What is a proxy server?
Proxy servers are computer applications or computer systems that act as a go-between or “intermediary” for requests made between a computer or other device and the Internet.
How does a proxy server work?
Corporate networks are known for their use of proxy servers. Without a proxy server, you may not be able to access websites that are not within the company’s own network.
Essentially, when a computer user types in a web address, a request is sent to the proxy server, which then forwards the request to the host server for the web address.
At that point, the home page of the requested website is sent back to the proxy server, which then funnels it to the user who typed in the address.
Companies, schools and governments often use proxies to restrict access to various websites or other services, hoping to keep Internet users from accessing these services.
Proxies basically control what an employee or student can do while using the Internet – from websites with adult content to social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook.
Proxies also provide documented details of the content employees and students have accessed, along with the websites they’ve visited.
Proxy servers are also used to help hide IP address, users’ locations and other sensitive data that could be stolen otherwise.
Proxy servers can also block cookies from being stored on your computer, essentially offering another level of anonymity to a user.
By using proxy servers, companies can keep their systems safe from websites that might contain malicious content such as malware.
They’re also used to “compress” traffic, which means improved speed and savings on bandwidth.
When users log on to a website while using a proxy server, that proxy server might store the information and save others from having to reload the same information.
Are there risks using a proxy server?
Of course there are.
In some instances, proxy servers might expose encrypted data used on websites.
When that happens, sniffers might be able to see what a user is doing online and take advantage of what they see.
Because the proxy server will keep a log of your Internet activity, it will store sensitive information about you.
That information might help another person identify you.
Some public proxy servers could be used to carry out malicious activities, and when that happens, a person using the public proxy could be at risk.
Proxy servers – especially those that are supposedly “free” to use – are sometimes even controlled by hackers or cybercriminals who simply want to steal your information.
By running a proxy server, hackers could see your financial account information, your usernames and passwords, or a number of other details you wouldn’t want someone else to know.
Another common concern associated with the use of free proxy servers is the advertisements connected to their use.
With these advertisements in place, a user’s Internet connection could be lethargic – the assumption being the longer you look at an advertisement, the better chance you might just click on it and help others make some money.