Question: What Does a Proxy Server Do?

so this question comes from Christopher

H so an update of my computer has made

it so I get a message saying cannot

connect to the proxy server this happens

for all the browsers I have installed I

did read somewhere that it can turn off

the use of proxy through the internet

settings what exactly does this do and

can it harm my computer or browsing

experience very good question

this comes up a lot so proxy servers

proxy servers were one of those things

that were exceptionally useful when

popular 15 years ago and they have still

stuck around and some people use them

that most people frankly don't basically

what a proxy server does is it is a

server to provide you service to the

Internet so before we had routers with

something called NAT network address

translation built into the routers we

had to figure out a way for multiple

computers on a network to be able to

access the Internet so what we did is we

came up with these things called proxy

server so what proxy servers would do is

there's a proxy server then when your

client computer tries to get out to the

internet you point the client computer

at the proxy server the proxy server

then goes out to the internet for you

grabs the information pulls it in the

proxy server and then redirects it to

you now this may sound archaic and

that's essentially because it is again

proxy servers for the most part were

replaced by something called network

address translation that is now built

into routers now we still use proxy

servers every once in a while for very

niche specific reasons so proxy servers

are used a lot for the hacking or the

security community because basically you

can connect to proxy servers on the

internet and then use those proxy

servers in order to hide your IP address

so if you're trying to go to different

websites and you're worried about those

websites tracking you sometimes you will

use a proxy server or sometimes

internally actually a very good product

that not enough people use you can use

something called a squid proxy server so

squid is basically an open-source

version of a proxy server but did a

really cool thing with a squid proxy

servers you can do things like caching

so if one client on your network goes

out and let's say downloads a movie off

the internet if you go to download the

same movie

the Internet it will be cached on that

server locally so you don't have to go

all the way out the internet to grab it

it will be locally cached this is

exceptionally useful I used to use this

in my consulting company for downloading

Windows updates so you know we would

have 10 20 computers in a day that would

have to have Windows updates polled well

what would happen is we would connect

them to the proxy server and then the

first time a computer went out to get

the updates it would grab those three

gigs of updates off of Microsoft servers

they get pulled down into the computer

but they also get cached or locally on

that server so the next time a client

computer tries to get those updates

instead of pulling them all the way off

of Microsoft servers they pull them from

that land that local cache and it is

just lickety-split I'm telling you if

you have a shop where you do a lot of

like Windows updates really look at get

a squid getting a squid caching server

because it would just oh it is like

mind-blowing ly fast it's the question

then comes for you

you know what obviously what I told you

what it does and the question is then

can it harm your computer if you turn

off the proxy settings the question that

I have is why the proxy settings are

coming up for you at all again there are

reasons to use proxy servers but they're

very niche things and essentially you

have to turn them on they generally

don't get turned on by scripts or

anything like that it's something where

you actually have to go in you have to

do a lot of check boxes you have to

check off the box to use a proxy server

type in the proxy server hit OK and then

your server will you or then your

computer will use the proxy server if

you haven't done any of those things a

little questioning on why this question

has even come up why you're having this

issue so essentially what I would say is

if you don't know what a proxy server is

and you don't have a use for a proxy

server then yes definitely disable it

because because you don't even know what

it is proxy servers are good but they're

not necessary they're not a requirement

if you turn it off especially in a home

environment it won't cause you any

problems the only time turning off a

proxy server might cause you problems is

if you are in a business environment and

again somebody like me has

one of those cool fancy squid proxy

servers and then you turn off the proxy

setting and things stopped working but

you're in a home environment and you

don't even know what a proxy server is

don't worry about it yes you can

definitely turn it off in order to turn

off the proxy settings system-wide in

your computer you go into internet

explorer go like Internet Explorer tool

settings whatever in Internet Explorer

there is a setting for that proxy server

just uncheck the box essentially and it

will go away you shouldn't have any

issues so that's the idea behind what

proxy servers are I would be concerned I

would be concerned on your computer

since this thing has popped up kind of

out of nowhere this sounds like to me

this sounds like to me some kind of

weird virus or something some kind of

malware where they try to modify your

proxy settings because basically if you

use a proxy server for your web browser

that means all your web traffic is going

through that proxy server right so

normally it goes from your computer

through your router off to the internet

do the cloud so if you use a proxy

server it goes from your computer to the

router to the proxy server and then to

the cloud well essentially that proxy

server then is a man-in-the-middle so if

you ever heard of something called

man-in-the-middle attacks

man-in-the-middle attacks are where you

can get your computer or server

basically in the data stream between a

client computer and the server is trying

to access you try to get in the middle

if you get in the middle you can do

things like grab user names grab

passwords grab all kinds of information

basically any information that's going

from the server to the client computer

can be grabbed if you get that man in

the middle so I would be a little

concerned that this may be some kind of

malware that's essentially trying to

configure a man-in-the-middle attack to

reroute your web traffic from your

client computer through their proxy

server before you get to the Internet

basically so they can grab all the

information that's going in and out so I

would make sure you download and install

a good anti-virus good malware make sure

you have all your windows updates and

all that kind of stuff because that's

especially if you don't know what's

going on if you haven't made any

modifications if nobody's played with

your computer any of that that sounds

like possibly some kind of malware so

just make sure you check on

so so yeah turn off the proxy server

regard if you don't know what the proxy

server is turn it off and then do a full

tune-up on your computer because I'd be

a little concerned it might be