HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, has become the foundation of the internet since it was first developed in the 90s. It is so commonplace that you’ve been using HTTP on a daily basis to connect to web pages.
HTTP proxies operate much in the same manner as web pages. Yet, they work as intermediaries between your connection and the website in question. That has some benefits for businesses and individuals.
How does an HTTP proxy work?
As mentioned above, an HTTP proxy is an intermediary server between you and the internet. In most cases, they are created out of other computers. These can be regular household devices (also called residential proxies) or servers (also called datacenter proxies).
HTTP proxies, like most others, take the requests sent to them and forward it to the intended target. They act as if they were the originator of the web request.
Once they receive the response from the web server, they forward it back to the user. Since a proxy server is just another machine, they have their own IP address, meaning the one of the user is never revealed.
Connecting to a proxy server is a little different from a web server. Usually, a proxy server provider sells an assortment of them. A HTTP proxy is one of the more common types to be sold. Once access is purchased, users get authentication details from a proxy server provider, which are used to send requests to the IP address.
Additionally, some proxy server providers enable authentication through whitelisting an IP address. In simple terms, that means a user can input their IP address and, as long as it doesn’t change, they don’t need any login credentials.
It’s important to note that while they’re called HTTP proxies, they might as well be called HTTP(S). In most cases, a HTTP proxy will be able to connect to a secure protocol equally as well. Providers will rarely sell HTTP proxies that cannot employ the usage of SSL.
Finally, HTTP proxies filter everything through their protocol. In other words, they use HTTP connections for all of their application and web traffic. That means they can be used for security purposes such as automatically filtering out suspicious content (e.g. unauthorized files).
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What is a HTTP proxy used for?
A HTTP proxy can be used for internal and external purposes. For the former, most use cases revolve around protecting users from potentially harmful content. For the latter, use cases revolve around hiding one’s IP address, bypassing content restrictions, and many automation tasks.
As it pertains to security, a HTTP proxy can often be used as a high performance content filter. It’s set up, partly, as a VPN. Since they stand between the client and the web server, network administrators can set them up in a way that truncates traffic flows.
For example, a HTTP proxy can be used to set up various filters, ranging from acceptable URLs to request headers. They have so many configuration options that they can even outright deny suspicious packets. In the end, a HTTP proxy can be a powerful addition to any security practice.
On the other hand, it does have quite a few external use cases. One of the most common is hiding an IP address. While it doesn’t add a lot of security by itself, it’s great for privacy reasons as websites have a harder time tracking people who use a HTTP proxy.
Additionally, every IP address has an associated location. Since a HTTP proxy server has one of its own, with a large enough pool of them a user can pick an IP address with any location in the world. Web traffic monitoring cannot differentiate between proxy and regular traffic, essentially allowing users to change locations in the eyes of websites.
It comes in extremely handy when some important content is geographically restricted. With the use of HTTP proxies, a user can pick the location where the content is displayed, making such restrictions worthless.
Finally, a HTTP proxy can be used for various automation tasks online. Most websites look at botting and automation with suspicion and are likely to ban offending IP addresses. As such, a HTTP proxy server pool can give enough IPs to avoid bans and blocks.
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Pros and cons of a HTTP proxy server
Works as a content filter.
Can slow down connections.
Hides IP addresses.
Slower than SOCKS5 proxies.
Helps bypass geographical restrictions.
Setup can be a little complicated.
Creates a basis for automation and botting.
Free proxies are not worth it.
Aids with privacy
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