What proxies are, why use them and how they work

What proxies are to today’s internet world

Not familiar with what proxies are, or want to know their usefulness? A proxy is simply a standalone computer that provides a network service to allow clients to create indirect network connections to other network services. However, the origination of the term ‘proxy’ dates back to Anglo-French times.

A proxy is a server (an application or a computer system) that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resources available from a different server. The proxy server evaluates the request as a way to simplify and control their complexity.

A proxy or proxy service allows an internet user to visit other internet sites that have numerous services, games, and other goods. The only difference is you’re not using your own browser’s connection, but rather a secure connection to another medium.

Why use a proxy server? Well, for many reasons, including:

  • To keep machines behind it anonymous, mainly for security.
  • To scan transmitted content for malware before delivery.
  • To scan outbound content, e.g., for data loss prevention.
  • To allow a website to make web requests to externally hosted resources (e.g. images, music files, etc.) when cross-domain restrictions prohibit the web site from linking directly to the outside domains.
  • To bypass security / parental controls.
  • To speed up access to resources (using caching). Web proxies are commonly used to cache web pages from a web server.
  • To apply access policy to network services or content, e.g. to block undesired sites.
  • To access sites prohibited or filtered by your ISP or institution.
  • To log/audit usage, i.e. to provide company employee Internet usage reporting.
  • To circumvent Internet filtering to access content otherwise blocked by governments.
  • To scan transmitted content for malware before delivery.
  • To scan outbound content, e.g., for data loss prevention.
  • To allow a website to make web requests to externally hosted resources (e.g. images, music files, etc.) when cross-domain restrictions prohibit the web site from linking directly to the outside domains.

How Proxies Work?

Let us further examine what proxies are, and how proxies allow users to bypass firewalls and further protect their anonymity:

  1. User tries to access a site that is blocked by a corporate, school or government firewall. The firewall looks at the request, identifies that it is to a banned site and rejects it.
  2. The user accesses the site via the proxy. The firewall sees the request going to the proxy IP. As this is not banned the request is sent through.
  3. When access sites, your ISP or your system administrators can easily keep track of the sites you are visiting. The visited site also knows your ip.
  4. When you use a proxy, your ISP or your system administrators can see traffic going to the proxy and don’t know what you are visiting. The visited site sees the proxy IP only.

Not everyone will understand what proxies are, and that’s fine. The important thing to remember is they’re necessary if you’re wanting to stay anonymous online.

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