OK, OK – I know that song is so 2013, and this technically isn’t about the dark web – but it still relates, I promise.
The reason I considered covering this is because I became concerned about confidentiality and privacy on the internet, particularly as I started delving into the darker side of things.
For the techies among us, I’m sure you already know how proxy servers work. That being said, for those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a proxy server allows you to reach a website (or another online destination), even if it’s blocked or restricted in your country, or by your ISP. Obviously, this can be a very helpful anti-censorship tool.
According to Web Upd8: Differences Between 3 Types of Proxy Servers, there are many different kinds of proxies, but three primary examples are:
Open (a.k.a. Normal/Caching Proxies):
An open proxy server is the simplest type, more or less. this is one of the most common types of proxies. They are accessible by any internet user. This is as opposed to a closed proxy (which would only allow users within a specific network to access it). An example of a real web proxy is kifkifgo.ml, which is located in the U.S. There are many sites on which you can find lists of public proxy servers – just simply Google them. These include Public Proxy Server – Free Proxy Server List and XROXY.COM – Open Proxy List
Like an HTTP proxy, a transparent proxy server is also a caching server, but in this case, is configured in such a way that it eliminates the client side (browser side) configuration. In most cases, the proxy server resides on the gateway and intercepts the web requests (port 8080, 544, etc.) from the clients; it receives the content for the first time and thereafter replies from its local cache.
The term “transparent” refers to the fact that the client (i.e. you) doesn’t know that a proxy server is acting on their behalf. Think of it like a spy movie: you’re the hero, and you need some confidential information that could potentially get you arrested. The transparent proxy would be the undercover agent who enters the enemy compound and retrieves it for you – except you, the hero, wouldn’t even know about that person doing the dirty work.
Transparent proxy servers are generally used in big corporate organizations where the client side configuration is not easy (due to the number of clients). This type of server is also used in ISP’s to reduce the load on the bandwidth usage.
A reverse proxy, as opposed to the first two, is designed for the benefit of the web server rather than its clients. More or less, a reverse proxy resides on the web server end, and will cache all the static answers from the web server and reply to the clients from its cache to reduce the load on the web server.
In that sense, a reverse proxy is kind of like the bell staff at a hotel – the static answers from the web server are akin to all the requests for “Can you carry this?” This arrangement is also known as Web Server Acceleration.
Proxy Lady…Comin’ to Getcha!!
So FoxyProxy, in their words, “is a set of proxy and VPN management tools for OS/X, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, and Linux. We also offer reliable, high-bandwidth VPN and proxy servers in 60 different countries.”
The basic (read: free) version of FoxyProxy can be downloaded at FoxyProxy Basic :: Add-ons for Firefox.
The difficulty with finding a proxy or VPN is that there are many services that are simply flat-out scams. FoxyProxy is definitely one of the legit ones, though.
They actually offer a number of different services, including FoxyProxy Basic, FoxyProxy Standard, and GeoShift (which changes your IP address from a list of different countries).
Once you have FoxyProxy installed, you can use its web proxy settings simply by typing in the URL (like you would normally do). Its standard setting is “Use Proxy Default for all URLs.” The setting (in Firefox) looks more or less like this:
Select the “Add New Proxy” button above in order to manually add proxy servers. In Chrome, the window looks like this:
The Settings window will pop up, in which you can manually or automatically configure a proxy connection (depending on your level of knowledge, and preferences):
On top of that, you can also specify when a proxy is (or is not) used, under “URL Patterns.” This includes a whitelist and blacklist of different URL patterns, as seen below:
In my personal experience, I’ve found all of these to be extremely helpful! Even if you’re not particularly familiar with the concept, FoxyProxy can still be an excellent tool to help circumvent censorship and in turn, protect your anonymity.
While you can do some of this without the FoxyProxy extension, it definitely does some of the legwork for you – and it also works well for users who have never attempted to use proxy servers of any kind.
In short, yes – I like it!
I have yet to try the advanced version, but I may cover that in a later post.