What is a Proxy Server and How Does it Work? – Varonis
The actual nuts and bolts of how the internet works are not something people often stop to consider. The problem with that is the inherent danger of data security breaches and identity theft that come along with the cute dog pictures, 24-hour news updates, and great deals online.
But what actually happens when you browse the web? You might be using a proxy server at your office, on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or you could be one of the more tech-savvy who always use a proxy server of some kind or another.
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What’s a Proxy Server?
A proxy server is any machine that translates traffic between networks or protocols. It’s an intermediary server separating end-user clients from the destinations that they browse. Proxy servers provide varying levels of functionality, security, and privacy depending on your use case, needs, or company policy.
If you’re using a proxy server, traffic flows through the proxy server on its way to the address you requested. The request then comes back through that same proxy server (there are exceptions to this rule), and then the proxy server forwards the data received from the website to you.
If that’s all it does, why bother with a proxy server? Why not just go straight from to the website and back?
Modern proxy servers do much more than forward web requests, all in the name of data security and network performance. Proxy servers act as a firewall and web filter, provide shared network connections, and cache data to speed up common requests. A good proxy server keeps users and the internal network protected from the bad stuff that lives out in the wild internet. Lastly, proxy servers can provide a high level of privacy.
How Does a Proxy Server Operate?
Every computer on the internet needs to have a unique Internet Protocol (IP) Address. Think of this IP address as your computer’s street address. Just as the post office knows to deliver your mail to your street address, the internet knows how to send the correct data to the correct computer by the IP address.
A proxy server is basically a computer on the internet with its own IP address that your computer knows. When you send a web request, your request goes to the proxy server first. The proxy server then makes your web request on your behalf, collects the response from the web server, and forwards you the web page data so you can see the page in your browser.
When the proxy server forwards your web requests, it can make changes to the data you send and still get you the information that you expect to see. A proxy server can change your IP address, so the web server doesn’t know exactly where you are in the world. It can encrypt your data, so your data is unreadable in transit. And lastly, a proxy server can block access to certain web pages, based on IP address.
What are Forward Proxies
A forward proxy server sits between the client and an external network. It evaluates the outbound requests and takes action on them before relaying that request to the external resource.
Most proxy services that you’re likely to encounter are forward proxies. Virtual Private Networks and Web content filters are both examples of forward proxies.
What are Reverse Proxies
A reverse proxy server sits between a network and multiple other internal resources. A large website might have dozens of servers that collectively serve requests from a single domain. To accomplish that, client requests would resolve to a machine that would act as a load balancer. The load balancer would then proxy that traffic back to the individual servers.
Some popular open source reverse proxies are:
Why Should You Use a Proxy Server?
There are several reasons organizations and individuals use a proxy server.
To control internet usage of employees and children: Organizations and parents set up proxy servers to control and monitor how their employees or kids use the internet. Most organizations don’t want you looking at specific websites on company time, and they can configure the proxy server to deny access to specific sites, instead redirecting you with a nice note asking you to refrain from looking at said sites on the company network. They can also monitor and log all web requests, so even though they might not block the site, they know how much time you spend cyberloafing.
Bandwidth savings and improved speeds: Organizations can also get better overall network performance with a good proxy server. Proxy servers can cache (save a copy of the website locally) popular websites – so when you ask for, the proxy server will check to see if it has the most recent copy of the site, and then send you the saved copy. What this means is that when hundreds of people hit at the same time from the same proxy server, the proxy server only sends one request to This saves bandwidth for the company and improves the network performance.
Privacy benefits: Individuals and organizations alike use proxy servers to browse the internet more privately. Some proxy servers will change the IP address and other identifying information the web request contains. This means the destination server doesn’t know who actually made the original request, which helps keeps your personal information and browsing habits more private.
Improved security: Proxy servers provide security benefits on top of the privacy benefits. You can configure your proxy server to encrypt your web requests to keep prying eyes from reading your transactions. You can also prevent known malware sites from any access through the proxy server. Additionally, organizations can couple their proxy server with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), so remote users always access the internet through the company proxy. A VPN is a direct connection to the company network that companies provide to external or remote users. By using a VPN, the company can control and verify that their users have access to the resources (email, internal data) they need, while also providing a secure connection for the user to protect the company data.
Get access to blocked resources: Proxy servers allow users to circumvent content restrictions imposed by companies or governments. Is the local sportsball team’s game blacked out online? Log into a proxy server on the other side of the country and watch from there. The proxy server makes it look like you are in California, but you actually live in North Carolina. Several governments around the world closely monitor and restrict access to the internet, and proxy servers offer their citizens access to an uncensored internet.
Now that you have an idea about why organizations and individuals use a proxy server, take a look at the risks below.
Proxy Server Risks
You do need to be cautious when you choose a proxy server: a few common risks can negate any of the potential benefits:
Free proxy server risks
You know the old saying “you get what you pay for? ” Well, using one of the many free proxy server services can be quite risky, even the services using ad-based revenue models.
Free usually means they aren’t investing heavily in backend hardware or encryption. You’ll likely see performance issues and potential data security issues. If you ever find a completely “free” proxy server, tread very carefully. Some of those are just looking to steal your credit card numbers.
Browsing history log
The proxy server has your original IP address and web request information possibly unencrypted, saved locally. Make sure to check if your proxy server logs and saves that data – and what kind of retention or law enforcement cooperation policies they follow.
If you expect to use a proxy server for privacy, but the vendor is just logging and selling your data you might not be receiving the expected value for the service.
If you use a proxy server without encryption, you might as well not use a proxy server. No encryption means you are sending your requests as plain text. Anyone who is listening will be able to pull usernames and passwords and account information really easily. Make sure whatever proxy server you use provides full encryption capability.
Types of Proxy Servers
Not all proxy servers work the same way. It’s important to understand exactly what functionality you’re getting from the proxy server, and ensure that the proxy server meets your use case.
A transparent proxy tells websites that it is a proxy server and it will still pass along your IP address, identifying you to the web server. Businesses, public libraries, and schools often use transparent proxies for content filtering: they’re easy to set up both client and server side.
An anonymous proxy will identify itself as a proxy, but it won’t pass your IP address to the website – this helps prevent identity theft and keep your browsing habits private. They can also prevent a website from serving you targeted marketing content based on your location. For example, if knows you live in Raleigh, NC, they will show you news stories they feel are relevant to Raleigh, NC. Browsing anonymously will prevent a website from using some ad targeting techniques, but is not a 100% guarantee.
A distorting proxy server passes along a false IP address for you while identifying itself as a proxy. This serves similar purposes as the anonymous proxy, but by passing a false IP address, you can appear to be from a different location to get around content restrictions.
High Anonymity proxy
High Anonymity proxy servers periodically change the IP address they present to the web server, making it very difficult to keep track of what traffic belongs to who. High anonymity proxies, like the TOR Network, is the most private and secure way to read the internet.
Proxy servers are a hot item in the news these days with the controversies around Net Neutrality and censorship. By removing net neutrality protections in the United States, Internet Service Providers (ISP) are now able to control your bandwidth and internet traffic. ISPs can potentially tell you what sites you can and cannot see. While there’s a great amount of uncertainty around what is going to happen with Net Neutrality, it’s possible that proxy servers will provide some ability to work around an ISPs restrictions.
Varonis analyzes data from proxy servers to protect you from data breaches and cyber attacks. The addition of proxy data gives more context to better analyze user behavior trends for abnormalities. You can get an alert on that suspicious activity with actionable intelligence to investigate and deal with the incident.
For example, a user accessing GDPR data might not be significant on its own. But if they access GDPR data and then try to upload it to an external website, it could be an exfiltration attempt and potential data breach. Without the context provided by file system monitoring, proxy monitoring, and Varonis threat models, you might see these events in a vacuum and not realize you need to prevent a data breach.
Get a 1:1 demo to see these threat models in action – and see what your proxy data could be telling you.
How do I Hide My IP Address? – Avast
What is an IP address, anyway?
An IP address is a series of numbers that identifies your device or network on the internet. Activity on the internet is a series of two-way communications between clients — software, such as a web browser, that requests data — and servers, which reply to clients with responses. Every client has an IP address that tells servers who is making the request.
So, it’s easy to understand what an IP address is and also why they’re important. IP addresses let search engines like Google know where to send the results of a search, help websites know who’s visiting their site, and make sure you receive the emails that are addressed to you.
In other words, IP addresses undergird how the internet works in general. Thankfully, it’s very easy to find your IP address if you need this information.
Three ways to hide your IP
Now, let’s take a look at three tools you can use to hide your IP address. Each offers its own blend of privacy, security, and practicality.
1. Use a VPN
A VPN is an intermediary server that encrypts your connection to the internet — and it also hides your IP address. A VPN encrypts all your traffic, not only in your browser but also in other apps, and then passes traffic onward to its destination. They’re a popular privacy solution, and as such, there’s a strong incentive for VPN providers to design tools that are as easy to use as they are secure.
Here’s how to hide your IP address with a VPN: Simply download a VPN such as Avast SecureLine VPN, log in, and turn it on to protect both your IP address and your internet traffic.
How does a VPN hide your IP address?
When you’re using a VPN, your IP address is hidden because your traffic takes a detour through the VPN server. When your traffic — sites visited, online apps used, uploads, downloads, etc. — reaches its destination, it does so under a “virtual” IP address assigned by the VPN.
There’s only one party who’ll be able to see your actual IP address: your VPN provider. That’s why you should choose a trusted VPN provider that isn’t going to keep logs on your activity.
Avast SecureLine VPN is a safe, secure, and convenient way to mask your IP address. It’ll hide your online activity from your internet service provider (ISP), employer, school, and anyone else on your network, including a snooping cybercriminal. And we never keep any logs on sites you visit, apps you use, or content you view.
2. Use Tor
Comprising thousands of volunteer-run server nodes, Tor is a free network that conceals your identity online via multiple layers of encryption. When you access Tor, typically by using the free Tor Browser, your traffic is relayed and encrypted through a series of three relay nodes, each of which decrypts one layer of encryption to learn the identity of the next node. When your traffic leaves the final node, it’s fully decrypted and sent to its destination.
The relay system hides your IP address, but not without cost: because Tor’s encryption system is so thorough, it takes a long time for your traffic to complete its journey. You’ll be sacrificing browsing speed for Tor’s anonymity. This is a worthwhile tradeoff when it really counts, such as for whistleblowers and political dissidents. But if you’re simply seeking to hide your IP address, when comparing Tor and a VPN, you’ll find a VPN to be a far more convenient and faster solution.
How does Tor hide your IP address?
When you use Tor, each relay node along your traffic’s pathway through the Tor network knows only the IP address of the node immediately before and after it. Even if an attacker manages to intercept your traffic while it travels from the final node to your destination server, it’d be very difficult at that point to parse your original IP address.
3. Use a proxy
A proxy server handles your internet traffic on your behalf. A proxy sits in front of a client or network of clients, forwarding requests while also receiving and delivering responses from servers. You may need to manually adjust your device’s proxy settings if you want to use a proxy.
Unlike a VPN, most proxies won’t encrypt your traffic, and they also won’t hide your IP address from anyone who can intercept your traffic on its way from your device to the proxy. Proxy servers, especially free web-based proxies, tend to be less reliable than VPNs. That’s why proxies are best used as a quick, temporary solution as opposed to a long-term privacy plan.
How does a proxy hide your IP address?
Some proxy servers can mask your IP address with a fake one. You’ll appear as though you’re based in the same country as your proxy server. If you’re using a proxy to hide your IP, be aware that not all proxies offer equal protection.
Transparent proxies conceal neither your IP address nor your use of a proxy.
Anonymous proxies hide your IP address but not your use of a proxy.
High anonymity (or elite) proxies hide both your IP address as well as your use of a proxy.
Some sites or content platforms may block traffic from known proxies, so you’ll have to be careful if you’re trying to use a proxy to access media.
Why should I hide my IP address?
Your IP address identifies you online, and in today’s data-driven world, your online activity is very valuable. It’s important to hide your IP address so that you can regain control over your privacy while you’re online. Among other sensitive info, your IP can reveal your shopping and buying habits as well as your physical location. So why hide your IP? You’ve got plenty to gain, and not much to lose.
Hide your IP to browse anonymously
Advertisers and marketers can track you across the internet and analyze your browsing habits with the goal of marketing to you more effectively. Unfortunately, even hiding your IP address won’t stop them, because tracking cookies also deliver this information — which is why you should regularly take the time to delete cookies from your browser.
To take private internet browsing to the next level, consider a dedicated private browser like Avast Secure Browser. It includes a range of advanced anti-tracking features to let you use the internet without leaving any clues behind that companies and individuals can use to follow your activity.
Hide your IP to shield your location
Hide your IP address behind another IP in a different part of the world and no one will know where you really are. This includes websites and services that host geo-restricted content. For example, if you’re traveling abroad and want to access movies or TV shows that are available only for your home country, you can use a VPN or proxy to unblock that website with a false IP address in the correct location.
Many IP addresses are linked to a real-world address, or at least to a general location. If you’re frequently using false IP addresses to change your online location, no one will be able to figure out where you actually are.
Can my IP address ever truly be hidden?
While it’s not possible to hide your IP address from everyone, you can achieve an effective level of privacy sufficient for everyday needs. With a VPN, the only entity that can link your online activity to your IP address is your VPN provider itself. This is why it’s so important to choose a VPN provider with a reliable reputation for security, and one that doesn’t keep logs of user activity.
Your ISP can see the type, timing, and amount of traffic you’re sending to the VPN server, but they won’t know the specifics. The same goes for Tor. Many proxies don’t encrypt your traffic, and so your ISP will be able to access your activity if it wants to while you’re using a proxy. And, as mentioned earlier, all the websites and services you use while connected to a VPN will see only the VPN’s IP address, not yours.
The primary purpose for hiding your IP address is to protect your online activity and location from third-party observers: websites, advertisers who use ad tracking techniques, and cybercriminals. When your safety and privacy is at risk, it’s important to be proactive.
What is IP masking?
IP masking is the technique of concealing your IP address by adopting a false one. This is how hiding your IP address works — they’re two ways to refer to the same thing. If you’re interested in learning how to mask your IP address, you can apply the same techniques described in this article. After all, the only way to hide your IP address and still use the internet is to mask it behind another one.
Your traffic is always going to need an IP address online, since that’s how websites and services know who’s making the requests and where to send the replies. Clients use IP addresses to reach servers, and servers use IP addresses to send requested data back to the correct client.
That request-and-response system is part of the TCP/IP model, which governs how devices on the internet communicate with one each another. IP addresses are classified in a variety of ways: IPv4 vs. IPv6, public vs. local, and static vs. dynamic IP addresses. Read more about IP addresses here.
Hide your IP the easy way with a VPN
Avast SecureLine VPN lets you hide your IP address by choosing from any one of our blazing-fast servers located in dozens of countries all over the world. With your online activity securely encrypted and our no-logging policy, you’ll be able to easily access blocked content, disrupt tracking techniques, and browse the internet freely, with complete confidence in your online privacy.
How to change your IP address: 4 easy ways – CNET
Changing your IP address is easy, safe and legal.
Don’t worry. Changing your IP address is easy, even if you’ve never done it before. It’s also perfectly safe and — as long as you’re not using it to break other laws — it’s legal. Your computer and phone have several types of IP addresses (short for internet protocol, a unique series of numbers that identify your specific device with your online browsing), but we’ll focus on the type normally changed to protect your privacy as you browse, and those which make you appear like you’re in a different country. There are four simple ways to change your IP address in under 5 minutes. Jumping behind a proxy server or a VPN is the best way to not only temporarily change your IP address, but also protect your privacy. If you just want to change your IP address without the additional privacy boost, you can either enter your preferred IP manually, or you can just force your device to retrieve a new one automatically. Read more: Best VPN service of 2021 Keep in mind, changing your IP address will temporarily disrupt whatever internet-connected services or programs you’re using on your device. There’s no harm done, but it’s going to have the same effect as if you’d momentarily lost your Wi-Fi. Your Spotify might hiccup. Media streaming services will have a momentary brain freeze. If you’re sending or receiving files, you may need to start over. And you might have to log back in to whatever secure site you’re currently using. If you’re tooling around with IP address changes, you might have some other questions. Here are two of the most common questions I’ve been asked.
Which VPN should you pick?
Why should I consider changing my IP address?
Routinely changing your external, or public IP address, can help you improve your overall security and browsing privacy. There are other reasons, too. If you’ve just installed a new home router, you may need to reconfigure your network with a quick IP change. One common problem among home routers is that they sometimes give devices the wrong IP address, so changing your IP manually can solve those glitches. If you want to access a country’s catalog of streaming media services when you’re outside of that country for whatever reason, changing your IP to one based in the right country can get you the catalog you’re looking for. Likewise, if you’re a gamer looking to lower your lag, changing your IP via a gaming proxy server can help improve performance. One neat tech trick for second-language learners is to use an IP address based in another country to generate search results and local publications written in the local language.
Is it even legal to change your IP address?
Yes, it’s legal to change your IP address in the US. People change their IP addresses routinely when facing direct attacks on their online security, when testing a website before it goes live, or when they simply prefer to protect their privacy. Obviously, this FAQ is in no way offering legal advice and you should consult a licensed attorney for specific questions, but the legal boundaries on IP address changes usually start with what you change your IP to, and what you do with that new IP address. If you’ve changed your IP to impersonate an individual or a business — often called IP spoofing — you could be running afoul of the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. You might also run into trouble if you’re changing your IP address to access a website you’ve been banned from. IP spoofing is also a tool used by some cybercriminals to perform a handful of well-known attacks, most commonly those related to identity theft and those aimed at crippling websites with organized distributed denial of service bombardment.
Option 1: Change your IP address with a VPN or proxy server You can use a VPN to change your IP address.
When you use any of the virtual private networks we’ve reviewed in our directory, the service will automatically make you appear as though you have a different IP address originating from whatever country you select. Literally just open your VPN app and connect to any city other than your current one — in less than 30 seconds, you’ve changed your IP so it appears to be from wherever you chose. Browser-based VPNs and proxies are much more lightweight than standalone VPN apps. There are some key privacy differences that I’ve detailed elsewhere, but when you use a proxy, it also changes your visible IP address. Chrome, Firefox and Brave Browser all have their own versions of proxies and browser-based VPNs that you can try for yourself. Setting up a VPN on your iPhone or Android device is as easy as installing any other app on your phone, and I’ve got a step-by-step guide in case you’d like to see how to do it. If you’re gaming from a console, I’ve also got a quick walkthrough for you on setting up a VPN on an Xbox along with a list of the ones that performed best in my tests. If you’ve never toyed with VPNs but are considering one, I’ve got the Cliff’s Notes version of how to pick the right one, which you might find helpful. Whatever you do, just avoid free VPNs. Seriously not worth the malware risk. Instead, pivot to the cheapest ones that I’ve test-driven for you. Option 2: Change your IP address by unplugging the router Changing your IP address is as easy as unplugging your router.
The easiest and quickest way to get a new IP address is to see what your IP address is via an IP-checking site, then walk over to your router and unplug it for at least five minutes. It may take several minutes longer, depending on how long your ISP normally takes to renew IP addresses in general. Once you plug it back in, refresh the website to make sure your IP address has changed. Essentially, what you’re trying to do is make the IP-assigning part of your router “forget” your device so that it treats your device like a newcomer and gives it a new address. This isn’t foolproof, however. Sometimes it takes multiple tries, and in some cases you may have to leave the router off overnight. If you have a router that’s separate from your modem (most are a combination device these days) you may need to unplug the modem and router, leave them off for 5 minutes or so, then first power the modem on, followed by the router. But getting off the couch is overrated. Option 3: Automatically update your IP address on Mac, iOS, Windows and Android Changing your IP address will better protect your browsing.
Here’s how to do this on Mac, iOS, Windows and Android: MacOS: Click your Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen, and click System Preferences then Network then Advanced. At the top of the next screen, click TCP/IP, then click the Renew DHCP Lease button on the right side of the window. iOS: Go to Settings, tap Network and choose the wireless network you’re currently on. Under the IPv4 address section, tap Configure IP then Automatic. Windows 10: Press the Win+R keys at the same time. This opens the Run box dialog. Type cmd, then hit Enter on your keyboard. This opens the command prompt. For those who’ve never seen a Windows command prompt before: This is the part where you will either be immediately terrified something is about to get broken, or you will suddenly feel like you’re about to do something extremely cool. Do not panic; neither of those things is going to happen. The magic black box has that effect on everyone their first time. Type ipconfig /release (including the space) into the command prompt and hit Enter. Some text will zoom by. When it stops, type ipconfig /renew and hit Enter again. Then close your command prompt. You’re done. Android: Go to Settings, tap Connections then tap Wi-Fi. From here, tap on the network you’re currently connected to. Tap the gear-shaped icon to the right of the network. Your IP address will be displayed here, but go to the bottom of the screen and — after making sure you’ve got your Wi-Fi password handy — tap Forget (it’s the trash icon in the bottom-right corner). Your phone will forget the Wi-Fi network and be disconnected. Just reconnect to your network, and you should be issued a new IP address.
Top 5 reasons to use a VPN
Option 4: Manually change your IP address Here’s what to do if you’ve already got a new IP address that you know you want to use. MacOS: Go to System Preferences and click Network. Click Network Connection, then click Configure IPv4. Select Manually and type in whatever IP you’ve chosen. iOS: Go to Settings, tap Wi-Fi, then Network. Under the IPv4 address section, tap Configure IP. Manually type in whatever IP address you’re trying to use. Windows: Make sure you’re working from your Administrator account and click Start, then go to Control Panel. From here, click Network Connection, and then click on your local area connection. Next, click Properties, then click TCP/IP. From here, you can type your new IP address in manually. Your IP address will be displayed here, but go to the bottom of the screen and tap Advanced, then tap IP Settings. Select Static. The next screen will let you manually type in whatever IP address you’ve chosen. For more, check out everything to know about the Tor browser, three browser-based VPNs to try, and the browser privacy settings you should change right away.
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Frequently Asked Questions about does a proxy change your ip
Does a proxy hide your IP?
3. Use a proxy. A proxy server handles your internet traffic on your behalf. … Unlike a VPN, most proxies won’t encrypt your traffic, and they also won’t hide your IP address from anyone who can intercept your traffic on its way from your device to the proxy.Apr 8, 2020
Is changing your IP illegal?
Is it even legal to change your IP address? Yes, it’s legal to change your IP address in the US. People change their IP addresses routinely when facing direct attacks on their online security, when testing a website before it goes live, or when they simply prefer to protect their privacy.Jul 18, 2021
Does a proxy server change your location?
Use a proxy to hide your location When you open a website through a proxy, it redirects your traffic through a proxy server so the website you visit sees the IP of that server and not your real IP. … So while you’re able to change your location, it’s not really a safe thing to do, which brings us to the second option.Nov 27, 2018