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Proxy servers are servers that hide a person’s identity online or provide a high level of security to the computer using the server. There are two main types of proxies: forward proxy and reverse proxy. Forward proxies are the most common, and are found online as open proxies. They forward a request from the starting computer to a website, and then access a website’s content server for information. A forward proxy is able to access more websites than a reverse proxy is.
A proxy, regardless of whether it is a forward or a reverse proxy, is a type of network server. When someone accesses the Internet, he or she generally does it from a computer and the computer accesses a website. When a proxy is used, the request is filtered through a proxy. This is either used to mask the user’s identity or to restrict certain people from entering the network.
In a forward proxy configuration, a request comes from a computer in the form of a user attempting to access a website. This request is filtered through the forward proxy and then goes through a firewall. The firewall ensures the request is legitimate, or from a real user and not a malicious program. If the request is real, the proxy will push it forward. If not, the request is denied.
Using the forward proxy’s identity, the user connects to the Internet and then a website. After gaining information from the website content server, the process reverses itself so the information goes back to the original computer that made the request. A forward proxy is made to forward traffic from one server to the next.
An open proxy is a proxy that anyone can access. In this regard, most proxies found online are open proxies that are used to mask a person’s identity online, or to keep websites from gaining personal information about the user. Open proxies, most of the time, are forward proxies, because they forward the traffic from the open proxy to a specified website.
While forward proxies are made to make Internet surfing anonymous, a reverse proxy is the exact opposite. A reverse proxy is made to restrict network access to a website or server. The request starts from a content server and then goes to a reverse proxy server. If the firewall enables the user access, then the proxy will push the information to the user’s computer. If not, the information is denied to the computer.