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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).
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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.
Proxy vs. VPN: 4 differences you should know – Norton Antivirus
Worried about your privacy when searching the Internet? Wondering if hackers, government agencies, or companies can track what sites you visit, files you download, or links you click?
You might be wondering if it’s time to sign up with a virtual private network (VPN) or proxy server to hide your location and internet-service-provider address from any snoops.
But be aware: There are significant differences between a proxy and a VPN. While both tools can protect your identity, only a VPN will encrypt your data as you browse the web.
This means that only a VPN can help hide your online activity from hackers, government agencies, and companies that might be looking to learn more about how you spend your time on the internet.
What VPNs and proxy servers are
Both VPNs and proxy servers are tools you can use to help keep your activity private when browsing the internet, sending emails, reading online message boards, streaming video, and downloading files. But both of these tools work in different ways.
A proxy server is a computer that sits between you and a server, acting as a gateway when you access the internet. When you connect to a specific website, video-streaming app, or file-sharing program from your laptop, tablet, smart phone, or any other device, you can first connect to a proxy. Once you do this, you’ll be connecting to the site or app through an outside host server.
There’s a clear benefit to this if you want to hide your identity. The website you are visiting — or the streaming service you are accessing or file-sharing site you are using — will only see the IP address belonging to the proxy server. It won’t see your address. This will keep your identity and true location hidden from these sites and apps.
There are different types of proxies. Here are three of the most common ones.
You’d use these proxies to access websites. You can also use this type of proxy to access geo-restricted content. For instance, maybe an online video is restricted in your region. You can use a proxy server to log onto the site hosting the video, hiding the fact that your original IP address is restricted from watching it. Keep in mind, this may violate the user agreement with your content provider.
These proxies don’t work only on websites. You can use a SOCKS5 proxy to access video streaming services, file-sharing sites, or online games. Be aware, though, that connecting to an app through a SOCKS5 proxy might be slower because free proxies can have less configuration options, support, and slower infrastructure.
You might have used a transparent proxy without realizing that. That’s the whole point. Employers — or parents, schools or libraries — might set up a transparent proxy as a way to filter user’s content when they connect to the internet or block users from accessing certain websites.
A VPN is similar to a proxy, but instead of working with single apps or websites, it works with every site you visit or app you access.
Like a proxy, when you visit a website after first logging into a VPN, your IP address is hidden and replaced with the IP address of your VPN provider. This keeps your identity shielded. But unlike a proxy, this protection will remain in place as you surf to new websites, visit online streaming sites, or send emails or download files.
You can access the internet through free VPN providers. But providers that charge for VPN access are less likely to share data with third parties.
How VPNs and proxies differ
Here are four ways VPNs and proxies are different.
1. VPNs encrypt your information
The biggest benefit of a VPN over a proxy server? With VPN enabled, your browsing and any data you send or receive, will be encrypted. This is important: It means that hackers, government agencies, businesses, or anyone else won’t be able to see what you’re doing when online.
Say you access your online bank account while using a VPN. Because your information is encrypted, hackers won’t be able to access your bank account numbers. The same is true if you log onto your credit card provider’s online portal: Because your data is encrypted, criminals won’t be able to snag your credit card number or the password you use to log onto the portal.
2. VPN providers promote online privacy
If you want total privacy, work with a VPN provider that has a no-log policy. “No log” means the providers pledge not to track and store your activity while you are using the service to connect to the internet. This means that these providers won’t have any data to give to anyone else who wants information about what sites you browse or files you share. On the other hand, a free proxy may monitor traffic and sell data to third-parties.
3. Free proxy connections can be slower
Both proxy servers and VPNs can slow down your browsing, depending on how many users are accessing these services. Free proxy connections however can be slower and less secure because of less support, less configuration options, and slower infrastructure.
4. You may spend more with a VPN
You can connect through free VPNs. However, many tech experts recommend going with a VPN provider that charges a fee because paid services often offer more data privacy, more secure connections, and more reliable performance. Security of free VPN can be unreliable, as many providers use only one VPN connection, called point-to-point tunneling protocol (PTTP). A paid VPN service, on the other hand, can offer users data encryption which is more secure.
Do you need a proxy if you have a VPN?
No. A VPN and proxy server both mask your IP address. But a VPN will also encrypt the data you send and receive, something that a proxy server doesn’t do. If you are already using a VPN, then, connecting to a website or app through a proxy server would be an unnecessary step.
What should you use, a VPN or proxy server?
When it comes to proxy vs. VPN and which one to use, the differences between the two might help you decide what’s the best choice for you.
If you want to hide your IP address, using either a proxy server or VPN will work. And if you’re worried about browsing speed, and you’re only worried about hiding your IP address from a single site or app, then a free proxy server will do the job.
If cost is an issue, then connecting to single sites, apps, or file-sharing services through a proxy server might be the smart move. It’s easy to find free proxy servers that will hide your IP address.
But if you want to keep your browsing activity hidden from snoops, logging onto the internet through a VPN is the better choice. Again, it comes down to encryption: VPNs encrypt your data while online. Proxy servers don’t.
If you plan to access several sites while online, especially if you’re connecting to sites such as your bank account or credit card portal, a VPN provides more security.
And while many of the preferred VPN providers will charge for their services, this price might be a small one to pay if it means that your most sensitive personal and financial information is shielded from the eyes of online snoops.
Frequently Asked Questions about poxy server
What is proxy server used for?
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.
How do I setup a proxy server?
Here’s how to set a proxy manually in Windows 10:Open Settings.Click Network & Internet. … Click Proxy. … In the Manual Proxy Setup section, set the Use a Proxy Server switch to On.In the Address field, type the IP address.In the Port field, type the port.Click Save; then close the Settings window.
Is a VPN a proxy?
A VPN is similar to a proxy, but instead of working with single apps or websites, it works with every site you visit or app you access. Like a proxy, when you visit a website after first logging into a VPN, your IP address is hidden and replaced with the IP address of your VPN provider.