Proxy servers can be configured to work in different ways. It’s important to understand exactly how your proxy works to ensure it meets your privacy and security needs.
Proxy connection types
There are 4 main types of proxy connection: HTTP, HTTPS, SOCKS5 and web proxies.
HTTP proxies use a remote server to pull a web page over an unencrypted connection.
The web server can only see the proxy connection and responds as if it were your browser. The proxy receives this response and sends it to you.
While this type of proxy will hide your identity and IP address from the website you are visiting, the proxy will see everything you do because your data is not protected by HTTPS.
Furthermore, it is possible for the proxy owner to change content within the data stream. This means that you may be receiving unwanted ads or even malware.
An HTTPS proxy is similar to an HTTP proxy, but the data between your computer and the proxy server is protected by TLS encryption . This means that a proxy cannot interfere with your web pages before they are sent to you.
Anyone can access your network, including your ISP, which will be able to see the domains you’re accessing, but not the specific URLs you visit.
SOCKS proxies are more flexible than HTTP or HTTPS proxies. They can redirect your data from a multitude of different sources including HTTP, HTTPS, SMTP (email) and FTP (torrent file downloads).
SOCKS5 is the latest version of SOCKS. It supports encryption and also offers authentication methods that provide an additional layer of security.
Verification by username and password is available in SOCKS5, as well as GSS, an API authentication. If configured correctly, this means that you only authorize users who can access a specific server.
While SOCKS5 is more flexible and secure than other types of servers, it doesn’t take much effort to set up. Unless you’re a torrenting user, the setup time and effort required to use SOCKS may be excessive compared to the simplicity of a VPN.
That said, some VPNs now also offer SOCKS5 proxies as part of their service. This gives you the advantage of being able to choose between a VPN server and a SOCKS5 proxy server.
Web proxies allow you to use a browser to direct you to a blocked web page or hide your IP address from a web page. Many of these services are also public proxies.
You can see an example of a web proxy in the screenshot. This is owned by Hide.me and allows users to choose the location of a proxy server before passing data through it.
The disadvantage is that this type of proxy is security and usability. Pages that are rendered through web proxy sometimes appear out of order or lack their original functionality. You are very likely to experience slow speeds and ads when using proxies because they are free and shared.
These proxies can be useful for visiting blocked web pages that do not involve sensitive data. However, they have similar risks to public proxies.
There is also an additional risk: because of the way they work, web proxies break end-to-end HTTPS encryption.
This is what happens:
- Your browser uses HTTPS to establish a secure connection with a proxy server . Someone spying on the connection between your device and the proxy server will see that you have visited the proxy server but will not see the web page you have requested through the service. HMA and Hide.me offer additional URL encryption to hide the URL of the web page you are visiting.
- The proxy server connects to the Internet for you . This is important because if you request an HTTPS web page, the secure connection to that web page begins from the web proxy server. Anyone spying on your connection between the proxy server and the Internet can see the web page you are visiting, but not the data you exchange. However, the proxy server can see all your activity on the web page you visit.
Proxy Server Configuration
There are also several different ways to configure a proxy server. Each of these configurations offers a different experience in terms of privacy and security.
Private and dedicated proxy
A private proxy server can only be used by one person at a time. A dedicated proxy is a private proxy with an IP address that never changes.
Private and dedicated proxies usually cost quite a bit of money since they are only used by one user.
A private proxy server doesn’t offer the privacy that a VPN does: it still doesn’t encrypt your traffic or hide your DNS requests. However, it is usually better at unblocking web pages than a shared or public proxy server.
Shared or public proxy
A shared proxy is a private proxy that is shared with a limited number of people. For obvious reasons, it is usually cheaper than a completely private or dedicated proxy.
Public proxies are used by more people, but they are free to use and accessible to everyone . They often have performance issues due to risk of user congestion on the server.
Additionally, public proxies have more security risks. Wired investigations found that 79% of public proxies inserted code into requested web pages or blocked HTTPS connections.
Additionally, you are sharing your IP address with an unlimited number of strangers, any of them could be using the service for illegal activities.
Using a free and open proxy, there is also a risk that the owner of the proxy can use your data for malicious purposes, for example, to sell it to advertisers. You have no idea what is happening to your data once it reaches the proxy server. For this reason, it is best to avoid public proxies.
Residential proxies and data centers
A proxy data center is based on a data center. Sometimes it is owned by a cloud service such as Amazon Web Services.
The IP address in the data center has to be very similar. For this reason, it can be easy for content providers to identify and block them to enforce geographic content restrictions.
One solution to this problem is the residential proxy . This uses an IP address belonging to an Internet Provider or ISP, so it looks like your traffic is coming from a real person or home.
A transparent proxy tells the destination web page that it is a proxy server and gives it the real IP address. It is not useful for protecting your privacy or unlocking restricted content.
You probably don’t want to set up a transparent proxy, but you may be forced to use one anyway. Typically, libraries, companies, and schools deploy these proxies to filter content or monitor access to web pages.
They can also be used on public Wi-Fi to prevent users from accessing content that may use too much bandwidth.
Luckily, you can use a VPN to bypass the content restrictions imposed by a transparent proxy.
You may see reverse proxies mentioned online. This is another type of proxy that you are unlikely to configure yourself, unless you are responsible for web servers or IT.
A reverse proxy is a server that is connected to multiple web servers and provides a gateway to them.
A reverse proxy can be used, for example, to receive incoming requests and distribute them evenly across multiple web servers or to speed up encryption or compression.
Also Read: The 3 best VPNs to download torrents