Proxy server

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Proxy server is a server which services the requests of its clients by forwarding requests to other servers.

Contents

Overview

Proxy servers are widely used by organizations and individuals for different purposes:

  • Internet sharing (like NAT);
  • Traffic compression;
  • Accelerating service requests by retrieving content from cache;
  • and many others.

Proxy servers are commonly used by individuals who wish to violate network policies.

  • In China, proxy servers are commonly used by individuals to get around national connectivity policies. (User A can't reach website Z, but A can reach proxy server P which can reach website Z).
  • Criminals frequently use proxy servers to hide the origin of their connections (User A connects to website Z through proxy server P; the packets appear to come from P, and not A).

HTTP proxies

These proxy servers are using HTTP.

Example request (direct; with relative URI):

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: cryptome.org
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en; rv:1.9.0.3) Gecko/20080528 Epiphany/2.22 Firefox/3.0
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 300
Connection: keep-alive
If-Modified-Since: Tue, 14 Oct 2008 13:59:19 GMT
If-None-Match: "e01922-62e9-45937059ec2de"
Cache-Control: max-age=0

Example request (using proxy; with absolute URI):

GET http://cryptome.org/ HTTP/1.1
Host: cryptome.org
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en; rv:1.9.0.3) Gecko/20080528 Epiphany/2.22 Firefox/3.0
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 300
Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
If-Modified-Since: Tue, 14 Oct 2008 13:59:19 GMT
If-None-Match: "e01922-62e9-45937059ec2de"
Cache-Control: max-age=0

Note: this HTTP request was intercepted on the way to proxy server.

According to RFC 2068 (section 5.1.2):

The absoluteURI form is required when the request is being made to a proxy.

Note: proxy server will convert absolute URI to relative URI.

HTTPS proxies

The same as above, but using HTTPS (HTTP over SSL/TLS).

Sometimes HTTP proxies that support CONNECT method are called "HTTPS proxies". These HTTP proxies can tunnel almost every TCP-based protocol.

Example request:

CONNECT home.netscape.com:443 HTTP/1.0
User-agent: Mozilla/1.1N 

SOCKS proxies

SOCKS is an Internet protocol that allows client-server applications to transparently use the services of a network firewall.

Web proxies (CGI proxies)

These are web sites that allow a user to access a site through them. They generally use PHP or CGI to implement the proxy functionality.

Example GET request from Anonymouse (to HTTP server):

GET / HTTP/1.0
Host: [scrubbed]:8080
User-Agent: http://Anonymouse.org/ (Unix)
Connection: keep-alive

Example GET request from HideMyAss.com:

GET / HTTP/1.0
Host: [scrubbed]:8080
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en; rv:1.9.0.3) Gecko/20080528 Epiphany/2.22 Firefox/3.0
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8

Proxy detection

Server-side