Using a proxy server for strengthening your on-line privacy

The operative word here is ‘Privacy’, something we all wish to achieve. This can be accomplished by using a ‘Proxy server’. These words for me evoked ‘Black magic’, so I steered clear for many a year. However, there are aspects of the ‘Open Server’ and venturing as far as the ‘Reverse Proxy Server’, wow what is that! Well let’s take little steps and all will be revealed.Using a Proxy Server for strengthening your on-line PrivacyA key factor in all of this is you, the ‘User’. You must be disciplined in your use of the internet.  I will look at costs, benefits and even drawbacks. What is the ‘Risk’, as this dovetails in with Privacy? You will be the owner of the data or information, and ultimately, it is you that must take the decision.

Whatever you do on the internet, as soon as you press the enter key it’s open for abuse. Be it the hacker or Cyber Criminal, security is 24 x 7, and there’s no way of getting away from it. And this is why being disciplined is needed, so you must think before you act.

None of us are perfect, and we all do inadvertently hit a link in an email, there’s no such thing as being 100% secure, if there was, you’d never go on the internet! And this is what the criminals hope for, that we hit the link, but this is getting away from the focus of this article.

Types of Proxies

What I wish to do now is look  about three types of Proxies’:

  • Proxy Server,
  • Open Server, and
  • Reverse Proxy Server.

I know this may be going out of scope, as I’ve said, these terms of servers was ‘Black Magic’ to me in times gone by.  However, now the subject has availed me, I would like to take this opportunity to de-mystify, what I perceived as the ‘Black magic’, and the ignorance was on my part. So please enjoy.

Proxy Server

In simplistic terms, the diagram shows that it’s hardware that acts for us, but in reality, the process will be transparent to the user. What is important that you must have trust in the overall process.

In essence, the proxy servers act as an ‘intermediary’ when processing requests to the internet. They are in fact adding structure in a positive manner and encapsulate to distributed systems. Now most proxies are web based; however, they provide ‘anonymity’ – which is a key factor.

In fact, the proxy server could be on your very own computer, or conversely at any point to the servers on the internet, until it reaches the specified server. The diagram above portrays this.

By the way, there are other types of proxy server. When the proxy server exchanges data in an unmodified state, this known as a ‘Gateway’ or even a ‘Tunnelling proxy‘.

On the internet, there is the ‘Forward proxy, which is Internet-facing, to retrieve data from anywhere on the Internet.

Open Server Proxy

The Open Server acts as a forwarding device, which any user can access on the web. There, in fact, a myriad of ‘Open proxy’ servers out there. This type allows a user to hide their IP address, affording privacy when on the internet.

What you must be aware of is, there are degrees of anonymity, conversely there as the methods of the Cyber Criminal to trick the user, regardless of the process you’re using.

Reverse Proxy Server

This type of proxy you find in a commercial environment. Nevertheless, they are used as an internal facing device, which resides on a private network. But they do afford some excellent features, like:

  • Encryption,
  • Server caching,
  • Security, and more.

Thank you for affording me this, though I trust it will de-mystify things for you.

Uses of Proxy Servers

Bypassing filters and censorship

When the server you need to access, in this case, a streaming media server, but you’re blocked by a firewall. This why a proxy server comes into play, the request is approved through the firewall. From the proxy server, it gains access to the streaming media server. This bypasses the firewall and achieves access to the streaming media server.

Using the IP-based geo-location, the proxy circumvents the firewall; this could be appropriate for gaining access to a server in that country. Web proxies are a common way of bypassing government censorship. Though 3% of internet users use circumvention tools, this achieves a way of accessing non-black listed servers.

Logging and eavesdropping

Proxies can be used to eavesdrop on client machines. Data sent, including operators can analyse passwords and cookies. This is why you should use SSL/TLS connections.  Proxies can be part of a chain link, however by interrogation, the user could be identified, this could lead to a false sense of security.  As ever, the choice is yours.

Cost of Proxy Servers

The bottom line is folks, I’m afraid, yes there is a cost. However, you must assess this from a 360o perspective, allied to that of a ‘risk’ factor. On one hand, you want ‘privacy’, yet on the contrary is the cost factor.

How much do you wish to do banking on the internet, share pictures of families, friends and loved ones? Your personal identity is yours, health information, passport details and a plethora of other data.

Whether your time on the internet is for genuine reasons, maybe it’s the regime you live under, (after all we all don’t have the freedoms of the western world) or dare I say it, you’re just paranoid!

Please do a search on the internet, searching for ‘Cost of a proxy server service’, then select ‘The best proxy server service of 2016‘ and you’ll be given the top 10, with Gold, Silver and Bronze from left to right, then the remaining seven will be given accordingly.

This is a snapshot, but as I’ve previously mentioned, the choice is yours.

Be it proxy service or open proxy service, like a MOT test, we can’t get away from the cost!!

Benefits

Well, in a nutshell, I take it that the benefits are clearly evident.  You either want ‘privacy’, or you don’t, and if you don’t, may I suggest you switch off the computer and watch TV.

Since the benefit is to achieve ‘Privacy’, not sure, go to the top of this article and start reading again! I won’t labour on with ‘benefits’.

Regarding drawbacks, well ‘thinking positively’, this is a contraindication.

What actually happens when using a proxy

Data travels in an unencrypted form, so the hacker can see the data back to its original form, revealing things. Then there is a malicious proxy, where the criminal resides, not good! This ended up as an ever decreasing circle where the user gets routed to a dangerous area, and then they became a victim where everything gets recorded.

The proxy is always aware of your IP address, but it doesn’t mean to say it’s a bad outcome. Using the link earlier in this article will show the security the proxies provide, the key is your ‘anonymity’.

When it comes to ‘Trusting’ the proxy when first starting, consider two things:

  1. Ask around, is no one’s heard of them, steer clear and never send unencrypted information.
  2. Use a proxy server that shows integrity, and do check HideMyAss

Being the type of person I am, ‘Freebies’ always attract my attention (we all have to budget our money these days, and there’s no getting way from it).  So do take time to review the following:

As I’ve said throughout this article, it’s your choice. I trust this has been informative, be safe, be secure.

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