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Decoding Proxies: Understanding How They Operate

Decoding Proxies: Understanding How They Operate

Decoding Proxies

Avoiding geo-restrictions and ensuring privacy online requires you to change your IP address. While tools like VPNs and the Tor browser are known to many users, proxies remain a less popular alternative. They are less user-friendly, but with proper knowledge, they can protect your connection way cheaper and in more scenarios.

What are proxies, and why do you need one?

When you connect to the internet, your device sends a request to the target server with information on what data is needed and where the response should be sent. The first part of such a request concerns your software (web browser, for example) and hardware parameters. The second is related to your location.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) assign certain IP addresses – strings of unique characters, for locations and households. When your device sends a request, it provides the IP address so that the web server can respond. Since the IP is related to your location and ISP, everyone who knows your IP can also know this information.

This is an obvious privacy concern. Just as you don’t go around telling everyone your home address, you don’t want to tell every website the name of your ISP or your location. Unveiling your IP address has many negative consequences.

  • It allows websites, ISPs, and the government to track your online activity.
  • It leads to data restrictions based on your location (geo-restrictions).
  • It might expose your home network to security threats like DDoS attacks.
  • It restricts you from using various automation software or having multiple accounts on certain platforms.
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All these drawbacks can be avoided if you use a proxy server. It is an efficient method of hiding your IP address with a third-party server that connects to the web on your behalf. Consider it as a friend who goes to run errands in your name.

Once you connect to the proxy server, all your online requests go through it. The server might be located in a different part of the world, with no link to you. You get to choose where the server is located and can change it at any time.

How to use proxies?

It’s possible to set up your own proxy server in a different location. However, this is a difficult endeavor requiring much specific knowledge and resources. If you’ll be using the services of a proxy provider, the use is pretty straightforward.

How do proxies operate on a PC?

Newer Windows versions, starting from Windows 10, have a separate settings tab for proxies. So you can simply enter ‘proxy settings’ and find all the settings you need. You’ll need to choose to set up manually, which will require you to enter proxy credentials – IP address and port.

This information is given to you by your proxy provider. After entering them, click save, and that’s it. Your internet connection now goes through a proxy server, and the original IP address is hidden.

Similar settings can be found on other operating systems, such as Linux. Mac OS X and Android. They will also only require you to enter proxy credentials.

How do proxies operate on a web browser?

Sometimes, you don’t want to route all of your traffic on a device through a proxy server. It might be beneficial to use a proxy only on your web browser or just on some of its tabs. In such a case, you should set up a proxy server on the browser or install a proxy extension.

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Chrome, for example, has a proxy settings tab under advanced settings. The easiest way to find it is by using the search function. It will also require you to enter proxy credentials to route the connection. All other popular browsers also have the same function.

If you want more advanced features, such as proxy rotation or assigning proxies for different tabs and websites, you can use a proxy extension. Proxy SwitchyOmega is one of my favorites.

What’s the difference from VPNs?

Many users think that proxies are Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) with some extra steps. VPNs are marketed as a more convenient solution because you don’t need to enter any credentials. You can simply download software and press a button to connect.

I must admit it is convenient for a casual consumer, but it’s also why VPNs will always be inferior to proxies when it comes to use case variety.

  • VPNs cannot be integrated into anti-detect browsers.
  • VPNs aren’t supported by online automation, web scraping, or other business software.
  • VPNs don’t run in reverse, so you won’t be able to use them for email or web server protection.

It’s all because you are tied to the software the provider gives, and you don’t have any access to the IP and port themselves. VPNs are convenient when browsing Netflix or playing games, but not much more.

Types of proxies

Lastly, we must look into different types of proxies to fully decode how they operate. Here are the main types based on the origin of the IP address and protocol used.

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Residential proxies operate from ordinary households with IPs with ISP-verified internet connections. If you purchase residential, you’ll get the most legitimate connection.

Datacenter proxies are set in large data centers with IPs created virtually with commercial internet plans. If you buy datacenter, you will have the fastest speed.

Mobile proxies use devices (smartphones or tablets, usually) with cellular data. If you buy mobile proxies, you will have access to mobile services and web pages.

SOCKS5 proxies can be each of the above types but will use an advanced SOCKS5 protocol instead of HTML. If you buy SOCKS5 proxies, you will have the most flexible integration and the highest performance.

Conclusion

So, here it is – all you need to know to decode how proxies operate. They act as online intermediaries, protecting you from various privacy and security threats. What’s more, they are better than other alternatives because of the integration possibilities and the variety of different types.

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