Find out what a proxy is, the intermediary service between the user and the internet that hides your identity, and which is similar to a VPN
A lot of people confuse what a proxy is with the definition of a VPN. Although both serve to mask your IP and prevent you from being identified on the internet, the way they work is quite different. In this text, we will explain how a proxy works.
A proxy is a service that acts as an intermediary between the user and the internet and receives and forwards all your requests to the website you are accessing. In this way, the IP recorded on these accessed pages is that of the proxy and not yours. Thus, your identity is not exposed on the network, making it difficult for you to be tracked.
In addition to identity protection, a user can adapt the proxy to:
- Avoid state or institutional browsing restrictions: Governments, schools, and other organizations can use firewalls to limit users’ access to the Internet. In this case, the proxy will help the person to bypass the restriction and access what he wants;
- Host firewall: Used as a security system, the firewall can be proxy-hosted to approve or block incoming traffic before it reaches the network.
- Content blocking: Think of the school in the previous example — it can also use a proxy but in a different way. By using proxies with content filtering rules, she is able to block students’ access to sites like Facebook and Instagram, for example.
Types of proxy servers
From the examples above, you can already see that there are several types of proxies and each one adapts to a different situation. See below for more details on each:
- Transparent proxy: With it, the website you are accessing will still know who you are. That is, it passes your IP address to the web server, in addition to showing that it is using a proxy. It is typically used by schools and libraries for content filtering.
- Anonymous proxy: In this case, it identifies itself as a proxy but gives a fake IP to the website. Thus, you can appear to be in a different location than you are and be able to access content that is blocked in your region, for example. As with transparent, it also shows that the user is using a proxy;
- High anonymity proxy: These proxies disguise their use, that is, they do not allow them to detect that the user is using a proxy. Furthermore, they frequently change the IP address presented on a website making it difficult to track traffic.
What is the difference between a proxy and a VPN?
At this point, many people think that a proxy and a VPN are the same thing, as they both have the same function, which is to protect the user’s identity on the internet — but that is not the case.
Although a VPN (Virtual Private Network) can also be used to access services from other countries and mask your IP, it creates an encrypted private network, completely shielding the data between the user’s computer and the VPN server. The proxy is just an intermediary between you and the internet and does not encrypt anything.
For this very reason, it is normal to use more than one proxy to make a truly anonymous connection, with each server hiding the IP of the previous server, making it difficult to track the user.
Paid or free?
Just like VPNs, there are paid versions of proxy services, developed by reliable companies that are more secure. There are also free versions, which are more vulnerable to attacks and can access and pass on your data to third parties much more easily than a free VPN, given the lack of encryption. Therefore, be very careful with which service you are going to use and protect your data well.