The discourse surrounding Apple’s anti-tracking feature on iOS 14, which Google is looking to replicate on its Android operating system, points out that consumers’ privacy has never been a priority. In fact, some companies, led by Facebook, have criticized the move by claiming that it will affect small businesses. Others have argued that it will lead to a loss of revenue.
The claim about the revenue loss for companies and criticism demonstrates that said companies profit off harvesting data from consumers’ devices. It is worrying and subsequently raises questions about privacy, especially for consumers using personal computers and laptops, but PCs do not have the anti-tracking features yet. Fortunately, proxies provide a solution.
What is a proxy?
A proxy is a computer that acts as a gateway. In computing and telecommunications, a gateway is a piece of hardware that acts as a stopping point for data sent or received by a computer or network. In this regard, web requests from a computer stop when they reach a proxy. What happens thereafter is the key to proxy servers being a solution, as detailed above.
Upon receiving the requests, the proxy assigns them a unique IP address, essentially hiding the computer’s real identity. It then sends the requests on the computer’s behalf. Various types of proxies assign the IP addresses differently, as we’ll detail later. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that all of them add a layer of privacy, anonymity, and security.
The newly acquired IP address gives your computer a new identity that enables you to, among others, bypass geo-restrictions. For instance, if you wish to access Australian geo-locked content, using an Australian proxy will assign you an Australian IP address.
Types of proxies
There are several types of proxies, namely:
- Residential proxies
- Datacenter proxies
- Rotating proxies
- Static proxies
- HTTP proxies
- Dedicated proxies
- Shared proxies
- Transparent proxies
- Anonymous proxies
- High anonymity proxies
- Mobile proxies
Residential proxies assign users’ computers residential IP addresses. Residential IP addresses belong to internet service providers (ISPs). In this regard, using residential proxies makes real users’ devices the gateway. As a result, residential proxies are hardly blocked, but because residential IP addresses are rare, this proxy server is expensive.
A data center proxy is a virtual gateway. Datacenter servers generate virtual IP addresses, which are subsequently assigned to users. Thus, datacenter proxies exist in a cloud. They are fast since powerful datacenter computers back them.
Rotating proxies either assign each web request a unique IP address or change the given IP address after a few minutes. However, unlike other types of proxies, rotating proxies do not exist in isolation. Instead, they are available as part of other types, e.g., rotating residential proxies.
In static proxies, the assigned IP address remains unchanged until it expires or gets blocked.
In dedicated proxies, every user is assigned a unique IP address.
Proxy service providers who offer shared proxies assign multiple users the same IP address. This makes shared proxies extremely slow.
An HTTP proxy is a unique type of proxy because it does not require a service provider. You can create an HTTP proxy on your computer or server by following a few instructions. HTTP proxies are used to filter content reaching a computer or server, thereby protecting it against cyberattacks.
A transparent proxy passes requested content unchanged – it does not alter anything. As such, users rarely find out that a proxy exists in the network. They are used to restrict access to specific websites.
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An anonymous proxy hides a user’s IP address but identifies itself as a proxy when sending web requests to a web server. Notably, some anonymous proxies encrypt web requests and the data transmitted by web servers.
High anonymity proxies
A high anonymity proxy hides a user’s IP address and does not identify itself as a proxy when it connects to the webserver.
Uses of proxies
Proxies are used for the following reasons:
- To access geo-restricted content, as demonstrated in the Australian proxy example
- To restrict access to specific websites
- To provide online anonymity
- To filter content, thereby protecting a computer or server against malware or spyware
- To increase connection speeds by caching data
- To balance traffic to prevent server crashes or distributed delay of service (DDoS) attacks
- Web scraping
Notably, the various types of proxies are suited for different purposes. For instance, a shared proxy cannot be used for web scraping or to balance traffic. Web scraping is done using rotating datacenter proxies or rotating residential proxies. Datacenter proxies are also ideal for balancing traffic. To bypass geo-blocking, you need a service provider whose IP network pool includes IP addresses from, say, Australia. Thus, the Australian proxy can be any type of proxy.