What Is a Proxy Server?
In short, a proxy server is a computer application that receives and transmits requests for information or resources from other servers. Whether you need a secure connection, a file, a piece of information or other support, a proxy service intermediates on your behalf. This protects your identity from the server from which you seek information or a connection.
Situations in Which You Need a Proxy Server
There are a number of reasons why you would need a proxy server, all of which relate to privacy or your computer s performance. Here are some of the most common reasons you would need a proxy server:
- To access websites anonymously – This is the most common use of a proxy server. If you are ever out of the country, you will soon realize that there are a number of websites and programs (such as video streaming applications) that you cannot access. This is because many governments restrict access to certain websites, and many online programs only adapt for certain countries. You can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to disguise your location and gain access to these restricted sites. A VPN essentially makes the server believe that you are in a different country, one that has unrestricted access. Hackers, criminals and others that need anonymity use such software to mask their identity on a regular basis.
- To eavesdrop – If you have a need to eavesdrop on someone, you can use a proxy server to do so. The CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies do this every day to detect terrorists and others who pose a threat to national security. They use proxy servers to monitor key phrases on social media and search engines, such as how to build a bomb. Hackers also use proxy servers to collect peoples passwords and other personal information in order to steal their identity or spread viruses.
- To filter content – You can use a proxy server to filter the web content on a specific computer. Parents find this especially useful for filtering what their children see. Schools find this useful for enforcing computer and web browsing policies.
- To bypass filters – Proxy servers can also bypass existing filters. Usually, parents do not have to worry about children figuring out how to do this, unless, of course, their child is a computer whiz at an early age. People also use proxy servers to bypass government censorship.
- To improve computer performance – On a more positive note, proxy servers can improve computer performance, particularly for large businesses. A caching proxy detects frequent requests and stores them so that your company does not have to use as much bandwidth the next time it receives the same request. This reduces usage and costs while accelerating the time it takes to process and save applications.
You may find other uses for a proxy server, but these are by far the most common. If you fear hackers using them against you, be sure to invest in anti-virus software and other privacy protection software designed to protect against such situations.