Concerned about the privacy on the web? Want to hide your ip address from hackers? Want to browse the web without being tracked? Well, then you must know about proxies, so, read on.

A proxy server is a computer that sits between the user and web server. A client that connects to the proxy server requests some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource, that is available on a different server. The proxy server then goes to the other server and requests what the client wants for them.

How do proxy servers work?

The main functions of proxy servers are:
  • Anonymous web browsing:
    Anonymous, or proxy, servers work by retrieving Web pages for you. They hide your IP address and other important browsing information, so the remote server does not see your information but sees the proxy server’s information instead.

However, there is a slight chance that the anonymous server is recording your data, and it is entirely feasible that a malicious proxy server can scoop up everything on your machine. Using an anonymous server with a good user rating and clear privacy policy will avoid this.

  • Caching:
    When a request for the Internet service (such as web page) is sent to the proxy server from the user, it looks in its local cache for the requested page. If it finds the page, it returns it to the user without forwarding the request to the Internet. If the page is not in the cache, the proxy server acts as a client (on behalf of the user) and requests the required page from the server on the Internet. When the page arrives, it is cached (stored) and is forwarded it to the user.

Caching can improve response time experienced by clients. Web pages can load more quickly in the browser. Proxy server caches increase availability. Web pages or other files in the cache remain accessible even if the original source (web server) or an intermediate network link goes offline.

Types of Proxy servers

  • Anonymous Proxy
    Every time you connect to the Internet your computer is assigned an IP address by your Internet Service Provider. Even though your IP address may not identify you personally, an IP address is a unique identifier of your PC while you are online. It is possible to hide your real IP address on the Web by using an anonymous proxy server.
    This type of proxy server identifies itself as a proxy server to the web server, but does not make the original IP address available. This type of proxy server is detectable, but provides reasonable anonymity for most users.
  • Transparent Proxy
    This type of proxy server identifies itself as a proxy server and also makes the original IP address available through the http headers. 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. They are transparent in the terms that your IP address is exposed, and not transparent in the terms that you do not know that you are using it (your system is not specifically configured to use it).
  • 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.

Drawbacks of using proxy servers:

Though proxy server has many advantages like anonymity, faster retrieval of web pages (by caching), blocking undesired websites, accessing prohibited sites in your institution/workplace, there are some risks in using them.
When using a proxy server, all data sent to the web server must pass through the proxy server, usually in an unencrypted form. It is therefore possible for a malicious proxy server to record everything sent to the proxy – including unencrypted login and passwords. This could be used by hackers to trace user’s activities.
The bottom line of this is to suggest that you should use only the proxy servers of known integrity (e.g., the owner is known and trusted, has a clear privacy policy, etc.), and never use proxy servers of unknown integrity. If there is no choice but to use unknown proxy servers, do not pass any private information (unless it is properly encrypted) through the proxy.

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  • Ian Lim

    It seems like you know what you are talking about. If you value your online anonymity then you need to take precautions. The first step is to become invisible while on the net. Go to