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The short answer to this question is: Yes and No.
There are some proxy servers that are non-anonymous and are just not that secure. If you are using one of those, your IP is still exposed despite using a proxy server. To be able to distinguish a reliable and secure proxy from one full of malware, you need to first understand what a proxy server does and how it works.
Why do we need a proxy server?
When you browse on the internet, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) gives your computer a virtual address. This address is then given to the website you are connecting with so that it knows where to send information. This information can be a webpage, email, video, etc.
Each time devices or servers connect over the internet, they have to acknowledge each other by sharing their IP addresses. This is a virtual version of a handshake.
Now, as this handshake occurs, your ISP shares some information with the receiving server. This information includes your city, your zip code, and the internet provider you use. The receiver can also check if your IP address is on any blacklists. Additionally, your ISP has a record of all the websites you visit. Ideally, this is where the tracking stops. But, the ISP can share your browsing information with other websites illegally.
Websites can block users in certain geographical regions from accessing their websites by filtering their IP address. Also, while using a restricted network (such as those in schools and offices), your ISP can prevent you from accessing some websites. You can bypass both of these restrictions using a proxy server.
Additionally, proxy servers hide your IP address and keep you secure from people tracking your IP and collecting information for marketing purposes or malicious intentions. People use proxy servers to protect their privacy while browsing the internet and to safeguard themselves from digital spying, data collection, tracking, invasive advertising, and cybercriminals.
You might want to use a proxy server for the following reasons:
- To access geo-restricted contents
- To prevent cybercriminals from spying on your browsing behavior
- To view specific content without revealing your IP address
- To anonymously contribute on a website
- To bypass blocked content at your workplace or school
- To circumvent security restrictions and filters
How does a proxy server work?
When you access the internet using a proxy, your web request goes to the proxy server before reaching the recipient server. The proxy server then makes your request on your behalf and collects the information from the web server. This response is in the form of page data that is then forwarded to you as a web page to be viewed in your browser.
The proxy server can be considered as a computer on the web with its own IP address—a dummy server. The proxy server masks your original IP address by replacing it with another IP address and encrypts your data in the process. A secure proxy server is capable of encrypting all the web traffic that runs to and from your computer. This way, your browsing data is unreadable even to your ISP.
A lot of people rely on proxies to have a safe and secure browsing experience on the web. But, there are several proxy servers that can cause harm. Remember that your real IP address would be revealed to the proxy server provider.
So, the proxy provider can easily manipulate or share your data. Also, not all proxy servers have strong data encryption. Some proxies use weak encryption certificates that can be maneuvered effortlessly by cybercriminals. All these occurrences may further expose you to greater risks.
Thus, the next step is choosing a reliable proxy that can offer complete anonymity while browsing on the internet. In order to choose the right proxy server, it is necessary to understand the types of proxies and their functionalities.
The HTTPS and the SOCKS proxy
The HTTPS proxy functions on the client and server model. The proxy will communicate with the web browser on your computer’s behalf and forward the required information to you. The HTTP protocol will send the request to access the information that you request in the form of a URL link. The receiving server will then respond to that link along with the information you requested back to the HTTP proxy and the proxy will forward that information to you. The receiving server will also receive the information you send out in HTTP format.
On the other hand, a SOCKS proxy uses the SOCKS protocol instead of the HTTP protocol. SOCKS stands for Socket Secure. SOCKS is an internet protocol that exchanges information through network packets between the client and the server using a proxy server.
How secure is the HTTPS proxy?
While using an HTTPS proxy, there are two types of options available: private and public proxies. The private proxies, as the name implies, can single-handedly take care of your online activities. The public proxies are shared by many people at the same time.
There is the possibility that your information is being viewed and recorded while the client-server side of information exchanges through the HTTPS proxy. If this happens, you are at a high risk of information exposure.
But, you can safeguard yourself by establishing tunnel connections. The tunnel connection serves as a firewall and makes your information online harder to read. This means you can browse safely using HTTPS proxies with your IP well-hidden behind your firewall.
How secure is the SOCKS proxy?
A SOCKS proxy is by default more secure than the HTTPS proxies. SOCKS use generic proxy servers to exchange packets of data. The proxy server itself is unable to read the data. Thus, there is no chance of your data being exposed to anyone on the internet.
Though the SOCKS proxy is comparatively more secure, it offers fewer functionalities than the HTTPS proxies. It also is unable to connect with several tools that you use online for browsing. This limits the capabilities of SOCKS proxies.
Ideally, people use HTTPS proxies to browse the internet and use SOCKS proxies to download large amounts of data from the internet. So, for users who prefer downloading and transferring huge amounts of data, SOCKS would be the preferred choice and for those who want to just browse around and exchange a smaller amount of data, the HTTPS proxy is the better choice.
With the constant evolution of technology, cybercriminals keep getting smarter and faster. Online platforms keep getting easier to crack. The viewing of hidden data and tapping of crucial information for all the wrong purposes has pushed users to use proxy servers more and more to safeguard their information. But, just using a proxy server might not be enough. You need to make sure that the proxy server provider you choose is reliable and offers the utmost security. Choose wisely and have a safe browsing experience.