
A quick word should be said for the fact that people intending to use a proxy to hide their illegal activities will not be entirely hidden; the Internet Service Providers (ISP) will still be able to see, if they cared to look, that the internet is being routed through a proxy. For the most part, the ISP will not randomly look to see who is using a proxy or think too much about it. Since there are valid reasons for wanting to use a proxy, the provider may only look when there is suspicious activity paired with the use of a proxy service.
How to Get a Proxy?
Getting a basic proxy service is usually quite simple. There are many online websites that will provide the proxy directly through that website (such as this one). This method is quite ingenious since specific internet traﬃc will be tunneled through that one website.
For instance, a student at school wants to play a game in his downtime, but the school has all the gaming websites that he knows about on lockdown. However, this student can access the proxy website and enter the gaming websites address to access his games. All of this traﬃc is handled on the proxy server and mirrored on their website, which means the school will only see the student accessing the proxy website.
Unfortunately, that is also the major downfall of a web-based proxy. They can easily be blocked when someone notices that their rules are being bypassed through that particular website.
Another option is to configure the internet settings on the device to route itself through the proxy server. This method is not as simple as the previously mentioned one, but it does tend to work very well once you know how to configure everything properly. Many of the popular browsers and applications, like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer support configuration for proxy connections.
First, before the applications can be configured for the proxy connection, the person needing to bypass rules or hide their activity will need to find a company that is providing access to their proxy server. There are some out there that are for free, but the most secured connections that come with all the functionality that a proxy connection should usually have required a small service fee.
A Few Words of Warning
It is obvious that using a proxy can have a lot of benefits for someone to keep their information private or to bypass internet restriction, but there are a few, unfortunately, areas that a person may need to make a sacrifice in for the proxy to be used. One of these sacrifices will be the speed of the internet connection.
This makes sense since the connection is being routed through a third-party system (a middleman) at every point of communication with the servers being accessed. Moreover, if the person is not careful about the proxy servers they are using it can start to be counterproductive to their intention in keeping their personal information private. This is because the third-party proxy server will be simply tunneling all the data being streamed through it, and it can store a cache of commonly accessed web pages and information.
For security and speed, anyone looking to use a proxy should intend to find a company that oﬀers a proxy server, and they will list what information they keep and how it impacts the customer’s privacy concerns.
To start with the very basics of setting up a proxy connection, the new browser for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge has a simple configuration for proxy settings. The instructions for the two popular Microsoft Internet browsers, Edge and Explorer, will be respectively listed below.
- Open Microsoft Edge
- Navigate to the ‘More’ menu in the top right of the window
- Click ‘Settings’ at the bottom of the drop-down menu
- Scroll down until ‘View Advanced Settings’ is visible and click on that button
- A new window will open up with the Automatic Proxy and Manual Proxy setup options
- The company providing the proxy server will provide the information that needs to be entered here
- Open Internet Explorer
- Navigate to ‘Settings’ in the top right
- Scroll down and select ‘Internet Options.’
- Find the connections tab
- Input information provided by the proxy server
- Open Mozilla Firefox
- Navigate to the Menu button in the top right
- Find the ‘Advanced’ option in the left-hand menu
- Select the ‘Network’ tab from the top options
- Open the ‘Settings’ under the Connection section
- Choose the ‘LAN settings’ option
- Select the ‘Use a proxy server for your LAN.’
- Input information was given by proxy server
**If there is a previous setup the proxy connection with Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge, selecting ‘use system proxy settings’ will import the same proxy information that was input at that time.
- Open Google Chrome
- Navigate to the Menu in the top right corner
- Go into ‘Settings.’
- Scroll down until ‘Show advanced settings’ is visible at the bottom of the page
- Click on that and then go into the ‘change proxy settings’ under the Network section
- Select ‘Settings’ on the window that pops up.
- Click on LAN settings
- Choose ‘use a proxy server for your LAN.’
- Enter in the information provided by the proxy server
Some Good Things to Know
There are multiple forms of security when using a proxy connection. The company hosting the proxy server will give out information on what security protocols they are using. This supplier will typically include everything the consumer needs to know how to configure their devices to use their services. However, listed below are a few terms that may come up in the supplier’s instructions or on their forums.
HTTP – regarding proxy connections, the HTTP protocol forwards the HTTP requests to the correct servers. This method recreates the request from the original device on the proxy server, and the proxy server with this protocol will forward that exact request (or as similar as possible) to the desired destination. The communication between server and device is left unhindered and open.
SOCKS – This protocol uses a handshake operation to initiate the connection with the proxy server. The connection can also utilize both UDP and TCP traﬃc, and it can work in reverse. The SOCKS protocol consists of at least two commonly used operations of SOCK4(a) and SOCK5. Each version of the protocol is an improvement upon the last, with the SOCK5 bringing greater levels of authentication, support of IPv6, and the previously mentioned UDP.
P2P – This is a general term to refer to Peer-to-Peer connections. They are utilized to download torrents and other shared content. Proxy suppliers will list if they support P2P.
Read more, HTTP vs SOCKS Proxies
Still, Need Help?
The good majority of companies that provide the proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) services will give the customers a large number of instructions on how to access their proxy servers and methods on setting up specific applications and browsers with their settings. These resources should always be checked before setting up the connection and during any troubleshooting steps.
Checking to see if the proxy server is routing the information can be done by navigating to various websites that will automatically detect and list the connections address. In fact, many search engines will not provide the given IP Address when ‘what is my IP address’ is typed into the search function. The new address that was typed in as the proxy address should now be displayed. Troubleshooting should only happen if there is any reason to suspect that the proxy is not working (i.e. certain web pages remain blocked, or the address listed is the same as the old one).
When troubleshooting, refer to the supplier’s provided client dashboard and, possibly, software to assist in finding the problem. It will help check if the port, address, and security protocols were entered incorrectly; should that fail, the company that supplies the proxy will most often have a support number to contact for additional assistance in getting the proxy up and running!
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