There has been a time when network anonymity and security weren’t taken as seriously as it is today. However, it does not mean that today’s security defenses aren’t lacking. The slack approach towards network anonymity and security is still one of the leading reasons behind cyber attacks.
Proxies, despite being used to serve as a security component in some cases, aren’t the best measure for cybersecurity. They mostly work as a chain of numerous servers that keep your requests anonymous to an extent. But their capabilities often exceed that.
In this article, we’ll learn about what proxies are, how they work, and the benefits of one for individual or organizational usage.
What Are Proxies
Proxy servers, lovingly known as proxies, are a network of dedicated or shared devices (physical/virtual) that continuously forward your request packets to the intended servers.
The purpose this serves is that it keeps the last IP and MAC address as your location, and can’t effectively track back to your real location. Various benefits, including content unblocking and network caching, are achieved through this.
How Do Proxies Work
A different number of proxies work in different ways. But, they all maintain a simple principle. They forward the connections. Whether through hundreds of servers or one, the fundamentals of proxies remain the same throughout.
For example, the most common type of proxy, a forward proxy, sits between an isolated network and the server to act as an intermediary that passes the request with a new IP address. But, a reverse proxy works with a designated firewall to block unauthorized access. Depending on the nature of the proxy, a proxy for social media is different from a proxy for data scraping.
Benefits of Using a Proxy
Different individuals and organizations use proxies in vastly different ways. For some, proxies are the first line of defense against cyber attacks, and for others, it’s a mere tool for purchasing sneakers. Here are the common benefits of using a proxy.
Physical distance from the server to the requesting device literally slows down the connection. If you’re trying to access a website from a location that’s halfway around the world, it’ll inevitably be slower than someone accessing it from a closer locale.
To mitigate the issue, resourceful organizations cache their whole networks in a server. Proxies divert these requests to the nearest servers for quick information retrieval and future caching. This configuration may also be used to strengthen the network security by implementing a firewall and proxy server as a buffer between the requests and the source server.
Social media platforms don’t like when businesses or individuals use different accounts for different purposes. For example, you’re likely to have different accounts for different services or for scraping purposes. But, if you keep accessing the accounts from the same network, you might get blocked for violating the platform policies.
As these activities are tracked through IP address monitoring, you can bypass the feature by implementing proxies for social media. The proxies will forward your every request through a different IP address that keeps you hidden from the servers.
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Whether you’re merely surfing through websites or scraping data, anonymity is paramount. Proxies help you keep your physical and virtual location hidden from prying eyes. By forwarding your request through a chain of servers, they ensure that you can’t be tracked by the spiders spread across the internet.
If you’re an organization, you may need to scrape search engine data for price predictions and marketing resolutions. However, search engines and websites condone this idea. You may get blocked from accessing the networks if your activity raises suspicion. Proxy servers are used to automate the scraping process and get valuable data.
It’s hard to monitor network activity if you’re not using a monitoring algorithm. Even if you’re using one, requests from different sources are hard to track and act upon. The only way to get the full extent of your network traffic is by channeling them through a single tunnel.
Proxy servers work as a buffer between you and the requests. They channel all the requests through a single tunnel and help you keep track of all the traffic that’s been directed to your network. This is particularly useful when used in an organizational setup. As you may need to differentiate between test servers, internal requests, and organic traffic, having a proxy directing them to the appropriate channel helps.
Streaming platforms, search engines, and social media platforms often block or partially prevent users from accessing content from different locations. If you’re a marketer or a streamer, this may be counterintuitive to your efforts.
As proxies divert your request through servers situated in different physical locations, by going through the nearest server, you can access the exclusive geo-blocked content.
Disadvantages of Using Bad Proxy Servers
Despite huge benefits, proxies shouldn’t be perceived as security devices. Although there are instances where you may want to install good proxy servers as a security element, they aren’t often the best. Here are the disadvantages of bad proxies that you should know.
Potential Tracking Vulnerability
The cached networks save passwords for convenience. It’s not an issue if strong encryption is in place or it doesn’t reach the hands of unauthorized personnel. If you’re not using a trustable proxy server and being slack towards encryption, this information can get stolen by the proxy provider itself.
Despite their ease of usage, proxies are particularly hard to install. Implementing a network-wide proxy is virtually impossible without appropriate IT support. Moreover, if you are required to fulfill other goals than what they’re intended to do, you may need extensive coding and programming skills to accomplish that.
Well-trusted proxies are costly. There’s no walking around that. If you’re getting a cheap proxy, your risk of getting hacked and being targeted by insider attacks increase significantly.
The Bottom Line
Proxies are network elements that forward requests through different servers before hitting the intended one. This helps you keep anonymous on the internet. Some benefits of proxies include network caching, social media usage, data scraping, monitoring, and unblocking content. The disadvantages include pricing, tracking vulnerability, and lack of security.