What Proxy Server Should I Use
What is a Proxy Server and How Does it Work? – Varonis
The actual nuts and bolts of how the internet works are not something people often stop to consider. The problem with that is the inherent danger of data security breaches and identity theft that come along with the cute dog pictures, 24-hour news updates, and great deals online.
But what actually happens when you browse the web? You might be using a proxy server at your office, on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or you could be one of the more tech-savvy who always use a proxy server of some kind or another.
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What’s a Proxy Server?
A proxy server is any machine that translates traffic between networks or protocols. It’s an intermediary server separating end-user clients from the destinations that they browse. Proxy servers provide varying levels of functionality, security, and privacy depending on your use case, needs, or company policy.
If you’re using a proxy server, traffic flows through the proxy server on its way to the address you requested. The request then comes back through that same proxy server (there are exceptions to this rule), and then the proxy server forwards the data received from the website to you.
If that’s all it does, why bother with a proxy server? Why not just go straight from to the website and back?
Modern proxy servers do much more than forward web requests, all in the name of data security and network performance. Proxy servers act as a firewall and web filter, provide shared network connections, and cache data to speed up common requests. A good proxy server keeps users and the internal network protected from the bad stuff that lives out in the wild internet. Lastly, proxy servers can provide a high level of privacy.
How Does a Proxy Server Operate?
Every computer on the internet needs to have a unique Internet Protocol (IP) Address. Think of this IP address as your computer’s street address. Just as the post office knows to deliver your mail to your street address, the internet knows how to send the correct data to the correct computer by the IP address.
A proxy server is basically a computer on the internet with its own IP address that your computer knows. When you send a web request, your request goes to the proxy server first. The proxy server then makes your web request on your behalf, collects the response from the web server, and forwards you the web page data so you can see the page in your browser.
When the proxy server forwards your web requests, it can make changes to the data you send and still get you the information that you expect to see. A proxy server can change your IP address, so the web server doesn’t know exactly where you are in the world. It can encrypt your data, so your data is unreadable in transit. And lastly, a proxy server can block access to certain web pages, based on IP address.
What are Forward Proxies
A forward proxy server sits between the client and an external network. It evaluates the outbound requests and takes action on them before relaying that request to the external resource.
Most proxy services that you’re likely to encounter are forward proxies. Virtual Private Networks and Web content filters are both examples of forward proxies.
What are Reverse Proxies
A reverse proxy server sits between a network and multiple other internal resources. A large website might have dozens of servers that collectively serve requests from a single domain. To accomplish that, client requests would resolve to a machine that would act as a load balancer. The load balancer would then proxy that traffic back to the individual servers.
Some popular open source reverse proxies are:
Why Should You Use a Proxy Server?
There are several reasons organizations and individuals use a proxy server.
To control internet usage of employees and children: Organizations and parents set up proxy servers to control and monitor how their employees or kids use the internet. Most organizations don’t want you looking at specific websites on company time, and they can configure the proxy server to deny access to specific sites, instead redirecting you with a nice note asking you to refrain from looking at said sites on the company network. They can also monitor and log all web requests, so even though they might not block the site, they know how much time you spend cyberloafing.
Bandwidth savings and improved speeds: Organizations can also get better overall network performance with a good proxy server. Proxy servers can cache (save a copy of the website locally) popular websites – so when you ask for, the proxy server will check to see if it has the most recent copy of the site, and then send you the saved copy. What this means is that when hundreds of people hit at the same time from the same proxy server, the proxy server only sends one request to This saves bandwidth for the company and improves the network performance.
Privacy benefits: Individuals and organizations alike use proxy servers to browse the internet more privately. Some proxy servers will change the IP address and other identifying information the web request contains. This means the destination server doesn’t know who actually made the original request, which helps keeps your personal information and browsing habits more private.
Improved security: Proxy servers provide security benefits on top of the privacy benefits. You can configure your proxy server to encrypt your web requests to keep prying eyes from reading your transactions. You can also prevent known malware sites from any access through the proxy server. Additionally, organizations can couple their proxy server with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), so remote users always access the internet through the company proxy. A VPN is a direct connection to the company network that companies provide to external or remote users. By using a VPN, the company can control and verify that their users have access to the resources (email, internal data) they need, while also providing a secure connection for the user to protect the company data.
Get access to blocked resources: Proxy servers allow users to circumvent content restrictions imposed by companies or governments. Is the local sportsball team’s game blacked out online? Log into a proxy server on the other side of the country and watch from there. The proxy server makes it look like you are in California, but you actually live in North Carolina. Several governments around the world closely monitor and restrict access to the internet, and proxy servers offer their citizens access to an uncensored internet.
Now that you have an idea about why organizations and individuals use a proxy server, take a look at the risks below.
Proxy Server Risks
You do need to be cautious when you choose a proxy server: a few common risks can negate any of the potential benefits:
Free proxy server risks
You know the old saying “you get what you pay for? ” Well, using one of the many free proxy server services can be quite risky, even the services using ad-based revenue models.
Free usually means they aren’t investing heavily in backend hardware or encryption. You’ll likely see performance issues and potential data security issues. If you ever find a completely “free” proxy server, tread very carefully. Some of those are just looking to steal your credit card numbers.
Browsing history log
The proxy server has your original IP address and web request information possibly unencrypted, saved locally. Make sure to check if your proxy server logs and saves that data – and what kind of retention or law enforcement cooperation policies they follow.
If you expect to use a proxy server for privacy, but the vendor is just logging and selling your data you might not be receiving the expected value for the service.
If you use a proxy server without encryption, you might as well not use a proxy server. No encryption means you are sending your requests as plain text. Anyone who is listening will be able to pull usernames and passwords and account information really easily. Make sure whatever proxy server you use provides full encryption capability.
Types of Proxy Servers
Not all proxy servers work the same way. It’s important to understand exactly what functionality you’re getting from the proxy server, and ensure that the proxy server meets your use case.
A transparent proxy tells websites that it is a proxy server and it will still pass along your IP address, identifying you to the web server. Businesses, public libraries, and schools often use transparent proxies for content filtering: they’re easy to set up both client and server side.
An anonymous proxy will identify itself as a proxy, but it won’t pass your IP address to the website – this helps prevent identity theft and keep your browsing habits private. They can also prevent a website from serving you targeted marketing content based on your location. For example, if knows you live in Raleigh, NC, they will show you news stories they feel are relevant to Raleigh, NC. Browsing anonymously will prevent a website from using some ad targeting techniques, but is not a 100% guarantee.
A distorting proxy server passes along a false IP address for you while identifying itself as a proxy. This serves similar purposes as the anonymous proxy, but by passing a false IP address, you can appear to be from a different location to get around content restrictions.
High Anonymity proxy
High Anonymity proxy servers periodically change the IP address they present to the web server, making it very difficult to keep track of what traffic belongs to who. High anonymity proxies, like the TOR Network, is the most private and secure way to read the internet.
Proxy servers are a hot item in the news these days with the controversies around Net Neutrality and censorship. By removing net neutrality protections in the United States, Internet Service Providers (ISP) are now able to control your bandwidth and internet traffic. ISPs can potentially tell you what sites you can and cannot see. While there’s a great amount of uncertainty around what is going to happen with Net Neutrality, it’s possible that proxy servers will provide some ability to work around an ISPs restrictions.
Varonis analyzes data from proxy servers to protect you from data breaches and cyber attacks. The addition of proxy data gives more context to better analyze user behavior trends for abnormalities. You can get an alert on that suspicious activity with actionable intelligence to investigate and deal with the incident.
For example, a user accessing GDPR data might not be significant on its own. But if they access GDPR data and then try to upload it to an external website, it could be an exfiltration attempt and potential data breach. Without the context provided by file system monitoring, proxy monitoring, and Varonis threat models, you might see these events in a vacuum and not realize you need to prevent a data breach.
Get a 1:1 demo to see these threat models in action – and see what your proxy data could be telling you.
Best 5 Proxy Servers To Help You Web Surf Anonymously
A web proxy server alters a user’s IP address without the need for online traffic encryption. This enables the user to privately surf the web making it difficult for malicious forces to infiltrate and acquire your browsing data information.
Using a web proxy will also allow a user to access sites that are otherwise inaccessible. So those websites at work you’re often denied access to are now open season. This also holds true for sites blocked in schools and your ISP.
A web proxy works by camouflaging your identity (hiding your IP address), acting as the middle man between your computer and the website you want to access. Your computer will request access to the website through the proxy, after which it will then go through a filtering process.
Once the process is complete, the request will proceed to the web source. Once the site receives the response it will redirect back to your computer enabling you to view its contents.
The Differences Between a Proxy Server & a Virtual Private Network
Though similar in that they both provide user privacy, the way a proxy server differs from a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is in the approach. A VPN tends to be more efficient in anonymous surfing and provides a more robust service that typically comes at a cost.
There are plenty of free VPNs out there but the bulk majority that can be considered “most safe” tend to have a price tag attached. Proxy servers are more often than not, free of charge.
But as they say, “You get what you pay for, ” and when it comes to online privacy, this statement rings true. A proxy server will not encrypt your traffic as is standard with a VPN. They are also browser-specific and exclusive as you can only use a proxy from your web browser.
A VPN is designed for the device it’s used on so you’re able to use it for more than just website surfing. Regardless, a proxy server will do well in a pinch when you need to get past an online geo-block or simply want to surf the web in peace.
Best 5 Proxy Servers To Help You Web Surf Anonymously
Some web proxy servers are of the paid variety. It should come as no surprise that the paid versions are the ones offering the best quality. The better-paid web proxies can compress online traffic, cache files, and even block annoying ads from the websites prior to granting access. However, depending on what you need it for, a free web proxy will do just fine.
If all you require is to mask your identity while online or sneak passed a blocked site, there are several free services available to you. Enter the domain name into the proxy and enjoy your online anonymity.
The most famous and widely recognized proxy server has to be HideMyAss (HMA). It provides the standard feature of hiding your true IP address in addition to a pop-up ad blocker to help smooth over your web surfing experience. The proxy server is completely free but if you want additional protection, HMA also offers a pay-to-use VPN service.
HMA is a collection of varying globally located VPN proxies. This means that you get a very fast and flexible service when using HMA over other proxy servers. There is an official extension for both the Google Chrome and Firefox browsers allowing you to avoid having to download and install the full software.
The only hangup with using HideMyAss is that it stores both your IP address and that of the VPN server currently being used for an undisclosed period. They claim to not use the information and only share it with their partner company, the Avast Group, in order “to execute on the provisions of this service, for direct marketing, or to help our product development. ”
So if this is something that worries you, we have other proxy servers from which to choose from.
This proxy server is most prominent in the access of YouTube and HD streaming services typically blocked based on geographical location. 4everproxy offers unlimited bandwidth and is perfect for anyone wanting to access video streaming sites outside of their own country.
The streaming quality is of good quality considering you can use it for HD video streaming. It’s very rare you’ll face any buffering when using the service. There is no need to log into YouTube in order to watch videos. The service also provides an extra security measure by automatically removing all logged history from your browser every two hours.
ProxySite increases your online security through the use of SSL encryptions. Similar to HideMyAss, they offer VPN-like quality with your searches. You’ll be able to hide your IP address, get around pesky website blocks, and access popular sites all while having your history logs completely cleared.
There are numerous proxy servers available with ProxySite including those located in the US and Europe which are free to use. There is a premium VPN option for additional security features but the free proxy offers what you’ll need in most cases.
shares similar fame with HideMyAss in that it’s a well-known and popular web proxy service. won’t log or retain your data. Immediately after exiting your browser, the URL provided to mask your identity will expire. There are no annoying ads on their website and all pop-up ads received while surfing are automatically blocked from your browser, enhancing the browsing experience.
is one of the faster proxy servers and allows you to easily change your location, control browser cookies, and block harmful scripts. Server selection is rather limited, housing locations in only Germany, the USA, and the Netherlands. The UI appears very professional and user-friendly.
For a more all-encompassing security solution, offers its premium VPN service at $5. 41/mo.
Whoer is more than just a web proxy. Aside from the basic proxy server security solution, Whoer allows you to change your IP address incredibly fast. This may sound like something that should be common to all proxy sites but the speed in which Whoer allows is second to none.
The Whoer website offers tools that allow you to track information on a specific website, test your internet connection speed, and run a ping test to determine server response times.
You can manually choose between seven to nine proxy servers that are available in most European countries as well as the US. The only annoying issue the Whoer site has is the inability to remove ads. This could prove irritating but remains unavoidable. The ads are what keeps Whoer in business thus you will need to deal with the ads if you want to use the service.
The Whoer proxy server is available for the Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Yandex browsers.
How to Know If You’re Behind a Proxy Server
A proxy server acts sort of like a middleman between your browser and servers that display Web pages. They do this by receiving page or link requests from your browser and then passing them to the Web server that hosts them. Many businesses use proxy servers to block access to certain sites or provide network users with more anonymity while surfing the Web. However, some sites restrict access to computers that connect through a proxy server. If you are having trouble accessing some sites, it might be because your computer connects through a proxy. Therefore, if you are having access problems, you should know how to determine whether your computer connects through a proxy. Firefox Launch Mozilla Firefox on your computer. Click “Tools, ” click “Options” and choose “Options from the menu that slides out. Click the “Advanced” tab in the Options window. Click the “Settings” button in the Connection box. Locate the selected connection option in the list on the Connection tab. If your Internet connection uses no proxy server, the “No Proxy” connection setting option is enabled. If either the “Use System Proxy Settings” or “Manual Proxy Configuration” setting is selected, then your computer accesses the Internet via a proxy server. Internet Explorer Click the “Tools” drop-down arrow in the upper-right portion of the browser window. Select “Internet Options. ” Click the “Connections” tab in the Internet Options window. Click the “LAN Settings” button. If there is a check mark in the box next to the “Us a proxy server for your LAN” option, then your PC accesses the Web through a proxy server. If there is no check mark in the box, your computer does not use a proxy server. References Resources Tips Google Chrome uses the same network settings as Internet Explorer. If you use Chrome as your browser, you can determine if you are behind a proxy server by checking the connection settings in Internet Explorer. There are many sites on the Web that can help you determine whether you access the Internet through a proxy server. Sites such as, and all allow you to view proxy settings on your computer with a couple of mouse clicks. Writer Bio Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Frequently Asked Questions about what proxy server should i use
What proxy servers should I use?
Best 5 Proxy Servers To Help You Web Surf AnonymouslyHideMyAss. The most famous and widely recognized proxy server has to be HideMyAss (HMA). … 4everproxy. This proxy server is most prominent in the access of YouTube and HD streaming services typically blocked based on geographical location. … ProxySite. … Hide.Me. … Whoer.Oct 17, 2019
Should I set proxy on or off?
Unless you are using an HTTP Proxy (Doubtful), HTTP Proxy should be set to Off.May 24, 2012
How do I know if I should be using a proxy server?
Click the “Connections” tab in the Internet Options window. Click the “LAN Settings” button. If there is a check mark in the box next to the “Us a proxy server for your LAN” option, then your PC accesses the Web through a proxy server. If there is no check mark in the box, your computer does not use a proxy server.