What Is a Proxy Server and How Does It Work (2023)

People often need to consider the basics of how the Internet works. The problem with this is the inherent danger of identity theft and data security breaches that come with photos, 24-hour news updates, and great online deals. But what happens when you browse the web?

A proxy server is located between your computer and the Internet. A proxy can make the Internet faster, more private, and more secure by bridging your web browser and Internet services. Here is a complete guide on what proxy servers are, how they work, and how to configure them.

What is a proxy server?

A proxy server behaves as a gateway between the device and the Internet. A server acts as an intermediary to separate end users from the websites they access.

A proxy is a devoted PC or software device strolling on a laptop that is an intermediary between an end-point device, such as a computer, and any other server from which a user or purchaser requests a service.

The proxy can exist on the same device as a firewall or separate server, which forwards requests through the firewall.

If that’s all, why bother with a proxy? Why not go directly to the website and vice versa?

Modern proxy servers do plenty more than ahead web requests for data safety and network performance.

A good proxy protects users and the internal network from Internet attacks and malware. These can establish a high level of privacy.What Is a Proxy Server

How does a proxy server work?

Whenever you visit a website by clicking on a link or manually typing the web address into your browser, you create and send a web request to a proxy. The proxy server then modifies and encrypts data, such as your IP address, and sends it to the web resource.

After that, the website sends your data to the proxy server, which processes it before transferring the web page information to you. In this way, it works like a firewall or a web filter so that you get only the information you want to receive.How does a proxy server work?

Now that you know ​​what’s behind the question” How does a proxy server work ?” let’s look at what types of proxy servers exist.

Depending on your network configuration and proxy settings, there can be three different types of proxy servers:

Forward proxy server

Advanced proxy servers are the most used by internal networks.

How does an internet proxy work when it comes to forwarding proxies? Once one of the clients sends a request to connect to a particular website, it first has to go through a Proxy, which decides whether or not the client can approach this resource.

If yes, the request for the connection goes to the external server, which does not see the client’s IP address but only sees the request for the connection sent from the forward proxy server.

An advanced proxy provides complete administrative control over local network connections. It acts as a shield or firewall that allows administrators to restrict access to unwanted web resources by clients on the internal network.

You can see these types of proxy servers in schools and universities.

Reverse proxy server

Unlike an advanced proxy server, a reverse proxy works alongside a website (or web service) by hiding IP addresses within the internal network from external users. The reverse proxy decides whether web users can view a website’s content or use a web service.

Among the benefits of reverse proxy servers is their protection against cybercriminals since they prevent them from attacking internal servers.

It also performs load balancer functions to disperse data among internal servers and prevent overloading by many connection requests. Web service providers use proxy servers of this type.

Open proxy servers

Open Proxy servers allow you to forward Internet user requests and receive website responses. The key feature of this proxy is to hide the original IP address of the web user.

Unlike dedicated proxies, open proxies do not require user authentication, which can lead to malware infections and abuse.

Why should you use a proxy server?

Now you better understand what is a proxy server and how to use a proxy. But what is a proxy used for?

If you are considering whether or not you should opt for a proxy, many advantages will convince you to start using it.

More privacy

Proxies can encrypt your data, setting your IP address so you can hide your actual location to “overcome” the network effortlessly.

This way, the server you send your request to will not know your actual IP address or other personal information. It allows you to avoid risks such as hacking attempts and identity theft.

Access to any website

Other benefits of hiding your IP address include more anonymous browsing. Imagine that you want to visit a website that restricts the content that will be viewed in your land.

In this case, you can change your IP address. Because of this, you can access virtually any website with this type of limitation.

Greater security

Your Internet connection becomes more secure because you can keep your data private. You can configure and modify your proxy so that the website sees only the information you allow.

Proxy servers also work as a web firewall that protects your device and filters web resources that could likely contain malware.

Improved performance

Proxy servers can additionally improve search performance. For example, once you go to a website, it is saved in the cache of your proxy.

The next time you get admission to the web, the proxy sends a request to the internet site server to discover any changes, and if no changes are detected, it will exhibit you the cached model of the website. This way, you can reduce the loading time of websites you have visited. It is especially advisable when it comes to groups and organizations.

Risks of Proxy Servers

It would help to be cautious when choosing a proxy: some common risks can negate any potential benefits.

Free proxy server

You know the old saying, “You get what you pay for?” Using one of the many free proxy servers can be risky.

Free usually means they are investing little in backend encryption or hardware.

You’ll likely see potential data security issues and performance issues. Be very careful if you ever find a completely “free” proxy. Some of them are just glancing to rob your credit card information.

Browsing history log

The proxy has your real IP address and possibly unencrypted web request information stored locally. Check if your proxy records and saves that data and what type of retention or police cooperation policies it follows.

If you wish to use a proxy for privacy, but the provider only logs and sells your data, you may receive a different value than expected for the service.

No encryption

If you use a proxy without encryption, you will likely not use a proxy. No encryption means you are sending your requests as simple text.

Anyone listening can quickly extract usernames, pas, swords, and account information. Make sure the proxy you use provides full encryption capability.

How to configure a proxy server?

Some steps may require you to contact IT personnel if you are configuring your browser to use a proxy from a company, school, or other similar organization.

This is particularly true when it asks you to manually enter a script name, a proxy auto-configuration (PAC) file. You may also need to enter the proxy IP and port numbers.

In both cases, contact IT support if you have not received this information. If you use a proxy you purchased or created yourself, follow these recommendations.

Proxy Server in Windows

Here’s how to configure your Windows PC to use a proxy server in Windows 8 or Windows 10:

  1. Press the “Windows + I” to access the Windows settings menu simultaneously.
  2. In Windows 10, click Settings  >  Network & Internet  >  Proxy. In Windows 8, click  Settings  >  Network Proxy.
  3. Set the “Use a proxy server” switch to On in the Manual Settings section. Make sure “Automatically detect settings” is also enabled.
  4. By default, Windows checks automatically to see if your company, school, or local network already has an automatic proxy configuration ready to run for you. If you do, Windows tells you your name and encourages you to follow its instructions.
  5. Assuming Windows finds a PAC file, set the  Use configuration script switch to  On in Automatic Proxy Configuration.
  6. Enter the script address and click Save.

proxy server in windowsCongratulations! You are now ready for the proxy.

Not all organizations set up the process automatically. If you want to set up a proxy server in Windows 8 or Windows 10 manually, here’s how to do it.

  1. To access the Windows Settings menu simultaneously, press the “Windows + I” keys.
  2. On Windows 10, open Settings  >  Network & Internet  >  Proxy. On Windows 8 systems, open Settings  >  Network Proxy.
  3. Scroll to “Manual proxy settings” and set the “Use a proxy server” switch to On.
  4. Type the name or IP address of the proxy in the Address field. Type the proxy port number in the port field. You can get them from your IT support technician.
  5. If the proxy is password protected, select the “Proxy server requires password” check box. Type your account Username and password in the fields.
  6. Click  Save.

Proxy Server in Mac

Here’s how to setup a proxy on a Mac running macOS 10.15. Other versions of macOS use primarily the same commands.

  1. Open system preferences. One way to get there is to open the Mac menu  >  System Preferences.
  2. Select the network icon to adjust connectivity settings.
  3. Select the network type you use, usually Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
  4. Click Advanced  >  Proxies.
  5. To automatically configure your proxy server, select Auto Proxy Discovery. Click  Secure Web Proxy (HTTPS). Type the proxy address and port number in the fields to the right.
  6. To use a Proxy Auto Configuration (PAC) file, select  Proxy Auto Configuration and enter the proxy address in the URL field.
  7. If the proxy is password protected, select the “Proxy server requires password” check box. Type your account Username and password in the Username and Password fields.
  8. Click OK  to save the proxy settings.

Proxy Server in MacNow, you are ready to use the Internet through your proxy.

Proxy Server in Google Chrome

By default, Chrome uses your Windows proxy or MacOS. To change your proxy settings from Chrome, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Chrome toolbar and select Settings.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. Click Show Advanced settings 
  3. Scroll to “System” and choose Open your computer’s proxy settings.
  4. Next, please return to the instructions for your operating system listed above to configure your proxy settings and follow them.

Proxy Server in Safari

Brower Safari’s default setting is to follow the proxy settings within your operating system. Here’s how to change your proxy settings from Safari:

  • Click Safari in the browser toolbar. Choose  Preferences.
  • Click the  Advanced tab. Under “Proxies,” click Change settings…
  • Next, you should return to the instructions for macOS listed above to configure your proxy settings and follow them.

Proxy Server in Firefox

Unlike other web browsers, Firefox does not use your system’s proxy settings by default. You will need to change your proxy from Firefox:

  1. Open the Firefox menu and select Options.
  2. Click the  Advanced icon.
  3. Select the  Network tab.
  4. In Connection Settings, select Autodiscover proxy settings for this network. When prompted, enter the proxy address.
  5. Alternatively, in Connection Settings, you can choose Use system proxy settings. If you select that option, Firefox uses the proxy settings in your operating system.
  6. Click OK  to save the settings.

Proxy Server in Internet Explorer

Please note that Internet Explorer is the oldest web browser. Instead, switch to a browser that still receives updates like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. Although some people and companies still use Internet Explorer (IE), you should know how to configure things when necessary.

As with other browsers, IE uses Windows proxy settings by default. Here’s how to set up your proxy from IE.

  1. Click the IE toolbar and select Internet Options.
  2. Click the  Connections tab.
  3. Choose LAN Settings.
  4. Check out the “Use a proxy for your LAN” box.
  5. When prompted, type the proxy name and port number.
  6. Click OK  to save the settings.

Proxy Server in Android

You must configure proxy settings for each network you use with Android. Additionally, the proxy will only be used by your web browser. Other Internet applications can use or ignore the proxy based on their internal configuration.

This is another reason VPNs are better options: when you use one, it covers all internet traffic from your device.

  1. Open Android Settings and tap Wi-Fi to see a list of Wi-Fi networks.
  2. Press and hold the name of the Wi-Fi network you want to modify the proxy settings. Tap Modify Network.
  3. Tap Advanced Options.
  4. Press Manual to change your proxy settings. Enter your hostname and proxy port. If you have a PAC (Proxy Auto-Config) file, choose Proxy Auto-Config, and Android will ask you to enter the PAC address.
  5. Tap  Save.

Proxy Server in iOS

  1. Go to Settings  >  Wi-Fi.
  2. Select the active Wi-Fi connection.
  3. Under HTTP Proxy, click Configure Proxy.
  4. Tap Manual to change your proxy settings. Enter your hostname, proxy port, and, if necessary, your authentication username and password. If your provider supports Web Proxy Automatic Discovery (WPAD) Protocol, tap Automatic. If necessary, enter the location of the Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) file.
  5. Return to the Wi-Fi selection window.

Differences between a proxy server and a virtual private network (VPN)

Although similar in that both provide privacy to the user, the way a proxy differs from a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is in the approach. A VPN is more efficient at anonymous browsing and provides a more robust service at a cost.

Many free VPNs are out there, but the vast majority that can be considered “more secure” tend to have a price tag. Most of the time, proxy servers are accessible.

A proxy will not encrypt your traffic as a VPN does. They are also browser-exclusive and specific, as you can only use a proxy from your web browser.

A VPN is created for the device it’s used on, so you can use it for more than just browsing the website. A proxy will work in a pinch when you want to browse the web in peace.

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