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Using proxies as an alternative for dodging filters

Other than VPN, you do have another option to place your hope for internet freedom

11 Dec 2016
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Using proxies as an alternative for dodging filters

Censorhip and filters – cumbersome for users, and explicitly prevent a human being for their freedom on using the web. It is quite inevitable, as a handful of organisations/providers/facilities do this gruesome act. And one common example is the place of studies, ie Universities, and so on. Worse, these censorhip are also used on per-ISP basis. Worst of all, countries also set up a firewall that prevents you access to a list of websites that to them violates the national law of theirs.

The blocked contents are, fortunately, not definitely blocked from your reach. With basic censorhip-circumvention knowledge, you will find yourself accessing the contents with no more warning landing pages. For those who are familiar with methods to circumvent internet censorship and filters, the term VPN will always ring the bell for them. It may be a surprise to some, but you also have another method of circumvention, which is by using proxies, and that is the scope of this blog post today.

Basics of proxies, and how does it function

Wikipedia gives you a much cleaner and technical overview on how Proxy works, which can be accessed by clicking this link.

In computer networks, a proxy server is a server (a computer system or an application) that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource available from a different server and the proxy server evaluates the request as a way to simplify and control its complexity. Proxies were invented to add structure and encapsulation to distributed systems. Today, most proxies are web proxies, facilitating access to content on the World Wide Web and providing anonymity.

Wikipedia

Basically, when you use a proxy, you are instructing an intermediary server (the proxy server) to fetch the information for you. Let’s say, you are trying to count the sum of 2 numbers, 10 and 20. Your computer, let’s say host A, connects to the proxy server. This proxy server then instructs the targeting computer, host B. Host B then calculates the sum of 10 and 20, and yield the result of 30. The result is then transmitted back to the proxy server, and afterwards, it is transferred back to you – hence giving you the answer to the initial question. The upside of this communication method is that, host B only knows that the instructions came from the proxy server instead of host A. Basically, this means privacy, the most obvious reason of why proxies are commonly used.

Similar analogy can be seen with an image embedded on the Wikipedia article linked earlier.

Different to VPN, proxy does not put you as the host into another network. It works right via your local network. VPN on the other hand, puts your device into another virtual network, which makes your device to assume it is on another network.

The two methods of proxies

There are two methods of proxies that are available for users to use, and those two are web proxies, and, I don’t know how to precisely call this, but in a general scope, the proxy server’s address

Proxy server’s address

A proxy server’s address are represented as an IP address, which points to the proxy server. For example, 123.456.789.1. When you set this IP address to the relevant network configurations on your computer, it will always communicate to the target by first requesting the data from the proxy. The upside of this method is it allows a native experience, based on the setup you make. Unlike web proxies, this one can be used virtually anywhere (depends, if network configurations settings are offered on that particular software)

Web Proxies

Web proxies are web services that allows you to go to various websites via the proxy’s own website. Using web proxies won’t give you a native experience, as you will need to navigate to the proxy website first, for example, https://www.proxfree.com/ , before you can visit the website of your choice. This means you are only restricted to use such proxies via a web browser. It is also worth noting that, when you load another website while using a web proxy, the website is loaded from within the proxy’s website, which should effectively conceal the destination URL, given that you enable the URL encoding feature (assuming it is provided by that web proxy provider). Speaking of feature, the website usually would provide simple configurations for you to choose before browsing, which includes but not limited to stripping embedded elements, encoding URLs, stripping JavaScript and disabling cookies.

Getting proxy addresses

You can find countless numbers of proxy addresses by searching for them via a search engine. Both options, whether free and paid are available. Do note that free ones usually won’t last that long, and this will force you to find and change to a new proxy address. This is not the case for web proxies.

Setting up proxy

The steps needed to actually set a proxy isn’t that hard, fortunately. The configurations are provided well and setting a proxy up manually is actually far easier than setting a VPN manually. Since proxy may be configured on individual programs, expect some programs that do not have an option to alter proxies. Note that Windows OS does not have any options to use proxy system-wide out-of-the-box. For insights, go to this thread on SuperUser.

Use the provided information about the proxy that you intend to use by copy and pasting them into the relevant option boxes provided by the software you want to manage. I.e. proxy type (HTTP or SOCKS), proxy address, and port. It really is as simple as that.

Easily manage proxy on web browsers

You can also save your time and gain more advantages on using proxy by using a browser addon called FoxyProxy. This very addon provides multitude of tools, including an ability to add different numbers of proxies at the same time. One of the features that I like the most is the whitelist feature, enabling me to browse a certain website under a defined proxy.

So, VPN or Proxy?

To end this somewhat simple blog post, let us discuss this question.

The really short answer to it is, it depends on your way of using the internet. If you are attempting to completely go over censorship, a VPN would be ideal for you. By using a VPN, you are basically entitled your device into a whole completely different network. This means you will have the affect of speed, depending on the network location, system-wide with the cost of complete internet freedom. However, do not expect maximum anonimity when using a free VPN. Fortunately, it does help on opening blocked websites.

If you are that kind of a person that prefer to have as maximum speed as possible, but only have a few websites that you like, blocked, using a customised proxy experience would be ideal. By using, for example, the mentioned FoxyProxy addon earlier, you can limit and set which websites to use the proxy that you have set. The result is whenever you visit the website, you can finally access it. The speed however, again depending on the location of the proxy server and its latency. This doesn’t mean that it would affect your whole browsing session though, as the speed reduction only applies to the websites that you wish to be accessible.

If you have a strong discontent of using browser addons, you can also alternatively use web proxies as explained earlier in this post. The downside of using web proxies is there is no automation in play, and you will have to input the website address in the web proxy website by yourself. This also gets the job done. Neatly, with a small set of useful features as well to toggle on or off.

VPN however changes how your devices interact with the local network. Some places even takes this censorship even further by actually denying any devices from accessing a VPN. This can be evidently seen when the “Conneting” word seems to be never disappearing on your VPN client. Such is the truth at my university. They even block access to SSH, effectively limitting me from managing my myriad of devices. Fortunately, when censorhip goes this way, your best bet is to use proxies.

 Although censorship is really, really bad, if you are entitled to an agreement, let’s say an agreement about the forbidden of proxy use at your workplace, please do not take the risk of using any proxies. You might risk yourself your job. This article is meant for educational purposes only, and is not for use in any illegal intentions. You have been warned.

If you have anything to say about censorship, or what you use to browse the blocked parts on the internet, or just have anything to say, feel free to drop a comment below! 😁

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