A proxy server performs a vital function. When surfing the Internet, there are two types of network connections that can be made: direct and indirect. A direct connection involves the computer connecting to another computer via interlinking networks. Information can flow directly from one computer to another. The other type is the indirect connection. A computer connects to a third-party server that makes the connection to the destination computer. The server acts as a go-between for each computer. This third-party machine is called a proxy server because it serves as a proxy for the computer making the connection itself.
An alternative use for proxy servers is to censor offensive content on the Internet. The server scans all requests made by the user and blocks the ones linking to URLs or IP addresses banned by the proxy server administrator. Public school systems use proxy servers to accomplish this purpose. These servers use specific IP addresses to hide their presence, if necessary.
A more sinister purpose of these servers is to disguise criminal activity. In fact, the way to get around a server blocking a specific address is to use another server to bypass it. A virtual private network (VPN) can also be used to hide IP address that is making the connection.
These servers are used in conjunction with firewalls to prevent malware, spyware, adware, Trojan horses, worms or viruses from gaining access to the user’s computer. They are very effective because they act as if they are making the connection and the other party has no way of telling the difference. They are part and parcel of the modern Internet security field because they are useful for fooling hackers.