A transparent proxy is basically a server that is placed between a user’s computer and the internet. It redirects a user’s responses and request to the web server without changing them, while a proxy server that does the opposite is called a non-transparent proxy.
Transparent proxy is also known as forced proxy, inline proxy or intercepting proxy. This kind of proxy is usually used to content filters in schools and libraries which does not need any configuration from the user side. It intercepts the user’s responses and requests to perform different actions including authentication, caching and redirection.
This is a simple illustration:
Image Credit: keycdn.com
Benefits of using a Transparent Proxy
- A transparent proxy gives its users high bandwidth and reduces the latency of the transmission which improves the quality of the service.
- A user’s web browsing quality is improved through the frequent use of cache, and they can easily add websites that they want to visit in a favorite’s list that usually takes a long time to be loaded due to congestion in the network.
A transparent proxy works by acting as an intercessor between a user and the internet provider. When a user connects to an internet provider’s web server, the transparent proxy intercepts the user’s request before sending it over to the website. It is given a term “transparent” because a user is not aware of it, whereas, the servers hosting this kind of service distinguish the proxied traffic that is sent out by a transparent proxy and not directly from the user.
During the interception process, the entire user’s HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) traffic can be read, examined and logged. Technically, the transparent proxy can be accessed by configuring the user’s setting on his network. This allows an internet provider to execute proxying without having to adjust and configure the user’s computer.
There are three examples on how transparent proxy works such as (a,) proxy caches; (b,) filtering proxies; and (c,) gateway proxies.
In terms of transparent proxy security, it can be said that there are risks in user security because internet providers can have access you their web accounts which this includes emails, private messages and passwords.
The difference between a transparent proxy and web proxy is that the former acts as an intercessor between a user and the internet provider and during that process, the provider can store the user’s data; while the latter acts as a shield between the user and the website, a user is able to keep their data safe, concealed and private. A web proxy is basically a user’s security on the internet niche by keeping their IP address and geographical location private.
Advantages and Disadvantages of using a Transparent Proxy
- Users don’t need to make any configuration on their computers or network settings.
- Business establishments uses transparent proxy to selectively deny internet access to the users, this is commonly used in hotels, restaurants, cafés, airports, schools, offices and public Wi-Fi spots. In addition, before users are given access to the internet, they are asked to confirm Terms and Conditions provide identification.
- Websites can be protected against DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks and can increase the capacity of server for websites that offer video streaming.
- It shapes the way users connect to the internet and simply adds functionality to the internet provider without adding inconvenience.
- If poorly configured or implemented, redirecting and caching of web traffic may cause problems with internet connection, especially when there is a need for authentication to connect to the internet.
- User traffic is being intercepted and can be tampered.
- There is a risk that user data or information are breached easily and can be used against them.
Though the use of transparent proxy has its risks, there are ways for users to detect if they are behind a proxy. For some it may be easy to sport a transparent proxy, but others are not. One way to know is by attempting to connect to a server that doesn’t exist, a user’s web browser usually gives sends out a message of “connection failure”, but if he is behind a transparent proxy, connection error would be different and instead a user will be redirected to a search page.