It is almost impossible to discuss online security without mentioning the use of a proxy or a virtual private network (VPN). These two tools provide you with anonymity as you go about your regular internet activities. Both tools share similarities in the way that they make you anonymous online. Proxies and VPNs work by rerouting your internet traffic via their servers thereby masking your internet protocol (IP) from the web host and your target website. As you explore the website, the web host only sees the IP address of proxy or VPN server while yours remain hidden.
Although proxy and VPN anonymity tools may share a common concept, they do have major differences. This article will take a closer look at anonymous proxies to help you decide whether it is the right anonymity tool for you.
Anonymous Proxies Explained
Whenever you type an address on your browser, your device will send a request to the web host of your destination website. Once the web host receives the request, it will send the web page of your target website back to your device.
The web host can only send the page back to you if it knows your internet protocol or IP address. As you may have already guessed, you also send out your IP address along with your request to browse a website. This means that your target website knows the general location from where you are browsing. It is also likely that the web host may be able to access your ISP account name through your IP address.
How Anonymous Proxies Hide Your Identity
Anonymous proxies, or simply proxies, are computer servers in various locations around the world. These proxy servers act as relay stations for the internet traffic of users. Any request that comes from the device of a user goes to the proxy server instead of the web host of the target website.
Once the anonymous proxy server receives the request, it will send it to the web host of the target website. The web host of the target website will then respond to the request and sends back the web page to the proxy server. The proxy server then relays the web page back to the user. This process effectively hides your identity from the web host as it only sees the IP address of the proxy server and not yours.
The Advantages of Using a Proxy Server
Hiding your IP address whenever you surf the internet has numerous advantages. The most obvious plus to using proxy servers is that it gives you some semblance of privacy. Since a proxy server essentially substitutes its own IP address in place of yours, it allows you to bypass geo-blocking.
For example, a video streaming website may allow access to viewers from certain countries and block requests from other countries. You can bypass this restriction by connecting to a proxy server that is located in any of the countries where users can access the video streaming website.
Public Wi-Fi at some universities may prevent you from browsing certain websites. Using a proxy server will help you get around this restriction. Some internet service providers (ISPs) may also censor website content or the website itself. Connecting to a proxy server helps you circumvent this kind of browsing restriction.
Keep in mind, however, that using an anonymous proxy server for this purpose carries a very high risk. It is a risk that underscores the major disadvantage of using a proxy server, which is its lack of encryption.
The Disadvantages of Using a Proxy Server
The transfer of data between your device and the proxy server, unlike VPNs, does not have any encryption. This means that your ISP, the government, law enforcement agencies and hackers can view, intercept and log the data that is passing through the connection. In other words, you may be able to hide your IP using a proxy, but not your internet activities.
An anonymous proxy is a poor tool choice if you want to hide your internet activities from prying eyes. For this purpose, you are better off using a VPN. This anonymity tool encrypts your internet traffic from your device to the VPN server making it considerably more difficult for anyone to spy on your activities.
When to Use a Proxy Server
An anonymous proxy is enough if your purpose is to hide your identity from your target websites. Proxy servers are also helpful in allowing you to bypass geo-blocking and online censorship.
Proxies are also helpful in preventing search engines from logging your queries. Search engines use information from your search history to inundate your future query results with “relevant” advertisements.
If you think that you need more privacy and security than what anonymous proxies can give you, then you’ll be better off using a VPN or a Tor browser. While these tools offer better online privacy and security, read up on them to help you pick which tool works best for your online privacy and security requirements.