What is a Transparent Proxy?
Proxy servers serve as an intermediary between you and the destination server. It controls the flow of internet traffic by routing it through, and if configured, make modifications to the requests. Web proxy servers have been in use for decades. They allow users to conceal their identity from the destination server, thereby opening certain possibilities, such as bypassing geo-restriction.
Transparent proxies work similarly, but without changing your IP address. It is simply there to control the flow of traffic and adhere to the rules on which it has been set up to follow. The proxy controls every type of traffic, not just HTTP/HTTPS that traditional (or explicit proxies) handle.
What is a Transparent Proxy?
The clue is in the name. A transparent proxy is named as such because it is hidden from the user. It works invisibly, without the notice of the user. It is set up to control the web experience as the administrator of the network sees fit. In an organization, a transparent proxy would be set up by the IT department to allow/disallow external requests. It all happens without the user’s notice. You won’t even know its presence because the destination server does not react as it would if there was a different kind of proxy in place.
Whichever Internet Service Provider (ISP) you choose, it always knows what websites you are visiting or what you are requesting over the internet. The IT department of an organization is tasked not only to maintain the internal network infrastructure but polices the traffic going outside of the organization’s network.
In such a scenario, the IT department can install a transparent proxy server that serves as the traffic cop for users on the network. What makes it convenient is that there is no need to configure the proxy on the client’s device.
What is a Transparent Proxy Used for?
In addition to filtering requests, a transparent proxy can enhance the user experience in some way. Caching is an important computing concept that involves temporarily storing frequently used data for faster access. Because cache sits closer, access to data is faster. A transparent proxy can host caching capability for users to lessen the burden on the network or improve the user experience.
A transparent proxy could cache frequently visited webpages. Websites such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, GitHub, or news publications are likely to be on the most-visited list. Hence, it would make sense to set up cached pages on the proxy server for faster load times. Additionally, if there’s an important update that needs to be delivered to users, caching would allow users to download the update faster instead of initiating a redownload from an external web server.
It is also deployed in Content Delivery Network (CDN) for caching. Some services have CNDs scattered across the globe to provide users with a better response. In the case of streaming services like Netflix, it sets up a faster streaming experience. Instead of fetching a video from the original server, the CDN will provide access by storing a copy of the content to minimize latency while streaming. CDNs serve as regional caches that
Another use for a transparent proxy is for serving as gateways. Have you ever connected to the public Wi-Fi offered by shopping malls, coffee shops, and other such public places? The portal that asks you to log in with your credentials is the action of a transparent proxy. The service provider has set up the proxy to allow only its customers access to the Wi-Fi. It involves a tedious process that requires you to sign up using a cellphone number and email address, which is then saved and used for marketing purposes later. But it does provide you access to the free Wi-Fi then, and every time you walk back in again.
Transparent proxies are old now, and they don’t play well with SSL/TLS connections unless you add an SSL proxy. So you might never run into one.
Why You Should Connect to a VPN
All that said, there’s an important reason why you should always use a VPN to connect to the internet. Like normal proxies, a transparent proxy does not provide encryption. You will often notice the absence of a padlock icon next to the Wi-Fi signal on a public network. It is highly risky to browse the web on an unprotected network. The transparent proxy only authenticates you for access to the Wi-Fi; it cannot protect you against certain threats, like DNS spoofing or intercepting unencrypted data.
iProVPN connects you to its server using AES 256-bit encryption that prevents the service provider from intercepting your communication.
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