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Archive for April, 2012

Types of Proxy Servers and How They Work

April 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Proxy servers are essentially computers that are combined with firewalls and are used by other computers to gain access to web pages. The proxy server provides resources by either connecting to the particular server or by serving it through cache. It is possible that the proxy server changes the request of the client or the response from the server for different purposes. There are different types of proxy servers and here is some information about how you can use them.

Anonymous proxy server

An anonymous proxy is basically a tool used for making one’s activity on the internet untraceable. The proxy server acts like a shield between the internet and the client system. The server provides the client access to the internet and hides the information that can be used for identifying the client’s computer.

There are many reasons why someone would opt to use a proxy server.

  • The most common one is that it helps minimize the risk. People who are wary of identity theft or those who do not want their search history to be tracked make use of such proxies.
  • Increasing the speed of internet connection is one of the other common reasons, as the proxy will help in accessing the site a lot faster, especially if it is stored in cache.
  • Another reason for using proxies is to overcome local blackouts and watch your favorite sporting events online, without any hindrances.
  • People today want objective information, but targeted online marketing makes it very difficult. For instance, CNN provides different news stories to people based on their geographic location. YouTube recommends videos based on location and past viewing history. To by pass such targeting people use proxies.

Distorting proxy

As the name suggests, a distorting proxy modifies or hides your IP address which stops target servers form obtaining your IP address. Again, such proxy server prevents hackers from gaining access to your search history and other information. Even though such proxies help in maintaining privacy, others can see whether you are using a proxy server or not.

Transparent proxy

Transparent proxy is quite different from both the proxy servers mentioned above because it does not hide the client information. The servers are capable of caching websites but are unable to provide any anonymity. Such proxies are very common in business organizations to stop acceptable use policy. Because there is no browser configuration required, it helps in reducing the burden on the administration.

In certain countries, internet service providers (ISPs) use transparent proxies for saving upstream bandwidth by caching sites. Such practices are usually adopted in countries,, especially island nations, where bandwidth is limited.

Proxy servers that provide huge anonymity

These servers provide the anonymity in a manner similar to anonymous proxy servers as they do not provide the correct IP address through headers. A high anonymity proxy server includes REMOTE_ADDR header along with the client IP address, which gives the impression that the client and proxy server are the same. So, no one gets to know about your IP address and your browsing information is also safe.

Reverse proxy

You can technically call Reverse proxy a proxy server, however there are no local policies enforced. Such proxies are mostly used for passing requests to the web through a firewall, which is isolated using private networks. Reverse proxy servers are used mainly when you do not want the client system to gain unmonitored access to content residing on isolated servers.

Essentially, proxies are used for keeping your internet browsing anonymous, and they can be used in a number of ways. So, you should choose your proxy server depending upon what your needs are.

Categories: Proxy Servers

How Does Censorship Work?

April 10, 2012 Leave a comment

One question we get a lot is exactly how does censorship work.  The answer is, of course, that there are a multitude of types of censorship but that basically fall into a couple of main categories – Content Provider Censorship and Service Provider Censorship.  Both of these types of censorship utilize your location to enforce censorship rules.

To understand the location part, you should first know that your IP address is used to determine where you are in the world to everybody outside of your service provider.  A service provider – in the States it would be companies like Comcast, Verizon, etc… – are those companies that provide your Internet connection.  When your computer connects to the Internet it broadcasts an IP address which is a number that uniquely identifies your computer or network to the world.  If you have a bunch of computers all going through a common router then the router would likely broadcast a single IP address for all of your computers.  To figure out your IP address, go to http://whatismyipaddress.com/

IP addresses are not randomly assigned, rather each country has a set of IP addresses assigned to it – check out this site for some country ranges.  Each country, in turn, disseminates those IP addresses out to its regions then cities and then specific locations.  Using this system, IP addresses can be tied directly to a given city or region without much trouble and, depending on your country, to specific physical addresses.  In fact this is often how hackers, illegal porn operators and spam generating people are tracked and shut down.  It is also how many content providers determine who can receive their content.

When you try to visit a given website, your IP address is sent with you and this allows that website to determine where you physically reside.  Thus the NFL, NBA or MLB might be blacking out the local game in your city and, based on your IP address, they will block your access to that content – Content Provider Censorship.  In England, the BBC will only show its TV programming to IP addresses that reside within its borders.  Most U.S. content providers also restrict content in this manner and U.S. banks will immediately shutdown online access to IP addresses outside of the U.S. – even if you are 1 mile inside Canada for instance.

In these cases, the way around the block is to change your location…and you do that by changing your IP address.  So how can you do that?  The answer is to use a proxy server which is a special computer that will take a request for web content from you, grab that content on your behalf and send the content back to you.  A good proxy will use its IP address when sending out the request and if you find a proxy in the right location, the content provider will not block the request.  Sounds great but the reality is that some proxies do really bad things, others are useless and current proxy users often struggle to make anything work.  To learn more please read our page about the Reality of Using Proxies.

On the other side, your service provider does not need your IP address to know where you are and, in fact, they know exactly who you are in most cases.  Sure you can go to a local coffee shop but the cafe still has a provider and that provider knows the cafe’s exact location.  The most well-known examples of this type of Service Provider Censorship are the Great Firewall of China and the Middle East countries that shut down communications during the Arab Spring but the truth is that all countries censor and block content.  Check out the latest Google Transparency Report to learn more.

Again the solution here is to find a way to retrieve the content outside of your service provider and have that content sent back to you in an invisible manner.  Proxies servers work great here as well – if you can find a trustworthy option – and yet a different challenge occurs in this regard.  Suppose you live in a location where access to Facebook is blocked so going to http://www.facebook.com gets shut down.  So you find a viable proxy (not easy) and you send your request to that proxy – http://mynewproxy.com – and through that proxy you get access to Facebook.  This works and is how people overcome service provider censorship.

The problem is that you and 20,000 of your friends all use the same URL – http://mynewproxy.com – and your service provider, who is monitoring traffic at a global level, sees a large amount of traffic going to http://mynewproxy.com so they check it out, see it is a proxy and then shut down access to that URL as well.  This process occurs constantly and even if you find a useful proxy, using most methods out there, it is only a matter of time before your access will again be blocked.

So what can you do?  Well IP Ghoster Local will provide a crucial first step in truly overcoming censorship.  Instead of using individual proxies or one of the many providers out there with a very limited set of proxy servers, IP Ghoster Local will enable you to connect to millions of proxies from all over the world.  In fact we have so many options that we randomly switch proxies within your selected region to further hide your online presence.  Now instead of you and your 20,000 friends going to one URL, you will be able to go to 20,000 different proxies.  Even if one is blocked, we can switch you to another safe, verified proxy server without interrupting your online experience.

By enabling you to choose your location and using a large number of proxy options we truly overcome censorship in a completely transparent manner.  IP Ghoster Local will launch in May and we invite you to check us out with a free trial.  Have fun ghosting!

 

Categories: Our Products

Protecting Your Website

April 5, 2012 Leave a comment

There are so many forms of censorship online and things like the new NSA Spy Center certainly have people concerned about their privacy.  That said, a couple of friends recently brought a completely different issue up to me focusing on protecting their website.

Sure news events such as SOPA are scary and one friend wanted to know what he could do if the government shut down his site.  Another friend, along these same lines, sent me the following article – http://www.sovereignman.com/personal-privacy/why-you-want-an-offshore-email-account/ – which provides details on how a bank forced Google to shut down an innocent user’s GMail account.  That user did nothing wrong – the bank sent him some confidential information by accident – and yet the account was, and still is, offline and there is nothing that user can do.

Answers to these types of questions revolve around moving your hosting outside of the United States but things are not always so easy.  Focusing first just on website hosting, there are some rather reputable providers out there such as http://gandi.net in India and http://joker.com in Switzerland.  That stated, many of the others are going to be worse than anything a U.S.-based provider will ever do to you.  Many providers will hack your site, use your information however they want and/or drop your site for no apparent reason.  A few years ago there was a common scam wherein certain providers would hold your domain hostage in return for more money.

International providers like Rackspace are great for distribution but they are U.S.-based companies and thus will shut you down instantly based on the whim of the U.S. government.

The problems with overseas providers go further as countries such as France are actually much more stringent than the U.S. and they have no limits on powers or abilities to shut down your site.  Rules in those countries tend to make SOPA look like child’s play.  Of course, the U.S never wants to be outdone completely and they do things that are frankly shocking.  Check out this article and read about how the U.S. shutdown a non-U.S. citizen’s website that was targeting Europeans and locked down his registrar so he can never move his domain.  This guy’s only fault was the fact that he registered with a U.S.-based registrar.

You also need to be very aware of the domain extension you utilize.  For example most .net ending are controlled by the U.S. Department of Commerce and can be shutdown no matter where you are registered.  If you are going through an overseas provider then you need to be very aware of what extensions offer real protection.  Fortunately the reputable providers can help you figure that out.  While I have never completed an exhaustive review, I have found that countries that are more open in general tend to have more consumer-friendly registrars and I have found that the more anti-U.S. the country is, the more resilient to U.S. sanctions the registrar becomes.  Check local laws in a given country first of course as, again, many countries are very far behind the U.S. in terms of openness and freedom of speech online.

Moving onto email, online app hosting, etc…  If you are using Google to host your domain then you are subject to the Patriot Act, U.S. censorship, etc…  Now most people think this is not an issue…until a bank sends you their confidential information by mistake…but your options here are just not as good.  The first level of defense is to switch to a registrar as described previously and the good ones will also host your email.  While that might sound great, remember that almost all hosted email providers store your email internally.  Thus, is forced far enough, they will divulge all of your emails and that might not be what you want.  Also, things like online calendars and apps are hard to find outside of the mainstream and certainly very few registrars offer anything along these lines.

So what can you do?

Well the next level is to host your own email server and/or applications using a suite such as Smarter Tools which provides many of the features you would have through GMail.  In this case, you would register your domain somewhere safe, obtain a Virtual Private Server or Cloud Server, purchase and install Smarter Tools, setup your DNS as per Smarter Tools’ step-by-step guide and you are set.

Not so easy, huh?

Again, everything is a challenge and that is the point.  If you are willing to put in the time – and finding a reputable/reliable VPS/Cloud Server provider outside of the U.S. can be daunting – you can completely control your email and domain.  I would recommend countries such as Iceland (which essentially thumbs their collective nose at the world), Russia, Brazil or the Ukraine for hosting but BE CAREFUL as they are many more hacks out there than reliable options.  Unfortunately, the best non-U.S. options are based in U.S.-friendly countries which are often no better than just staying in the U.S.

Finally, if you are going down this path of hosting your own server, then encrypt, encrypt, encrypt.  There are numerous options that you can install of your VPS/Cloud Server that will encrypt everything using a key only you know.

You do not need to go crazy, a great simple option is https://scrambls.com/ which auto-encrypts anything you send online in a very ingenious manner that protects your content from anybody outside of your intended audience.  Store that Google – for all the good it will do for you!

Finally, I believe privacy is a huge issue that will become more and more prevalent over time – you should own and control your information online.  That said, if you are not doing anything nefarious then the government has better things to do than watch your every move.  Sure they can record everything you do online but the government has been invading your privacy through your cell phone for years and it probably has yet to negatively impact your life.

The question is how prepared you should be and what you can do to mitigate the negative impacts when the government mistakenly or purposely takes you out.  I have provided some options here and IP Ghoster will provide some of the most cutting edge communication security tools you have ever seen, but the answer comes back to you.  How much is your privacy worth to you and how far are you willing to go to protect your data?

Categories: Our Products