What Is a Proxy?

If you’re familiar with network security and administration, you’re probably already familiar with proxies and proxy servers. However, even if you understand how a proxy works and what they are used for, you may learn a thing or two from this post.

How Do Proxies Work?

When you are connected to the internet through a proxy, your internet traffic flows through the proxy server to the web address you’ve requested. This helps isolate your identity from your browsing activity and makes it more difficult for the websites you visit from tracking you.

Every device that is connected to the internet has a unique IP address. Just as a physical address tells someone where to find your home or business, an IP address lets a website know where to send the content you’ve requested. When you use a proxy you are basically able to connect to the web with a different IP address. A proxy is basically an online computer that you connect to which then connects to the websites you’re visiting. Your ISP will still be able to see your internet connection, but will see that you are connected to a proxy and not to the individual websites you visit. The websites you visit won’t be able to tell where you are coming from, because these sites will only see the IP address of the proxy that you’re using.

Proxy Illustration

What are Proxies Used For?

There are a number of reasons someone may want to use a proxy:

  • Get Around Work or School Content Blockers: Your network at work or school may block certain websites (like Facebook, YouTube or Adult Sites) to prevent browsing that isn’t work- or school-related. With a proxy, your browsing will come from another IP address so the content blocking won’t apply to you.
  • You Want to Separate Your Browsing from Your IP Address: If you’re browsing websites on sensitive topics or websites that you don’t want to be linked to your IP address, you can use a proxy to prevent the websites you visit from seeing your actual IP address.
  • You Want To Access Geo-Restricted Content: Some websites or streaming content may be limited to certain countries or locations. To access these sites you need an IP address in these locations. A proxy can give you an IP address in a specific location so you can view these websites and content.
  • You Don’t Want People To Trace Your Identity Online: If you want to communicate with a certain level of anonymity online, you may use a proxy to protect your IP address. For example, if you want to leave a comment on a news website, but don’t want that comment linked to your IP address, you can use a proxy to hide your IP address.

What is a Proxy Server?

Proxy servers act as gateways between you and the internet. There are a number of different types of proxy servers, each offering different levels of functionality, security, and privacy.

Types of Proxies

Open Proxies

An open proxy is a forwarding proxy server that any internet user can access. There are tons of these proxies available, and most can be found with a simple web search. There are two kinds of open proxies: anonymous proxies and transparent proxies. Anonymous proxies reveal that they are in fact servers, so the website you visit may be able to tell that you are using a proxy. However, these anonymous proxies do not reveal your local IP address. Transparent proxies on the other hand still show that they are servers, but they also allow the websites you’re visiting to access your IP address. The purpose of these proxies is less about privacy and security and more about caching the websites you visit while connected to the proxy.

Reverse Proxies

Reverse proxies are proxy servers that appear to clients to be an ordinary server. These make it difficult for websites you visit to detect that you’re using a proxy. Reverse proxies are typically used to help improve security and performance. Rather than connecting to a proxy which then connects to the internet, you connect to the internet first and the reverse proxy is placed between your internet connection and the origin servers of the sites you visit.