A Beginners Guide to Proxy Servers and VPNs
Privacy considerations aren’t just for those with something to hide.
Most people today use the Internet for shopping, banking and business, and would like to do so privately.
If you use the Internet at home then you are relatively secure from monitoring except by your ISP.
However when using the Internet when travelling is a different matter altogether.
To address these problems there are many companies and organisations offering various privacy solutions based on Proxy servers and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).
In this tutorial we look at:
What Your ISP Knows about You
Who needs a VPN or proxy
What are VPNs and Proxies
How do they work and the difference between them.
What Your ISP Knows About You
Most home networks use a router provided by the ISP. The default settings for this router configure all connected clients to use the DNS servers of your ISP.
This means that each time you access a web service the ISP knows about it and can log it and even sell on this information to third parties.
Even if you manually edit the DNS settings to use Google or OPenDNS or any other DNS provider then if you ISP uses a technology called transparent DNS proxy they can still intercept your DNS requests and log them.
Who Needs A VPN?
Travel and Use Public Wi-Fi Connections.
Share a Wi-Fi Connection with Others that you don’t know or trust
Need To surf the web Anonymously.
Want To access Geographically restricted Content.
Worried about your Internet Privacy.
then you should take a look at VPNs and Proxy servers.
Proxy Servers- How they Work
Proxy servers are very common in corporate networks where they are used for controlling access to the web.
Because they can control access to websites they are also used by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) like BT to provide services like parental controls.
They are also becoming more popular for normal users who wish to browse the web anonymously.
The way it works is that instead of connecting directly to the website the user connects to the proxy and the proxy connects to the website.
This means that the website sees the IP address of the proxy server, and not the IP address of the user which allows the user to remain anonymous.
Proxy servers can, in many circumstances, also allow users access to blocked websites. as the blocking servers are usually on the corporate network or ISP, and they don’t know what sites are being accessed via the proxy.
In addition, if the user’s ISP blocks certain sites by IP address, then they will allow the user access to these sites.
This is because they don’t know that the user is accessing these sites, as they only see the access to the Proxy server.
Problems with Using Proxy Servers
1. Proxy servers work at the application protocol level (see Understanding the OSI Model))and so can only be used for traffic that uses this protocol. This is normally.
In plain English this means they generally only work for accessing websites using a web browser.
2. Because all traffic is sent through the proxy you are likely to experience a much slower connection than normal.
3. The Proxy server becomes a security issue as it knows all about you. Can you really trust it? This is especially true when using free Proxy servers.
4. Not all web services will work through a proxy server
5. Not all proxy servers use SSL which means your traffic isn’t encrypted.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)- How they Work
VPN or Virtual Private Network is a way of using a public network to carry private data.
A VPN provides a secure and private connection for all traffic from your computer/device, and not just for web browsing traffic.
A VPN works by encrypting the internet connection between your device and the VPN end point.
It provides a secure tunnel for your traffic.
Usually the VPN endpoint is a VPN Gateway located somewhere on the Internet.
The Diagram below depicts a standard internet Connection.
In a standard internet connection the connection can be monitored anywhere along the path from your machine to the the destination server.
The Diagram below shows the same Connection but this time using a VPN Gateway.
Now the Connection between you and the VPN gateway is secure and only the connection between the gateway and destination server is potentially vulnerable.
The connection to the destination server could also be encrypted, if for example, it was a banking server.
A VPN connection supports any application protocol.
So that it could be carrying or, ftp or ftps.
The main problem with this is that the VPN gateway is a potential bottleneck, and security risk.
A VPN could also be configured End to End as depicted below:
This is common practice for securely linking corporate offices together across the Internet.
SSL (secure sockets layer)
You should note that SSL is the technology that makes your data secure by encrypting it.
SSL connections are used for online shopping, and other services and don’t require you signing up to any service.
The only problem is that you rely on the web server to require it, and currently only servers that need security use it e. g banks and shopping sites.
Google search uses SSL, but this only protects your search data from anyone monitoring your Internet Connection, it doesn’t protect it from Google.
Google still knows who you are, and what you search for and so does your ISP.
However if you do a search via a proxy server or VPN then Google doesn’t know about you unless you happen to be logged into a Google account when you do it.
Proxy vs VPN
A proxy provides for basic anonymous web surfing and doesn’t provide as much security as a VPN.
Proxy services used to be much cheaper than VPN services but this is really no longer the case.
A big advantage of using a proxy is that a proxy doesn’t normally require installing any new software on your device.
However generally I would go for a VPN solution
Who Needs To Use A VPN Connection
You should consider using a VPN
If you are concerned with your privacy and don’t want your ISP to track your Internet activity
If you travel a lot and use the Internet over public Wi-fi connections.
If you share your Wi-Fi
Client VPN Software
To access a VPN gateway or server from a device e. g. computer or mobile phone you need VPN software installed on that device.
Most VPN providers provide free client software for Windows, Mac an linux as well as Android and IOS.
Most providers have a client limit of around 5 and 6 clients.
Most home routers allow VPN traffic to pass through but do not them selves offer VPN capability.
However if your router does support this feature then this is an ideal solution for providing VPN for multiple devices as you don’t need to install VPN software on the devices.
It also means that you effectively only use 1 client connection even though you have many devices connected.
If you have smart home devices that don’t support SSL themselves passing their data through a VPN tunnel will help secure them.
This NordVPN video explains it:
If you router doesn’t support this feature and you would like to use it then you would need to change it for one that did or use a two router solution.
VPN Server and Speeds
Because all of your traffic is going through a single server (VPN Gateway) you may find that it is slower than when connecting direct.
The more access servers the VPN provider provides and the proximity of those server to your location then the faster your connection should be.
According to a PC magazine article review a VPN slowed the connection by roughly 60%.
This is not really a problem for normal web browsing, one line banking etc but maybe for streaming video.
There are 6 commonly used protocols used for creating a VPN each with their pros and cons, they are:
PPTP: Fast, widely used and supported
L2TP/IPSec: Widely used and good speeds
SSTP: Widely supported and good security
IKEv2: Fast and mobile-friendly
OpenVPN: Open source, slow, strongest encryption
Wireguard: open-source, open-source, growing support
Most providers will support a selection of these this makeuseof article
You will come across this term when reviewing VPN solutions and it simply means that the DNS traffic is going outside the tunnel and therefore it is insecure.
VPN Kill Switches
Most well known VPN providers provide this feature although it may be called network lock or similar.
The basic idea is that it will block your connection unless it is over the VPN.
This means that if the VPN drops you don’t continue to send data over the network unsecured.
Common Questions and Answers
Q- Should I use a proxy server or a VPN?
A- A proxy server is meant for anonymous browsing, but isn’t necessarily secure. A VPN is secure and always uses SSL to encrypt your works for all applications on your device and not just your web browser.
Q- Can you use SSL connection inside a VPN tunnel?
A-Yes the data just appears like any other date to the VPN
What is a VPN
Proxy servers– Wiki
Anonymous Your BitTorrent Traffic with a Proxy
DNS leaks and leak test
Please Let me Know if you found it Useful
How to Set Up a Proxy Server on Your PC, Mac, or Web Browser – Avast
As for what a proxy server is, think of your proxy as a gateway between you and the internet. When you visit a website, the proxy server communicates with it on behalf of your browser. Then, when the website answers, the proxy forwards the data to you.
Proxy servers can do many jobs. These include scanning for viruses, acting as a firewall, speeding up your connection by caching, and hiding your public IP address.
You have lots of choices when it comes to internet privacy. There’s a lot to learn, such as understanding what a reverse proxy is or distinguishing between VPNs, proxies, and Tor. If you want dependable protection and encryption for your internet traffic, consider a VPN. Avast SecureLine VPN hides your data from snoopers and protects your online identity, and it’s also much easier to set up than a proxy server.
There’s no similar guarantee of protection with a proxy, especially if you’re using one of the many web-based proxies available online. These public proxy services may slow down your service, and even worse, they may be insecure. Instead, we suggest you learn how to set up a proxy server on Windows, MacOS, and the most popular web browsers.
If you’re configuring your browser to use a proxy operated by a company, school, or other similar organization, some of these instructions may require you to contact your IT staff. This is the case particularly when you are asked to manually enter a script name, formally called a proxy auto-configuration (PAC) file. You may also need to type in the proxy’s IP and port numbers. In both cases, turn to your IT helpdesk if you haven’t been given this information. If you’re using a proxy that you’ve purchased or created on your own, you’ll already have these details.
How to set up a proxy server in Windows
Here’s how to set up your Windows PC to use a proxy server on Windows 8 or Windows 10:
Press the Windows + I keys simultaneously to access the Windows Settings menu.
On Windows 10, click Settings > Network & Internet > Proxy. On Windows 8, click Settings > Network Proxy.
Under the Manual Setup section, set the “Use a Proxy Server” toggle to On. Make sure the “Automatically detect settings” toggle is also on.
By default, Windows automatically checks to see if your business, school, or local network already has an automatic proxy server setup ready to run for you. If it does, Windows tells you its name, and encourages you to follow its instructions.
Assuming that Windows finds a PAC file, in the Automatic Proxy Setup, set the Use Setup Script switch to On.
Enter the script address and click Save.
Congratulations! You’re done and ready to proxy.
How to manually set up a proxy in Windows 8 or Windows 10
Not every organization sets up the process automatically. If you need to set up a proxy manually in Windows 8 or Windows 10, here’s how to do it.
To access the Windows Settings menu, press the Windows + I keys simultaneously.
On Windows 10, click Settings > Network & Internet > Proxy. On Windows 8 systems, click Settings > Network Proxy.
Scroll down to “Manual proxy setup” and set the “Use a Proxy Server” switch to On.
In the address field, type the proxy server name or IP address. In the Port field, enter the proxy port number. You can get these from your IT support tech.
If the proxy server is protected by a password, select the “Proxy server requires password” checkbox. Enter your account name and password in the Username and Password fields.
That’s all there is to it. You’re now set up to use your proxy server on Windows. The next time you use the internet, you’ll be using the proxy server.
How to set up a proxy server on a Mac running macOS
Here’s how to set up a proxy server on a Mac running macOS 10. 15 Catalina. Other macOS versions use essentially the same commands.
Open System Preferences. One way to get there is to click on the Apple menu > System Preferences.
Choose the Network icon to adjust connectivity settings.
Select the type of network you use, which is usually Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
Click Advanced > Proxies.
To automatically configure your proxy server settings, select Auto Proxy Discovery. Click on Secure Web Proxy (HTTPS). Type in the proxy server address and its port number in the fields on the right.
To use a proxy auto-configuration (PAC) file, select Automatic Proxy Configuration and enter the proxy address into the URL field.
Click OK to save the proxy setup.
You’re now ready to surf the internet via your proxy.
How to set up a proxy in Google Chrome
By default, Chrome uses your macOS or Windows proxy. To change your proxy settings from within Chrome, take the following steps:
Open the Chrome toolbar and select Settings.
Scroll down to the bottom of the display. Click on Show advanced settings…
Scroll down to “System” and choose Open your computer’s proxy settings.
Next, go back to the instructions for your operating system listed above to set up your proxy server settings and follow them.
In short, to set up a proxy server in Google Chrome, you’re just doing the first few steps in the browser, and then completing the process in your machine’s operating system.
How to set up a proxy server in Safari
Like Chrome, Safari’s default setting is to follow the proxy configurations within your OS. Here’s how to change your proxy settings from within Safari:
Click on Safari in the browser toolbar. Choose Preferences.
Click on the Advanced tab. Under “Proxies, ” click Change settings…
Next, you must go back to the instructions for macOS listed above to set up your proxy server settings and follow them.
How to set up a proxy server in Edge
Edge is Windows 10’s built-in web browser, and unless you tell it otherwise, it’ll use your proxy configurations in Windows. The latest versions of Edge are based on Chrome, so the configuration is similar. The following steps show you how to set up a proxy from within Edge:
In Microsoft Edge, at the top-right corner, click the Menu button. Select Settings.
Scroll down to the Advanced settings section and click the View advanced settings icon.
Click the Open proxy settings button.
Next, go back to the instructions for Windows 10 listed above, then follow them to configure your proxy server settings.
How to set up a proxy server in Firefox
Unlike other web browsers, Firefox doesn’t default to using your system’s proxy settings. You’ll need to change your proxy from within Firefox:
Open the Firefox menu and select Options.
Click on the Advanced icon.
Select the Network tab.
In the Connection Settings, select, Auto-detect proxy configuration for this network. When prompted, enter the proxy address.
Alternatively, in the Connection Settings, you can select, Use system proxy settings. If you choose that option, Firefox uses the proxy settings in your operating system.
Click OK to save your settings.
How to set up a proxy server in Internet Explorer
Please keep in mind that Internet Explorer is an outdated web browser. Instead, switch to a browser that’s still receiving regular updates and support, such as Avast Secure Browser, Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari. Though since quite a few people and companies still use Internet Explorer (IE), you should know how to set things up when necessary.
As with other browsers, IE defaults to using your Windows proxy configurations. Here’s how to set your proxy up from within IE.
Open the IE toolbar and select Internet Options.
Open the Connections tab.
Select LAN Settings.
Check the “Use a proxy server for your LAN” box.
When prompted, enter the proxy server name and port number.
How to set up a proxy server in Android
With Android, you must configure proxy settings for each network you use. In addition, the proxy will only be used by your web browser. Other internet applications may choose to use or ignore the proxy based on their own internal settings. This is another reason why VPNs tend to be better choices — when you use one, it covers all the internet traffic from your device.
Open Android’s Settings and tap Wi-Fi to view a list of Wi-Fi networks.
Long-press the Wi-Fi network name for which you want to change the proxy settings. Tap Modify Network.
Tap Advanced Options.
Tap Manual to change your proxy’s settings. Enter your hostname and proxy port.
If you have a Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) file, select Proxy Auto-Config and Android will prompt you to enter the PAC address.
How to set up a proxy server in iOS
Go to Settings > Wi-Fi.
Select the active Wi-Fi connection.
Under HTTP proxy, click Configure Proxy.
Tap Manual to change your proxy’s settings. Enter your host name, proxy port, and, if needed, your authentication username and password.
If your provider supports Web Proxy Auto-Discovery Protocol (WPAD), tap Automatic. If required, enter the Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) file location.
Tap back to the Wi-Fi selection window.
Protect your online anonymity the easy way
Proxy servers have their uses, particularly within large organizations. However, setting one up requires a bit of work, and this is a job typically entrusted to network administrators and other IT professionals.
Avast SecureLine VPN is an internet privacy solution that’s both simpler to use and far more protective of your identity and online activities. A single click or tap of a button gets you encryption that keeps you anonymous online and prevents anyone from snooping on your sensitive personal info, such as your online banking, health info, or private photos. Enjoy true online privacy on your desktop, laptop or mobile device with a VPN that’s as convenient as it is secure.
What Is A Proxy Server? | PCMag
A proxy server is a computer system or router that functions as a relay between client and server. It helps prevent an attacker from invading a private network and is one of several tools used to build a firewall.
The word proxy means “to act on behalf of another, ” and a proxy server acts on behalf of the user. All requests to the Internet go to the proxy server first, which evaluates the request and forwards it to the Internet. Likewise, responses come back to the proxy server and then to the user.
Proxy Servers Provide Anonymity
Like a virtual private network (VPN), a proxy server hides the user’s IP address when accessing the Internet. See VPN and TLS.
Address Translation and Caching
The proxy server is a dual-homed host with two network IP addresses. The address on the outbound side is the one the Internet sees. Proxies are often used in conjunction with network address translation (NAT), which hides the users’ IP addresses on the internal network. Proxy servers may also cache Web pages so that the next request for that page can be retrieved much faster. See NAT and proxy cache.
Anonymous proxy servers let users surf the Web and keep their IP address private (see anonymous proxy). Although not specifically called proxies, Internet email (SMTP) and the Usenet new system (NNTP) are somewhat similar because messages are relayed from sender to recipient. See firewall.
Application Level and Circuit Level
“Application-level” proxies or “application-level gateways” are dedicated to specific content such as HTTP (Web) and FTP (file transfer). In contrast, a “circuit-level” proxy supports every application (see SOCKS).
Forward and Reverse Proxies
In this definition, the proxy servers are “forward proxies” that hide the details of the clients from the servers. However, proxies can also reside at the website to hide details from the clients (see reverse proxy).
A Proxy Server in a LAN
In this example, the proxy server functions as a firewall in the public side of a company network, which is called the “demilitarized zone” (see DMZ).
Frequently Asked Questions about proxy guide
How can I learn proxy?
Here’s how to set your proxy up from within IE.Open the IE toolbar and select Internet Options.Open the Connections tab.Select LAN Settings.Check the “Use a proxy server for your LAN” box.When prompted, enter the proxy server name and port number.Click OK to save your settings.Mar 11, 2020
What does proxy setting mean?
A proxy server is a computer system or router that functions as a relay between client and server. … The word proxy means “to act on behalf of another,” and a proxy server acts on behalf of the user. All requests to the Internet go to the proxy server first, which evaluates the request and forwards it to the Internet.
What should be the proxy settings?
You should manage your proxy settings according to how you employ proxy servers.Open a “Local Area Network Settings” dialog box. … Check the box next to “Automatically Detect Settings” in the “Automatic Configuration” pane, unless you are a using a “Virtual Private Network” (VPN) that is malfunctioning.More items…