Web Proxy

Web proxies forward HTTP requests. Some web proxies allow the HTTP CONNECT to set up forwarding of arbitrary data through the connection; normally this is only allowed to port 443 to allow forwarding of HTTPS traffic.

What is a proxy server

A proxy server is computer that functions as an intermediary between a web browser (such as Internet Explorer) and the Internet. Proxy servers help improve web performance by storing a copy of frequently used webpages. When a browser requests a webpage stored in the proxy server's collection (its cache), it is provided by the proxy server, which is faster than going to the web. Proxy servers also help improve security by filtering out some web content and malicious software.

Proxy servers are used mostly by networks in organizations and companies. Typically, people connecting to the Internet from home will not use a proxy server.

Web proxy Features

Web proxies vary a great deal in features and functionality. The best web proxies offer SSL security, which encrypts communications between the user and the proxy. A beneficial side effect of SSL is the ability to bypass censorship restrictions in countries which restrict access to websites. Web proxies also afford some additional options which are unique to this type of proxy, including User Agent masking, cookie management, and advertisement removal.

Privacy Benefits: Hide Your IP Address, Location & Other Information

When you have a direct connection to the Internet, when you load a website on the Internet, the server where it is hosted can see your IP address. With the help of this address it can approximate your geographical location. Also, the browser sends its user agent information and the website knows what browser you are using. On top of this, cookies are stored on your computer which provide further personal information.

Proxy servers can hide your IP address (if they are set to do this), can send a different user agent so that your browser is not identified and can block cookies or accept them but not pass them to your PC or device. Therefore, when using a proxy server, you can be a lot more anonymous than when using a direct connection to the Internet.

Possible Security Problems Generated by Proxy Servers

Using proxy servers is not all about benefits and good stuff. They can pose problems like:

  • When using unencrypted connections, the proxy server can alter the responses you receive, both in good and bad ways. For example, an infected or malicious proxy server can be used to load malware into your browser or redirect you to a phishing website.
  • A proxy can alter the requests you make to a website or service on the Internet to generate results that meet someone else's intentions.
  • A proxy server monitors and logs your activity. Therefore, it stores lots of information about you that can be used for identification at a later date.
  • Depending on how it was configured, a proxy server can provide unencrypted data where encrypted data was previously provided by the website or service you are using. This can expose you to network sniffing and having others monitor what you are doing on the Internet.

Web proxy types

  • Anonymous Proxy - An anonymous proxy server also known as web proxy, generally attempts to anonymize web surfing by hiding the original IP address of the end user. This type of proxy server are typically difficult to track, and provides reasonable anonymity for most users.
  • Distorting Proxy - This type of proxy server identifies itself as a proxy server, but make an incorrect original IP address available through the http headers.
  • High Anonymity Proxy - This type of proxy server does not identify itself as a proxy server and does not make available the original IP address. High anonymity proxies, only include the REMOTE_ADDR header with the IP address of the proxy server, making it appear that the proxy server is the client.
  • Intercepting Proxy - An intercepting proxy, also known as a transparent proxy, combines a proxy server with a gateway. Connections made by client browsers through the gateway are redirected through the proxy without client-side configuration. These types of proxies are commonly detectable by examining the HTTP headers on the server side.
  • Reverse proxy - A reverse proxy is another common form of a proxy server and is generally used to pass requests from the Internet, through a firewall to isolated, private networks. It is used to prevent Internet clients from having direct, unmonitored access to sensitive data residing on content servers on an isolated network, or intranet. If caching is enabled, a reverse proxy can also lessen network traffic by serving cached information rather than passing all requests to actual content servers.
  • Transparent Proxy - A transparent proxy is a server that satisfies the definition of a proxy, but does not enforce any local policies. It means that it does not add, delete or modify attributes or modify information within messages it forwards. These are generally used for their ability to cache websites and do not effectively provide any anonymity to those who use them. However, the use of a transparent proxy will get you around simple IP bans. Further, your web browser does not require special configuration and the cache is transparent to the end-user. This is also known as transparent forward proxy.