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What Is HTTP Proxy?

What is the Meaning of HTTP?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-level protocol used to enable file exchange on the World Wide Web. HTTP appears at the start of every Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or web address on the internet. Designed to make the web faster and more efficient, it operates over the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and Google’s QUIC protocol. 

HTTP enables web browsers to send requests and communicate with web servers. The HTTP concept was proposed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web. The original version, HTTP/1.0, was stateless and executed each client request independently. This means once a transaction is complete, the connection between the server and the browser is terminated. It has increased in sophistication since, with the most recent version, HTTP/3, relying on the QUIC protocol.

HTTP does not have inherent security measures, so from 2010 onwards, websites have used HTTP Secure (HTTPS). HTTPS adds the secure sockets layer (SSL) protocol to HTTP to encrypt browser and server communication.

What is the Meaning of Proxy?

Proxy refers to someone authorized to carry out an action on behalf of someone else, and proxy servers deliver this in the online world. A proxy server acts as a gateway between users and the internet and prevents access to anyone outside the network. Regular internet access via a web browser enables users to connect directly with websites. But a proxy acts as an intermediary, which communicates with webpages on users’ behalf.

When computers connect to the internet, they use an IP address that marks outgoing data with a return address. Likewise, a proxy—either a private or open proxy—acts as another computer on the internet with its own IP address. A user’s browser connects to the proxy, which forwards the traffic to the website they are visiting, receives the response, and sends it back to the user.

HTTP Proxy Meaning: An Overview

An HTTP proxy acts as a high-performance content filter on traffic received by an HTTP client and HTTP server. The HTTP proxy protocol routes client requests from web browsers to the internet and supports rapid data caching. Any traffic the server processes will appear from the proxy’s IP address rather than the user’s.

How Does HTTP Proxy Work?

As cybersecurity threats increase in sophistication and volume, businesses and users need tools to keep them safe online. HTTP proxy servers examine web traffic to identify and block malicious activity or content, making them a highly effective option for filtering out suspicious activity.

A good HTTP proxy example is one that scrutinizes the source of web traffic before allowing it to reach internal web clients. This reduces the chances of harmful content reaching corporate networks and avoids serious cyber events like buffer overflow attacks. An HTTP proxy server can also be customized to create rules depending on businesses’ specific requirements.

HTTP Proxy Benefits and Limitations

HTTP proxy servers offer many uses, including a wide range of security benefits. They enable users to hide their IP addresses to anonymize browsing activity and can act as a tunnel or network link that provides devices with restricted access to networks.

HTTP proxies are helpful for internet users who want to hide their identity online, access prohibited websites, or enforce access policies on specific websites. An HTTP proxy helps save vast amounts of bandwidth because it caches files and webpages, which can also reduce the number of ads that users receive. 

However, data caching can lead to information misuse, particularly if the cache is hacked, as it stores users’ data and login credentials. Other limitations of HTTP proxy usage include:

  1. Potential compatibility and configuration issues with local networks
  2. Cost of setting up and maintaining the proxy server

How To Use HTTP Proxy for Enterprise Security

One of the biggest benefits of using an HTTP proxy is to protect user data and browsing activity. Here’s how to use an HTTP proxy for enterprise purposes:

Privacy

An HTTP proxy enables businesses and users to hide their real IP addresses, ensuring privacy and preventing anyone from snooping on their activity.

Protezione

HTTP proxies help businesses detect and block suspicious traffic, protecting web servers from external cyberattacks. Companies can also add an HTTP proxy on top of their public web server to prevent users from storing unauthorized files on their servers.

Content Restrictions

Enterprises can use an HTTP proxy to restrict the type of content entering their networks based on the source domain, pathname, file name, or URL extension. An HTTP proxy's caching abilities reduce the number of ads that users receive, enabling organizations to access ad-heavy sites, such as news websites.

Enhancing Connection Speeds

HTTP proxies enable simultaneous access to the same connection, making it an effective tool for large organizations. 

Bypassing Internet Filtering

HTTP proxies can be used to bypass internet filtering and website restrictions. This enables users to avoid security controls and filters that block access to prohibited websites. HTTP proxies are also useful for web crawling and web scraping

How Fortinet Can Help?

Fortinet empowers businesses to protect users against cyberattacks and malicious activity through FortiProxy, an enterprise-grade, secure web proxy. FortiProxy combines leading techniques—such as advanced threat protection, antivirus, data loss prevention, Domain Name System (DNS) filtering, intrusion prevention, and web filtering—to effectively prevent unauthorized traffic from reaching corporate networks. Furthermore, FortiProxy can reduce bandwidth demands. 

Fortinet also enables HTTP proxy usage through its next-generation firewalls and the FortiGate VPN solution.

FAQs

Do I need an HTTP proxy?

An HTTP proxy is helpful for anyone who wants to hide their IP address from the wider internet. The proxy acts as an intermediary between a user’s computer and the websites they visit to ensure a secure and private connection.

How do I get an HTTP proxy?

Proxy settings are turned off by default but can be enabled in your computer’s network, Wi-Fi settings, or your web browser's settings.

How do I configure an HTTP proxy?

HTTP proxies can be configured in your device’s network settings. For example, on a Windows device, navigate to the Network & Internet menu, click on Proxy, and configure the settings. Likewise, on an Apple device, navigate to System Preferences, select the type of network, then click Advanced and Proxies to open up a list of settings. Popular web browsers all offer various options for configuring proxies within their Settings menus.