What Is A Proxy Server ^NEW^
A proxy server is an intermediary server that retrieves data from an Internet source, such as a webpage, on behalf of a user. They act as additional data security boundaries protecting users from malicious activity on the internet.
What is a Proxy Server
Proxy servers have many different uses, depending on their configuration and type. Common uses include facilitating anonymous Internet browsing, bypassing geo-blocking, and regulating web requests.
Typically, a user accesses a website by sending a direct request to its web server from a web browser via their IP address. The web server then sends a response containing the website data directly back to the user.
If the proxy allows the user's request, it forwards it to the web server through the firewall. The web server sends its response to the proxy. The proxy then sends this response back to the user.
A forward proxy will first check if the user's requested information is cached before retrieving it from the server. The proxy stores cached information itself, eliminating the need to request it from the server. If the requested information is cached, the proxy will send it directly to the user.
A reverse proxy will first check if the user's requested information is cached before retrieving it from the server. The proxy stores any cached information, eliminating the need to request it from the server. If the requested information is cached, the proxy will send it directly to the user.
High anonymity proxies offer the most security to a user. They conceal the user's IP address and do not identify themselves as proxies to web servers (unlike anonymous proxies). These proxies routinely change IP addresses when making requests to web servers, allowing a high level of privacy.
They send a request to the web server that shows as coming directly from the user. Transparent proxies are set up by a network operator or website, not the user, and are commonly used by organizations, public libraries, and schools for website content filtering purposes. Transparent proxies are one the easiest proxies to set up.
HTTP proxies use the HTTP protocol and are not configured by the user. Instead, they are either configured by the browser or within the website's interface. The HTTP proxy works exclusively with web content and cannot be used for any other data types.
HTTP proxies allow users to browse the web with a different IP address but do not offer any additional privacy or security. All user activity is still visible over the Internet, the same as without a proxy.
The HTTPS proxy (also called SSL Proxy) works similarly to the HTTP proxy but differs in that it establishes secure connections. The HTTPS proxy works exclusively with web content and cannot be used for any other data types.
HTTPS proxies encrypt all web traffic using the HTTPS protocol. HTTPS websites are already encrypted through SSL certificates, offering users private and secure connections. If a user connects to an HTTPS website via an HTTPS proxy, their connection is doubly secured.
The SOCKS (SOCKets Secure) proxy allows any type of traffic that is compatible with the SOCKS5 protocol. The SOCKS5 protocol routes users' traffic through a third-party server - SOCKS proxy server - via TCP (Transmission Control Protocol).
A SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) proxy works as an intermediary between SIP devices (e.g. telephones) through the SIP protocol. SIP proxies control calls within a network by requesting information from the SIP registry and directing calls accordingly.
An SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) proxy works as an intermediary for mail transfer through the SMTP protocol. The proxy is configured to allow or deny incoming and outgoing emails based on factors, such as source address, the sender's server, and even the content of the email.
Sometimes, devices connected to a subnetwork via a router cannot send configuration requests to the DHCP server. A DHCP proxy agent forwards such devices' requests to the server, receives the response, and relays this back to the device.
A DNS proxy forwards DNS (Domain Name System) requests from the user to a DNS server. DNS is a system that allows users to enter a domain name (e.g. google.com) into their browser rather than its IP address.
When a user enters a domain name, DNS will choose which of the domain's servers will complete the user's request. DNS servers can either allow access to a domain or block requests from an IP based on several factors, such as authentication or geolocation restrictions.
A Smart DNS proxy enables users to bypass DNS restrictions such as geo-location restrictions. Unlike regular proxy servers, Smart DNS proxies only divert one part of a user's internet traffic - DNS requests.
DNS servers will usually connect users to the closest web server in their geo-location. Certain online content, such as video streaming services and news platforms, restrict their content based on location.
Smart DNS proxies work around these restrictions by directing DNS requests to specific servers that allow access to such content. For example, if an Australian user wants to access US content, the Smart DNS proxy will divert the DNS request to a US-based server.
A CGI (Common Gateway Interface) proxy is a type of web proxy server that allows users to access websites anonymously via a web form. As CGI proxies are web-based, they allow users to access the proxy's services on devices or networks that do not allow proxy configurations.
A public proxy (also called an open proxy or shared proxy) is available for use by any Internet user, free of charge. The proxy allows users to browse the Internet anonymously by providing access to its IP address.
Public proxies are ideal for cost-sensitive users but not for those with data security and speed concerns. As many users are drawn in by the free service of public proxies, they are prone to lagging. The open nature also puts users at higher risk of compromising sensitive data if they share personal information through the proxy, much like public wi-fi networks.
While these proxies are cheaper and faster to run than residential proxies, they are also less reliable. Web servers can easily identify data center proxies and quite often block their access to websites.
Residential proxies are costlier than data center proxies but are more reliable. As they use real residential addresses, web servers are more trusting of residential proxies and are less likely to flag them.
A mobile proxy uses IP addresses from devices that use mobile data (through 3G, 4G, or 5G), e.g. smartphones and tablets. Desktop device users can use mobile proxies to appear as mobile devices in web server requests.
Proxy servers and VPNs both act as an intermediary between the user and a website. Proxies and VPNs forward the user's request to the web server and conceal location and connection information by changing their IP addresses.
Proxy servers are typically configured individually, meaning users must configure their proxy connection settings separately to direct traffic through the proxy. Until a user has configured the proxy on an app, it will remain unaffected by the proxy's existing connections on the same device.
Generally, VPNs are more secure than proxy servers due to the way they operate. VPNs create an encrypted tunnel between a user's device and the outside network. The tunnel allows users to browse the web without sharing their IP address and other identifying connection data.
A proxy server can't encrypt data on its own; it just changes a user's IP address. VPNs change a user's IP address and encrypt the data transfers between the device and Internet, allowing private and secure web browsing.
Proxy servers offer several benefits to users. It is important to note that these benefits are dependent on the proxy's type and configuration. Users should always find out the specific capabilities of a proxy before using it.
Like any third-party service operating over the Internet, proxy servers are not without their cyber risks. Users should understand the common risks associated with proxies to decide if they are fit-for-purpose.
The safety of a proxy ultimately comes down to proxy type and server configuration. Users must understand how the specific proxy they are using operates before engaging in Web activity through it.
While proxy services offer some privacy to the user by concealing their IP address, the proxy itself logs this information, along with browsing history. Depending on the type of proxy, this data could be forwarded to external parties, causing a data breach.
Some proxies are not configured with encryption, meaning the user's online activity is available in plain text for anyone to see. Users should assume a proxy is not encrypted unless the proxy server settings state otherwise, and use unencrypted proxies at their own risk.
But what actually happens when you browse the web? You might be using a proxy server at your office, on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or you could be one of the more tech-savvy who always use a proxy server of some kind or another.
Modern proxy servers do much more than forwarding web requests, all in the name of data security and network performance. Proxy servers act as a firewall and web filter, provide shared network connections, and cache data to speed up common requests. A good proxy server keeps users and the internal network protected from the bad stuff that lives out in the wild internet. Lastly, proxy servers can provide a high level of privacy.
A proxy server is basically a computer on the internet with its own IP address that your computer knows. When you send a web request, your request goes to the proxy server first. The proxy server then makes your web request on your behalf, collects the response from the web server, and forwards you the web page data so you can see the page in your browser.
Varonis analyzes data from proxy servers to protect you from data breaches and cyber-attacks. The addition of proxy data gives more context to better analyze user behavior trends for abnormalities. You can get an alert on that suspicious activity with actionable intelligence to investigate and deal with the incident.