What is a proxy server? And can it provide you with a sufficient level of security?
Imagine, that we are looking at the Internet under a microscope, then we will see the exchange of digital data between devices. In order to identify each other, these devices use IP addresses. In simple terms, an IP address is an identifier for a computer or other device on the World Wide Web.
But, as in the real world, we don’t want everyone to know our address, especially various intruders. In the Internet, a proxy server is used for this purpose. A proxy server is an analogue of a gateway through which data passes in both directions: both to your device and from your device to the Internet. In this case, the proxy server replaces your IP-address. If we are talking about a local network (as a rule, a proxy server is used exactly in its configuration), then not only your device, but other computers connected to this local network can access the Internet via the same proxy server. This is called indirect connection.
Let’s take an example with the office (already familiar to our readers) and imagine the workplace of the secretary Galina. Galina wants to visit a certain site from the company’s computer. The device is connected to the Internet through an indirect connection: it is a part of the local network of the company, but it is not directly connected to the router. Galina opens the browser and enters the address of the site she needs. This request goes to the proxy server of the company, and from this proxy server the required page will be opened. Then (if this page is not blocked by the system administrator - the secretary is still at the workplace, not at home), the proxy server returns the data from the required site to Galina’s computer, and it opens in her browser.
Indirect connection through a proxy server: why is it better to use exactly this connection?
In our example, we mentioned that Galina would get access to the page only if it was not blocked by the system admin. This has its own logic: at the workplace, you need to do the work, and not to use social networks or other sites not related to direct job duties. Proxy servers are configured for such restrictions almost everywhere: in offices, at schools and other educational institutions, in libraries. And even if a company professes the principle ‘if an employee does a good job on time, he can use the net however he wants’, certain categories of sites are being blocked by a server proxy anyway - for example, online casinos, various pornography etc.
In addition, a proxy server can be configured to a filter content, rather than specific pages. Here's, how it looks like. The proxy server checks whether the requested site is not in the list of the sites prohibited by the system admin. Let’s assume the site is not included in the ‘black list’ of the proxy server. But this “check” does not end there! The proxy server checks all traffic for keywords or content, and if something illegal is found in the traffic, such content will not be displayed.
Proxy server can also work vice versa. A typical situation when a proxy server replaces geolocation. This may also be necessary for business - for example, to bypass the censorship of the state, blocking sites or the entire social networks in which you need to interact with customers. If you use a proxy server, the policy will not prevent you from doing business.
Proxy server can play a caching role. A proxy server can save previous requests made by devices working through it, and this will reduce the amount of data that needs to be downloaded again.
Proxy server allows you to hide your IP address and increase your online privacy
When you use websites, any data that you transmit and receive can be intercepted. You think that you have just visited the site, and in the meantime this site has already learned the characteristics of your device and its IP address - practically your geolocation with a certain error. Add to this cookies, which store much more interesting data, including the personal one. Also remember that we live in the era of “Big Brother” and his younger brothers like Google, that don’t even hide the fact that they follow every word we enter in the search box, in the body of the letter, or even everything we pronounce!
You don’t have a desire to provide such information to anyone, right? There is a solution: buy a proxy. Even if you are not ready to make a purchase immediately, there are good proxy servers with free “demo versions”. Keeping your anonymity on the web is normal. Even if the government considers otherwise, it does not make you a criminal.
Proxy server allows you to bypass most of the government censorship on the Internet. A proxy server can be of several kinds - let's see in more detail what each of them represents.
Web Proxy is a proxy server, externally (for the user) that looks like a regular site. By accessing it, you simply enter into the specified line the site you want to access, and Web Proxy provides a secure and confidential connection. Everything is very simple. But in this simplicity there are often some problems.
Firstly, as in the case of VPN, an absolutely free proxy server is an utopia. A proxy server requires maintenance and administration by a system admin who needs a salary. At best, the proxy server owner will receive money from advertising. Although it is annoying, but at least honestly: if you want to use the service for free, see the advertisement. It is a principle familiar to all of us.
Much worse if the proxy owner is not a decent man. In this case, the website can collect all the data that users send and receive through a secure (as they think) connection. The worst option is when a Web Proxy has been created by Internet- scammers.
Is there a better option? Of course, there is. Again, it is the same as in the case of VPN. If the proxy server has both a paid and free version, then its method of getting money is transparent: it is a monthly fee from users of the paid version. Such proxy servers value their reputation, which they have been building for years.
There are a lot of Web Proxies on the Web – so many, that it is impossible to make any reliability rating. You can only rely on the tips given above if you want to use Web Proxy. However, we would not recommend entering any personal data via the Web Proxy, including (and especially!) everything related to the Internet bank.
Manual proxy server
Ручной прокси сервер работает по принципам, схожим с Web Proxy. Разница в том, что понятного обычному пользователю визуального интерфейса у них нет. Взамен этого пользователю нужно самому настроить браузер, чтобы подключиться к прокси серверу.
Настройка ручного прокси сервера выполняется достаточно просто. В меню любого браузера есть возможность ввести настройки локальной сети. Вот туда, в графу IP-адреса, и нужно ввести IP нужного Вам ручного прокси сервера. Также, возможно, понадобится ввести номер порта – при необходимости эти данные также будут указаны владельцем ручного прокси сервера.
VPN (virtual private network)
Strictly speaking, a VPN and a proxy server are two different things. Moreover, in some ways they are competitors, although a qualified system admin can use both tools. In this case, a VPN and a proxy server will not be competitors, but allies shoulder to shoulder.
For a user, a VPN is the application that the he installs on the device. When launched, this application builds a ‘tunnel’ to a secure server, which can be located at the other end of the world (and quite often it is), and all user traffic goes through this secure server. As you can see, the principles are similar to those used by the proxy server.
The difference is that the device connected to the VPN does not need to be “physically” on the network where the proxy server is located. In a business, VPN is usually used when an employee needs a remote access to the office network from a personal device.
VPN is an excellent tool for circumventing state censorship on the Internet and / or anonymous browsing. The procedure is as follows. First, the user connects to the Internet. After that, he starts the VPN application and establishes a tunnel to the selected VPN server. Then, the user can freely browse any pages, as if he is physically at that place where the VPN server is located. User’s real IP address will be hidden from both Big Brother and annoying advertisers (if a VPN doesn’t get money from advertising).