What is a "proxy" server?

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Ok I am a newbie idiot so without shame I need to ask what the heck is a
proxy server? I keep running into this term in configurations for email or
stuff, and readings. Can someone explain in simple terms what a proxy
server is? And would it ever pertain to me, running a workstation home
computer on a LAN? (cable ISP, wifi router, main computer, a second PC on
the LAN via the router).

Re: What is a "proxy" server?

A proxy server is fine if you plan to share a dial-up (modem)
connection. However, if you have an "always on" DSL or cable connection
a proxy server can put your systems at risk because it offers very
little protection against outside intrusion into your network.

So I really don't think this applies to you.

Re: What is a "proxy" server?

chessher spilled the following:

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This is nonsense.

Either masquerading (low level proxying) or application proxies are key to
providing perimeter security. Not allowing the inside to talk directly to
the outside makes for a much more secure network in a way which is very
difficult to undermine.


Re: What is a "proxy" server?

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    Well, think about what "proxy" means in general.  It means to do
something for someone else, to do it in their place.  If you can cast my
votes in a corporate board election, that's a proxy vote.  So a proxy
server is a server that does something on your behalf when you ask it.
For example, a web proxy is a server to which you make a request, and it
goes out and fetches the page for you, and then hands it back to you.
There are all different kinds of proxies, for different purposes.
Sometimes they're for efficiency, like a caching proxy, or for security,
or maybe they do some kind of automatic translation for you.  Whether
you need one depends on what you're trying to do.  For example, your ISP
might run a web proxy to do caching, or to block ads, or to provide
anonymity, and you could use that server from home.

Followups set since this is not really a security question per se.

Oh to have a lodge in some vast wilderness.  Where rumors of oppression
and deceit, of unsuccessful and successful wars may never reach me
    -- William Cowper

Re: What is a "proxy" server?

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A proxy server is a server process (maybe running on a different machine,
but not necessarily) that stands between your programs and the internet.
Web proxies are commonly used between a user's browser and the internet to
provide caching services (speeds up access to commonly visited sites or
provide access control; e.g. squid -- http://www.squid-cache.org ), filter
content (remove advertising or objectional material; e.g. "privoxy" --
http://www.privoxy.org ), or to anonymize your browsing (e.g."tor" --
http://tor.eff.org ).

I use all three here.


-John (john@os2.dhs.org)

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