In the present era where cyberattacks are becoming too common, it pays to be proactive in protecting yourself or your company. For this reason, a proxy/proxy server can be a lifesaving addition to your home or office network because it adds a layer of privacy, security, and anonymity.
What is a proxy?
A proxy/proxy server is an intermediary found between your computer and the internet. It intercepts any traffic going into or out of your home or office network and, thus, receives or sends data on the user’s computer’s behalf. Besides acting as a gateway, the proxy hides the PC’s actual IP address and subsequently assigns the web requests from the PC a new IP address before directing them to the target website. For example, if you’re living in Spain but using a France proxy, instead of your home IP address, an IP address in France is assigned.
These underlying operations collaboratively promote anonymity and privacy, which, in turn, give rise to security. For instance, an IP address is a unique identifier to which your browsing activities are attached and stored by your internet service provider (ISP). It also shows your location. Thus, anyone with technical knowledge can access your ISP’s logs and access your data. If your browsing activities involve sending or receiving sensitive information, then it goes without saying that your security will have been breached.
While this is the longer route to providing and enhancing security, some proxies, e.g., HTTP proxies, directly strengthen security. They are perfect for preventing malware, ransomware, or spyware attacks, meaning that they protect your data. They are also diverse in their functionality since they can offer protection to both a user’s computer and a web server. An HTTP proxy is also unique in other ways, as we’ll detail later.
What is an HTTP proxy?
An HTTP proxy is a gateway created upon configuring a computer, web server, or browser. While configuring your PC or browser to create an HTTP proxy, you simply follow a few instructions readily available online, and you also get to choose the gateway’s IP address. Proxy service providers give you access to a massive pool of IPs in different countries, meaning you can select, for example, a France proxy, a US proxy, or a proxy in any other country. You can learn more about France proxy on one of the leading proxy providers, Oxylabs, website.
Once the configuration is finalized and your HTTP proxy is working, it will intercept all communication, i.e., web requests and content from the internet, sent via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and, in some cases, HTTPS as well. In doing so, the HTTP proxy creates a tunnel between the browser/computer and a web server and subsequently oversees all the communication. The HTTP proxy enhances anonymity because it cuts direct communication between a web server and a browser (PC).
The description above mainly highlights the workings of an HTTP-client proxy. Notably, though, a second type exists – an HTTP-server proxy – created when a web server is configured. The HTTP-server proxy protects the web server against malicious attacks aimed at disabling its operations. It allows most of the HTTP connections sent by a browser (web client) except for any attempts to upload files to its storage or delete those contained therein.
Benefits and uses of HTTP proxies
The benefits of an HTTP proxy also highlight the areas wherein it is used. These include:
- It filters content sent via HTTP, thereby preventing potentially harmful content from being stored on a user’s PC or web server
- It offers security in many ways, as we’ll detail below
- It anonymizes communication by blocking direct communication between a computer and a web server
- It blocks complete URLs, thereby preventing access to certain websites
- It blocks the transfer of attachments via port 80
- It blocks downloads or uploads of certain unique file types
An HTTP proxy offers security in many ways. Firstly, it inspects HTTP headers to make sure that the content does not originate from websites notorious for having suspicious content. Secondly, they only allow content through if it conforms to Request for Comments (RFC) specifications.
The RFC standard is a formal document containing guidelines for the HTTP protocol. It defines the structure of the protocol and the length of the headers. Thus, if the HTTP proxy notices an anomaly or extra-long header, it automatically blocks the communication or content. An example of an anomaly is that a web server using HTTP receives requests via port 80. If this is not the case, then that is considered an anomaly.
Thirdly, it only allows authorized files to be downloaded by a user or be uploaded on a web server. In this regard, it prevents the storage of files that could potentially contain malware, spyware, viruses, or ransomware.
Being held hostage by an attacker located miles away, such that you cannot access any files on your computer, is not a pleasant experience. For this and many other reasons highlighted herein, it would be best to protect your home or office network using an HTTP proxy. It is cost-effective because you do not need to pay a service provider.