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What is a Proxy Server? How It Works & How to Use It | Fortinet
What Is a Proxy Server?
A proxy server provides a gateway between users and the internet. It is a server, referred to as an “intermediary” because it goes between end-users and the web pages they visit online.
When a computer connects to the internet, it uses an IP address. This is similar to your home’s street address, telling incoming data where to go and marking outgoing data with a return address for other devices to authenticate. A proxy server is essentially a computer on the internet that has an IP address of its own.
Proxy Servers and Network Security
Proxies provide a valuable layer of security for your computer. They can be set up as web filters or firewalls, protecting your computer from internet threats like malware.
This extra security is also valuable when coupled with a secure web gateway or other email security products. This way, you can filter traffic according to its level of safety or how much traffic your network—or individual computers—can handle.
How to use a proxy? Some people use proxies for personal purposes, such as hiding their location while watching movies online, for example. For a company, however, they can be used to accomplish several key tasks such as:
Secure employees’ internet activity from people trying to snoop on them
Balance internet traffic to prevent crashes
Control the websites employees and staff access in the office
Save bandwidth by caching files or compressing incoming traffic
How a Proxy Works
Because a proxy server has its own IP address, it acts as a go-between for a computer and the internet. Your computer knows this address, and when you send a request on the internet, it is routed to the proxy, which then gets the response from the web server and forwards the data from the page to your computer’s browser, like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge
How to Get a Proxy
There are hardware and software versions. Hardware connections sit between your network and the internet, where they get, send, and forward data from the web. Software proxies are typically hosted by a provider or reside in the cloud. You download and install an application on your computer that facilitates interaction with the proxy.
Often, a software proxy can be obtained for a monthly fee. Sometimes, they are free. The free versions tend to offer users fewer addresses and may only cover a few devices, while the paid proxies can meet the demands of a business with many devices.
How Is the Server Set Up?
To get started with a proxy server, you have to configure it in your computer, device, or network. Each operating system has its own setup procedures, so check the steps required for your computer or network.
In most cases, however, setup means using an automatic configuration script. If you want to do it manually, there will be options to enter the IP address and the appropriate port.
How Does the Proxy Protect Computer Privacy and Data?
A proxy server performs the function of a firewall and filter. The end-user or a network administrator can choose a proxy designed to protect data and privacy. This examines the data going in and out of your computer or network. It then applies rules to prevent you from having to expose your digital address to the world. Only the proxy’s IP address is seen by hackers or other bad actors. Without your personal IP address, people on the internet do not have direct access to your personal data, schedules, apps, or files.
With it in place, web requests go to the proxy, which then reaches out and gets what you want from the internet. If the server has encryption capabilities, passwords and other personal data get an extra tier of protection.
Benefits of a Proxy Server
Proxies come with several benefits that can give your business an advantage:
Enhanced security: Can act like a firewall between your systems and the internet. Without them, hackers have easy access to your IP address, which they can use to infiltrate your computer or network.
Private browsing, watching, listening, and shopping: Use different proxies to help you avoid getting inundated with unwanted ads or the collection of IP-specific data.
Access to location-specific content: You can designate a proxy server with an address associated with another country. You can, in effect, make it look like you are in that country and gain full access to all the content computers in that country are allowed to interact with.
Prevent employees from browsing inappropriate or distracting sites: You can use it to block access to websites that run contrary to your organization’s principles. Also, you can block sites that typically end up distracting employees from important tasks. Some organizations block social media sites like Facebook and others to remove time-wasting temptations.
Types of Proxy Servers
While all proxy servers give users an alternate address with which to use the internet, there are several different kinds—each with its own features.
A forward proxy sits in front of clients and is used to get data to groups of users within an internal network. When a request is sent, the proxy server examines it to decide whether it should proceed with making a connection.
A forward proxy is best suited for internal networks that need a single point of entry. It provides IP address security for those in the network and allows for straightforward administrative control. However, a forward proxy may limit an organization’s ability to cater to the needs of individual end-users.
A transparent proxy can give users an experience identical to what they would have if they were using their home computer. In that way, it is “transparent. ” They can also be “forced” on users, meaning they are connected without knowing it.
Transparent proxies are well-suited for companies that want to make use of a proxy without making employees aware they are using one. It carries the advantage of providing a seamless user experience. On the other hand, transparent proxies are more susceptible to certain security threats, such as SYN-flood denial-of-service attacks.
An anonymous proxy focuses on making internet activity untraceable. It works by accessing the internet on behalf of the user while hiding their identity and computer information.
A transparent proxy is best suited for users who want to have full anonymity while accessing the internet. While transparent proxies provide some of the best identity protection possible, they are not without drawbacks. Many view the use of transparent proxies as underhanded, and users sometimes face pushback or discrimination as a result.
High Anonymity Proxy
A high anonymity proxy is an anonymous proxy that takes anonymity one step further. It works by erasing your information before the proxy attempts to connect to the target site.
The server is best suited for users for whom anonymity is an absolute necessity, such as employees who do not want their activity traced back to the organization. On the downside, some of them, particularly the free ones, are decoys set up to trap users in order to access their personal information or data.
A distorting proxy identifies itself as a proxy to a website but hides its own identity. It does this by changing its IP address to an incorrect one.
Distorting proxies are a good choice for people who want to hide their location while accessing the internet. This type of proxy can make it look like you are browsing from a specific country and give you the advantage of hiding not just your identity but that of the proxy, too. This means even if you are associated with the proxy, your identity is still secure. However, some websites automatically block distorting proxies, which could keep an end-user from accessing sites they need.
Data Center Proxy
Data center proxies are not affiliated with an internet service provider (ISP) but are provided by another corporation through a data center. The proxy server exists in a physical data center, and the user’s requests are routed through that server.
Data center proxies are a good choice for people who need quick response times and an inexpensive solution. They are therefore a good choice for people who need to gather intelligence on a person or organization very quickly. They carry the benefit of giving users the power to swiftly and inexpensively harvest data. On the other hand, they do not offer the highest level of anonymity, which may put users’ information or identity at risk.
A residential proxy gives you an IP address that belongs to a specific, physical device. All requests are then channeled through that device.
Residential proxies are well-suited for users who need to verify the ads that go on their website, so you can block cookies, suspicious or unwanted ads from competitors or bad actors. Residential proxies are more trustworthy than other proxy options. However, they often cost more money to use, so users should carefully analyze whether the benefits are worth the extra investment.
A public proxy is accessible by anyone free of charge. It works by giving users access to its IP address, hiding their identity as they visit sites.
Public proxies are best suited for users for whom cost is a major concern and security and speed are not. Although they are free and easily accessible, they are often slow because they get bogged down with free users. When you use a public proxy, you also run an increased risk of having your information accessed by others on the internet.
Shared proxies are used by more than one user at once. They give you access to an IP address that may be shared by other people, and then you can surf the internet while appearing to browse from a location of your choice.
Shared proxies are a solid option for people who do not have a lot of money to spend and do not necessarily need a fast connection. The main advantage of a shared proxy is its low cost. Because they are shared by others, you may get blamed for someone else’s bad decisions, which could get you banned from a site.
A secure sockets layer (SSL) proxy provides decryption between the client and the server. As the data is encrypted in both directions, the proxy hides its existence from both the client and the server.
These proxies are best suited for organizations that need enhanced protection against threats that the SSL protocol reveals and stops. Because Google prefers servers that use SSL, an SSL proxy, when used in connection with a website, may help its search engine ranking. On the downside, content encrypted on an SSL proxy cannot be cached, so when visiting websites multiple times, you may experience slower performance than you would otherwise.
A rotating proxy assigns a different IP address to each user that connects to it. As users connect, they are given an address that is unique from the device that connected before it.
Rotating proxies are ideal for users who need to do a lot of high-volume, continuous web scraping. They allow you to return to the same website again and again anonymously. However, you have to be careful when choosing rotating proxy services. Some of them contain public or shared proxies that could expose your data.
Unlike a forward proxy, which sits in front of clients, a reverse proxy is positioned in front of web servers and forwards requests from a browser to the web servers. It works by intercepting requests from the user at the network edge of the web server. It then sends the requests to and receives replies from the origin server.
Reverse proxies are a strong option for popular websites that need to balance the load of many incoming requests. They can help an organization reduce bandwidth load because they act like another web server managing incoming requests. The downside is reverse proxies can potentially expose the HTTP server architecture if an attacker is able to penetrate it. This means network administrators may have to beef up or reposition their firewall if they are using a reverse proxy.
Proxy Server vs. VPN
On the surface, proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs) may seem interchangeable because they both route requests and responses through an external server. Both also allow you to access websites that would otherwise block the country you’re physically located in. However, VPNs provide better protection against hackers because they encrypt all traffic.
Choosing VPN or Proxy
If you need to constantly access the internet to send and receive data that should be encrypted or if your company has to reveal data you must hide from hackers and corporate spies, a VPN would be a better choice.
If an organization merely needs to allow its users to browse the internet anonymously, a proxy server may do the trick. This is the better solution if you simply want to know which websites team members are using or you want to make sure they have access to sites that block users from your country.
A VPN is better suited for business use because users usually need secure data transmission in both directions. Company information and personnel data can be very valuable in the wrong hands, and a VPN provides the encryption you need to keep it protected. For personal use where a breach would only affect you, a single user, a proxy server may be an adequate choice. You can also use both technologies simultaneously, particularly if you want to limit the websites that users within your network visit while also encrypting their communications.
How Fortinet Can Help
FortiGate has the capability of both proxies and VPNs. It shields users from data breaches that often happen with high-speed traffic and uses IPsec and SSL to enhance security. FortiGate also harnesses the power of the FortiASIC hardware accelerator to enhance performance without compromising privacy. Secure your network with FortiGate VPN and proxy capabilities. Contact us to learn more.
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What Is a Proxy Server and How Do Proxies Work? – DZone Security
You might have already heard about proxies and proxy servers. But if you aren’t entirely familiar with them, this article will help you catch up with this web technology and see all the benefits of using proxy servers.
What Are Proxies?
A web proxy is some kind of intermediate between a web user and an online resource. When visiting a website directly, you send a web request containing information about yourself (the server or PC that you are using, your location, browser fingerprints, IP address, etc. ). As a response to this data sent, the web resource provides you with the content you requested.
Unlike a direct connection between users and websites, a proxy-based connection provides a gateway for your web request and the data you will receive back from the website. Proxies can hide or modify your web request data and filter the website content preventing you from getting unwanted information. This also ensures anonymous web browsing and data collection from your end.
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Linux Proxy Server
Usually, proxies are divided into two types: shared and dedicated proxies.
A shared proxy is a public proxy that can be easily accessed by anyone. As a rule, you can get shared proxies for free, without any restrictions on the number of users they serve. Such servers often get overloaded by hundreds of web users. This slows down the Internet connection and often results in huge lags and even crashes.
By using shared proxies, you will have to wait minutes for a web page to load, making it virtually impossible for you to surf the web. Moreover, browsing the Internet via these open proxies is pretty much risky, since they can be used by providers as a way to collect and steal your personal information.
There are also semi-dedicated proxies that have a limited number of users. They suit small groups of people, like companies or schools, in order for them to create a shared network connection.
A dedicated proxy allows you to use a proxy privately, which means you are the only person that uses it. This empowers you to browse completely anonymously and securely with high page load speed.
What Is a Proxy Server?
Now, you are probably wondering “what is a proxy server”? A proxy server or proxy is a server that works as an intermediate connection point between you and the web page you visit. Proxy servers process your web request and the website data, making your web browsing secure and private.
How Do Proxy Servers Work?
Each time you’re visiting a website by hitting a link or typing the web address manually in your browser, you create and submit a web request that’s forwarded to a proxy server. Then, the proxy server modifies and encrypts your data such as your IP (Internet Protocol) address and sends it to the web resource.
After that, the website sends its data back to the proxy server that processes it before transferring the web page information to you. This way, it works as a firewall or a web filter for you to get only the information you want to receive. Now that you have a glimpse of what’s behind the question “how does a proxy server work?, let’s take a closer look at which types of proxy servers exist.
Depending on the network setup and configuration involving a proxy, there can be three distinct types of proxy servers out there:
Forward Proxy Server
Forward Proxy Servers are commonly used by internal networks. How does a web proxy work when it comes to Forward Proxy Servers? Once one of the clients sends a request to get connected to a particular website, it first has to pass through a Forward Proxy Server that decides whether or not the client is allowed to approach this resource. If yes, the connection request goes to the external server that doesn’t see the client’s IP address but sees only the connection request sent from the Forward Proxy Server.
A Forward Proxy Server provides full administrative control over the local network connections. It acts as a shield or a firewall that lets the Administrators restrict access to unwanted web resources by the internal network clients. You can see this kind of proxy servers in schools and universities.
Reverse Proxy Server
Unlike a Forward Proxy Server, the Reverse Proxy Server works on the side of a website (or web service) hiding the IP addresses within the internal network from the external users. The Reverse Proxy decides whether the web users may see the content of a website or use a web service or not.
As far as the benefits are concerned, the Reverse Proxy Servers make it very hard for hackers to attack the internal servers. Besides, it functions as a load balancer in order to disperse the data between the internal servers that prevent overloading by tons of connection requests. Proxies of this type are used by web service providers.
Open Proxy Servers
Open Proxy Servers allow both forwarding the requests by internet users and receiving responses from websites. The key feature of this kind of proxy servers is hiding the user’s original IP address from the web. Unlike dedicated proxies, open proxy servers do not require authentication on the side of the user and are prone to abuse and malware infections.
Why Should You Use a Proxy Server?
Now, you have a better understanding of what a proxy server is and how to use a proxy. But what is a proxy server used for?
If you are thinking about whether or not you should opt for a proxy, there are a lot of advantages that will convince you to start using it.
Proxies can encrypt your data, configuring your IP address so that you can hide your real location to “outplay” the network with no effort. This way, the server you are sending your request to won’t know your actual IP address and other personal information. It allows you to avoid risks like hacking attempts and identity thefts.
Access to Any Website
Alongside more anonymous browsing, there are other benefits that come along with hiding your IP address. Imagine you want to visit a website that restricts the contents to be viewed in your country. In this case, you can change your IP address. Due to this, you can gain access to virtually any website on the web that has this kind of limitation.
Since you can keep your data private, your internet connection becomes more secure. You can configure and modify your proxy in order for the web to see only the info you allow it to get access to. Proxies also work as a web firewall that protects your device and filters the web resources that could probably contain malware.
Proxy servers can also improve your browsing performance. For example, once you visit a website, it gets saved in the cache of your proxy server. Next time you reach for the website, the proxy sends a request to the website server to look for any changes, and if no changes are detected, it will show you the cached version of the website. This way, you can cut down the loading time of websites you’ve already visited. It is especially beneficial when it comes to companies and organizations.
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Frequently Asked Questions about proxy server used for
What is a proxy and how does it work?
A proxy server or proxy is a server that works as an intermediate connection point between you and the web page you visit. Proxy servers process your web request and the website data, making your web browsing secure and private.Feb 12, 2020
Why do hackers use proxy servers?
Why Would A Hacker Use A Proxy Server? … To Create A Ghost Server On The Network. To Hide Malicious Activity On The Network. To Obtain A Remote Access Connection.Sep 18, 2021
What is special about a proxy server?
A proxy server reduces the chance of a breach. Proxy servers add an additional layer of security between your servers and outside traffic. Because proxy servers can face the internet and relay requests from computers outside the network, they act as a buffer.Jun 20, 2016