A proxy server, which sits between a user and the Internet, provides a variety of benefits, including improved performance, security, and privacy. A proxy server is configured by specifying the IP address of the proxy server as its gateway to the Internet. This can be done for all traffic or only certain types of traffic (most commonly web traffic).
Configuring a proxy means that certain types of traffic will be sent to the proxy server instead of directly to the Internet. This allows the user to conceal their IP address from the websites, or an organization can use a proxy server to impose access controls and content filtering. The proxy server forwards the traffic on to its destination and sends any responses received on to its client.
Proxy servers all act to forward traffic from a client to a server and back again. However, a few different types of proxy servers exist, all with slightly different functionality:
Proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs) are both designed to protect the user’s privacy. Yet they have slightly different goals and accomplish them in different ways.
Proxy Servers are primarily designed to protect the user from the server that it is connecting to. This may include concealing their identity (via anonymous proxies) or performing filtering of web traffic (such as blocking potentially malicious or inappropriate sites). Proxy servers are generally not designed to protect a user from third parties.
Remote Access VPNs are designed to protect the confidentiality of the connection between a client and a server. All traffic flows through an encrypted tunnel, which makes it impossible for eavesdroppers to view the traffic. However, the server at the other end of the connection has full access to the traffic, meaning that a VPN does nothing to protect a user’s privacy or security against a malicious server.
Both proxy servers and reverse proxies sit between a client and a server. They too are designed to provide different benefits.
Proxy servers are deployed on behalf of the client. One or more clients may use the same proxy server, which can provide increased privacy, security, etc.
Reverse proxies are designed to benefit the server. A reverse proxy server may act as a single point of content for multiple servers on an organization’s network. The use of a reverse proxy enables an organization to have sites served from multiple servers appear to originate from the same machine. Additionally, a reverse proxy can provide increased security by performing traffic filtering and by making it impossible for an external user to gain direct access to an organization’s servers.
A proxy server provides a number of benefits to its users, such as:
While a proxy server has a number of benefits, it also has its limitations, including:
A proxy server can be a standalone system, but it can also be integrated into an organization’s firewall. Check Point next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) integrate proxy functionality and are recognized as a Leader by Gartner. To learn more about Check Point NGFWs and their capabilities, you’re welcome to contact us.