Andy Green's Blog

A web-workers world…

Why Do People Use Web Proxies?

For most people, web proxies are unknown and usually unexplored territory, however they can be very useful in certain circumstances. Essentially, web proxies are proxy servers which allow you to by-pass filters and blocks which may prevent you from visiting certain websites. Many schools and workplaces have such strong filters in place that people who use their computers cannot even access their hotmail account, let alone social networking sites like MySpace or FaceBook. Furthermore, most people are unaware that governments can block their citizens from visiting certain websites. China, for example, has significant blocks on what its citizens can view over the internet. We should also not assume that Western Countries don’t have blocks of their own.

A sign that a website is being blocked to your IP address is that the page just will not load. You can override such obstructions by taking advantage of a proxy server. Proxy servers work by simply typing in the web address you want to visit into the search box on their web page. You will then visit the website via the proxy’s IP address, rather than your own. Chances are, you will now be able to get through to the site.

If you wish to use a web proxy all the time, rather than just in certain circumstances, you can configure your computer to access the internet via a particular web proxy. This can give you added security if you are concerned that your internet habits could be monitored to use against you in some way. Unfortunately, if the web proxy you choose has been set up by criminals to monitor passwords and to obtain personal financial information you can be in real trouble. It is therefore essential that you take time to research safe and reputable proxy servers.

Students at schools and universities can be hamstrung by overly tight controls on searches because software protections can cause some terms to be excluded if they have an alternate, negative meaning. Bypassing the security system and accessing a search engine via a proxy server can provide a far broader range of search results to assist with school assignments.

Of course, we would be naïve to think that school students would only want to bypass their school’s computer security for study purposes. Most probably want to talk to their friends on their favorite social networking sites, check their emails or play computer games. These desires will also drive workers to use proxy servers at work.

There other significant benefits of using a web proxy. Your IP address is hidden which means you cannot be tracked on the internet by marketing companies, spy software, or criminals looking to steal your personal information.

It is important, however, to understand that you can still be traced via a proxy server, so while you may choose for convenience to bypass controls to view certain websites, make sure that you are not acting illegally. There are real benefits to proxy servers in controlled environments as they can give you the freedom to move as you wish around the internet. However, understand the laws of your country and international laws and act responsibly with proxy servers. They are not a way to cheat law enforcement authorities as log records of proxy servers can be obtained.

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September 18, 2008 Posted by | Online Security | , | Leave a comment

What Are Circumventors?

A circumventor is a means by which blocking policies are “gone around”. Oftentimes, blocking policies are implemented with proxy servers, and circumventors themselves are also proxy servers.

A circumventor is a website page; it encounters a blocked site and “goes around it” or circumvents it by directing it to an unblocked site, so that the user can then view the blocked material. For example, circumventor elgooG was a way in which China’s users could use Google after it had been blocked in that country. This particular type of circumventor, though, goes around only one block, while most circumventors unblock more than one site.

A circumventor can also let unauthorized people such as children or students access sites blocked to them, such as pornography, social networking, messaging programs, and so on. In fact, they are relatively sophisticated such that even as filters are implemented to block unauthorized people from accessing these sites, circumventors pop up that will allow them to go around the blocking software. In some cases, nonetheless, the filter can still intercept traffic going to the circumventor so that administrators can see what unauthorized users are visiting, even if they can actually access them when they shouldn’t be.

Adults and other people who have been blocked from a particular website can also use a circumventor to see this material.

Circumventors can also be used to access material that is country-specific. This lets people from other countries use that information. For example, some webcasts and other types of media are restricted by country, and circumventors let other countries see this information even though it’s been blocked.

Using circumventors is usually pretty safe, except for some circumventor sites run by third parties that can’t be trusted. These sites have intentions to steal personal information, which of course makes them unsafe. Therefore, a good policy to have is that you shouldn’t run personal information such as passwords or credit card numbers through a website that’s been circumvented, just to be safe.

In addition, most schools and other office spaces restrict the online services and websites they use to their particular population. Circumventors do bypass censors in computers, but many sites that have been blocked by these organizations are deemed frivolous, such as social networking sites.

Proxy Web servers have become more sophisticated so that users can encrypt data or links coming from or going to other Web servers. This means that users can access websites that have been blocked previously.

One type of web proxy is called a CGI Proxy. These websites let users access a particular site through them. They are used in CGI or PHP format so that proxy functionality is more easily implemented. These proxies can allow access to websites that schools or corporations have blocked. They also usually hide a user’s IP address from the websites they access, so that they have some anonymity attached to them.

Anonymous proxy servers can be a risk to those using them because any data being sent has to pass through the proxy server before it goes to the service, usually unencrypted. Therefore, if a particular service has a malicious intent, your personal information or credit card data, for example, can be captured by these services and therefore put you at risk for identity theft or worse.

In addition, because proxies often don’t give personal information about the user, oftentimes, activities or the origins can be hidden. That said, intermediate proxy “hops” often do contain traces of information that can eventually lead back to the user him- or herself. Therefore, it behooves one to know what proxies are being used on your site.

In short, you should be very careful if you use proxy servers and only use those that you know have integrity, where you know the administrator can be known and trusted. Never use proxy servers you’re not sure of. If you must use a proxy server you’re not sure of, never submit personal information such as passwords or credit card numbers through it.

Because of proxy risks, you may find yourself being blocked from sites just as a matter of course, but this is more an inconvenience than an actual risk. Be aware of proxy risks and use circumventors wisely.

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Online Security | , | Leave a comment

Dangers of Using Proxy Servers

As an internet user any activity you perform on the internet can be traced back to you with the help of your IP address, which is a unique code assigned to you by your Internet Service Provider. An easy way of protecting yourself is by using anonymous proxies, which hide your IP address from websites. Though a majority of proxies are safe, there are still a few proxies run by webmasters with many a malicious intent. This article will help you to protect yourself better against such proxies.

Basically, a proxy is a collection of servers which allow you to access a website, while maintaining your anonymity by hiding your IP address. All information you wish to send to the website you are browsing passes through the proxy you use. Usually this information reaches the proxy in an unencrypted form, which means they can be easily read by the webmaster or the owner of the proxy. Such information transmitted may include your usernames and passwords and even banking information!

So, the first rule to follow when using a proxy is to never type in any information you wish to keep to yourself, such as your password, or credit card number. When checking your mail, or logging into your bank’s online banking system, never use a proxy. This helps in keeping all private information confidential.

When you first try a proxy website, be sure to read through the terms of service of that particular proxy. Proxies usually also have a privacy policy, which is also to be carefully read. If you doubt the integrity of the proxy site, never use the site. Only use proxies which are trusted by a lot of people, and have a proper privacy policy.

When using a proxy, you may also find that certain websites cannot be accessed, since the proxy has been banned by the site. In such cases, try a different proxy or try direct access.

Most anonymous proxies offer excellent service without the need for registration. If you find a proxy which requires registration, avoid using it. Any proxy which asks for personal information such as your zip code, or your social security or credit card numbers should also be avoided.

A few proxies are used as fronts for marketing sites. Such proxies observe your surfing pattern and send you spam or junk mail, based on your internet habits. Some proxies may also attempt to download software onto your computer. Such software may include viruses, spyware, adware and other malware. Never download any software from your proxy.

Not all proxies offer the same levels of anonymity. Some proxies even transmit your original IP address to the websites your surf. Others completely hide all information pertaining to you. Hence always ensure that the proxy you are using will serve your purposes.

Never use a proxy which does not support encryption when transmitting confidential information over the internet, such as your credit card numbers. This also means that you should never make any purchases while using an unencrypted proxy server. This is because since the information reaching the proxy is in an unencrypted form, it can easily fall into the hands of hackers.

So, while using a web proxy, you will definitely be taking a few risks. However, if you follow the precautions mentioned and keep in mind the risks involved, you will definitely have an enjoyable proxy experience.

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Online Security | , , | Leave a comment