5 reasons why you should use a web proxy

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Web proxy servers promise privacy and anonymity to avid web browsers, but SMBs need to weigh their inherent risks when considering them.

You may have seen the phrase “web proxy server” floating around in technical documentation, but never given it much thought. And you might not need to, although he definitely has his champions. This can be especially effective if you’re worried about privacy issues, cookies, and Big Brother.

If that sounds like you, you might consider using a web proxy to connect to the internet.

Overview: What is a web proxy?

When you connect to the Internet, your computer’s server communicates with the website’s server, proves that you are trustworthy, and accesses the site. This usually happens within seconds or less.

However, this interaction allows the site to see your IP address, which it can store and use in the future. For example, if you return to this site, it may display ads targeted to your recent activity or send you back to your abandoned cart.

For those who don’t like the internet to track their every move, a web proxy acts as a shield that protects their identity. Rather than connecting directly to a site, you connect to an online proxy, which then connects to your destination on the web. The web proxy acts as an intermediary between your computer and your destination, hiding your true IP address so that you cannot be remembered or tracked.

If you follow The Ascent’s advice on how to prevent cyberattacks, you might be thinking, Hmmm, that sounds a lot like my VPN. And yes, it does. A virtual private network (VPN) is a highly recommended device for small businesses, especially if your employees work remotely. Employees connect to your network through the VPN, which verifies their identity.

VPNs ensure that unauthorized users (hackers) do not have access to your sensitive data, intellectual property, or systems. They are particularly beneficial for any laptop user who usually connects to the Internet through public Wi-Fi systems, which are particularly vulnerable to hackers.

Although VPNs and web proxy servers both act as intermediaries between your computer and the Internet, the main difference is that a VPN encrypts everything data exchanged between a device and a site.

However, the online proxy simply redirects the connection through its own IP address and only encrypts the data when prompted. While a VPN can aid in any zero-trust protocols you have in place, a web proxy server actually works against those security measures.

5 reasons to use an online web proxy

Right now you’re thinking, Well, you just told me that VPNs are better than connecting through an online proxy server, so I guess I’ll stick with my VPN.

Nevertheless, there are reasons why you might consider using a proxy browser.

1. Control internet access

This is for any concerned parents or productivity-conscious bosses. Proxy servers can monitor users’ Internet access. You can configure them to block sites with content deemed unacceptable to children or easily distracted employees. Plus, you can schedule them to log all web requests, in case you want to see what your employees are doing online all day.

2. Improve privacy

As mentioned above, a proxy site changes your IP address and other identifying data so that your personal information remains private. The server you connect to will not know who you are and even if it stores the IP address and login information, it will be that of the proxy browser, not your computer.

3. Access blocked sites

Although you can use a proxy server to prevent employees from accessing certain websites, they can in turn use one to access blocked websites. If they have access to a proxy server, they can connect to the blocked site through that browser. Since the IP address of their workstation computer will reflect the address of their proxy server, they can browse your banned sites freely despite your proxy restrictions.

4. Improve speed and save bandwidth

Web proxies cache web pages, which means they save the most recent copy of often-used websites. If multiple employees frequently visit the same site, rather than rebroadcasting the site each time someone logs in, the proxy can easily retrieve the site from the cache. This saves bandwidth and improves connection speeds.

5. Improve security

You can configure proxy servers to encrypt certain requests to servers. Many organizations combine a proxy server with a VPN to cover all their bases. Additionally, proxy servers prevent most types of malware from accessing your server and network through the connection, which greatly increases security.

The 4 types of proxy servers

There are four main types of proxies. Which one you choose depends on your main purpose in using a web proxy.

1. Transparent

A transparent proxy doesn’t quite perform the main function of a proxy – it won’t protect your IP address. It tells the website you are connecting to that it is a proxy server and passes your IP address to the site. This type of proxy is used by organizations that are more interested in filtering incoming content, such as schools, public libraries, and government agencies.

2. Anonymous

An anonymous proxy tells a website that it’s a proxy, but it doesn’t pass your IP address like a transparent proxy would. It keeps your browsing history private, protects you from identity theft, and prevents websites from sending you targeted marketing content.

3. Distort

A deforming proxy is a little trickier, identifying itself as a proxy server but sending the website a fake IP address for your location. This is similar to the anonymous proxy but has the added benefit of making you appear in a different location than where you are, further obscuring your identity.

4. High anonymity

These servers periodically change the IP address they send to the web server, so the site cannot track its incoming traffic. This is the most private and secure type of proxy server.

Risks of Using a Web Proxy

Now, you might be thinking this anonymity thing is pretty cool, especially if it’s going to reduce the number of ads you’re stuck with. But before turning to a web proxy, understand that there are a number of risks.

Beware of free web proxy

A free proxy is free because it cost less to develop. That means whoever built it probably didn’t put a lot of time or thought into securing the backend encryption. A free proxy server often encounters performance issues and data security issues. Worse still, many free web proxies may seek to scan your credit card information and personal data.

Logging your browser history

Do you remember how much you loved the idea of ​​a web proxy keeping your browsing history private? Well, many proxy servers log your unencrypted IP address and web request information, data that they can sell to another provider. Be sure to read the fine print of your service agreement or ask the administrator how they use the data they collect.

Spam and virus attacks

If you liked the idea of ​​reducing the amount of marketing content shown on the websites you visit, know that you will see more banners and advertisements when you connect to a site through a proxy server. Additionally, irresponsible proxy providers can introduce viruses and spam into your web session, which you may end up downloading to your computer.

Identity theft

Although a web proxy keeps your IP address and data private from the websites you visit, keep in mind that the proxy provider has access to everything. This means that they can use your proxy address in bad faith to do dark things on the Internet. Eventually, these acts could be traced back to you. Because you voluntarily submitted your information, no endpoint security measures will protect you from this threat.

How to configure your web proxy

If, armed with all of this information, you think a web proxy meets your needs, it’s incredibly easy to set up.

On a PC running Windows 10, your computer should automatically detect proxy settings. To set up a proxy using an automatic configuration script provided by the proxy server vendor:

  1. Click Settings, then Network & Internet.
  2. Click Proxy in the Internet-related settings drop-down list. The list of available proxy settings is displayed.
  3. In the Automatic proxy configuration section, set the Use configuration script switch to On.
  4. Enter the configuration script and click Save.
  5. Close Settings.

To configure a proxy server on a Mac:

  1. Use Safari as your web browser.
  2. In the Safari app, choose Safari > Preferences, then click Advanced.
  3. Click Change Settings (next to Proxies).
  4. Change proxy settings using information provided by your network administrator.
  5. Click OK.

In for money

In most cybersecurity articles, we urge you to consider the device/tool/protocol/best practice we’ve described in hundreds of words. When it comes to web proxy servers, however, small business owners should exercise caution before taking this step.

The only real benefit for businesses is the ability to block websites and filter incoming content. But it may not be worth the risk of your information falling into the hands of a bad actor. If you are considering using a web proxy server, be sure to examine the provider thoroughly and check how and where your data will be stored.

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