There’s no doubt that proxies are changing, even during the lifetime of this website there have been significant developments. Over the years the supply of professional proxy and VPN services has escalated due to certain specific requirements that many people have. The biggest driver by far has been the need for privacy and anonymity although surprisingly from very different type of individuals.
The basic premise of a proxy server used across the internet is to act as a buffer between the client computer and the web resource it’s connecting to. By sitting between the two sides of the network connection, the proxy can shield the location and identity of the host computer. There’s all sorts of people who use them, from political activists living in authoritarian states to internet marketers who simply need to run multiple identities online.
The requirements will vary depending on what you’re trying to achieve. For example a basic proxy will rarely be sufficient for most tasks anymore, whereas there would have been no problem ten years ago using these for most tasks. Now there’s a problem with using the basic servers available from the proxy market primarily because most sites will block any type of data scraping session. That simple web scraping solution installed on your site to bring in data from other sources needs more protection in 2021. Some sites even have installed machine learning algorithms to detect when proxies are used to access their web data directly or via web scraping tools. Much of this detection focus is on the IP addresses themselves, which is why so many proxy services are moving away from traditional data center IP addresses.
If you’re worried about people eavesdropping on your connection and discovering your identity then certainly you’d also be wise to consider a level of encryption too. A proxy with a layer of encryption is effectively a VPN service (Virtual Private Network). For other people what’s much more important is the IP address assigned to the proxy server rather than hiding the exact connection information itself. This is because a primary driver for most commercial and data science tasks is not complete anonymity but to mimic multiple, ordinary home users.
Don’t Be Yourself Use Multiple Identities and Residential Proxies
People and businesses who operate online often need the ability to create and operate multiple digital identities. This could be for a variety of reasons including things like research, multiple scaping sessions or e-commerce. Unfortunately this isn’t really possible if you try and do this through a single network location like your office or home PC. The issue is that without using something like a proxy you’ll be locked into a single IP address which is located in a specific location. So a marketing company operating from Paris would find it very difficult to place an advert on a USA located site like the regionally split Craigslist.
This is where proxies come in and importantly the ability to switch or rotate the IP addresses that are assigned to your connection automatically. The correctly configured proxy can allow you to have multiple identities all over the world without ever leaving your PC. Without them you’d have to rack up the air miles travelling all over the world.
It opens up a myriad of options for all sorts of people. Millions of people for instance use a proxy/VPN server to watch TV that is normally blocked. As we speak there are thousands of people watching the BBC from Spain online something that is technically not supposed to be possible. All they do is hide their Spanish IP address by using a proxy server based in the UK which unlocks all the UK TV channels without a problem.
Many online entrepreneurs use proxies to operate digital identities across the world. By switching their IP addresses to match the target countries, they don’t need remote offices or to keep travelling for their data gathering. Investing in a rotating proxy servers allow firms to target global markets from anywhere in the world. They use them to run things like multiple social media accounts, data extraction tools – being able to collect data without the risk of detection and being blocked. There are lots of people running huge businesses on eBay and Craigslist simply by virtue of multiple accounts through these next gen residential proxies. With the right account, decent proxy management you can mimic a huge network presence from a single desktop at home.
Only the Next Generation Residential Proxies Keep You Hidden
There are issues though, with the traditional, standard proxies based in datacenters that we’ve all been using for years. This is due to the detection systems that many websites use in order to block the use of proxies. This is done for a variety of reasons, but especially to restrict access to international or duplicate connections. For example many internet marketers operate hundreds of social media accounts – a practice not popular with some of the platforms. A popular platform for marketers – Instagram restrict access or disable people’s accounts if they try and run even a couple of accounts from the same connection. They are even able to detect some proxies primarily based on their IP address ranges. Combined with sophisticated AI powered dynamic fingerprinting, it’s become much more difficult to hide and manage duplicate accounts. It’s very simple for a web site to instigate IP blocking against any suspected account of address originating from a commercially registered address.
With today’s machine learning technology, websites are able to identify a non-home user by the type of IP address they are using. Most addresses are classified as commercial or residential ranges, depending on where they are registered. Instagram will flag too many connections from commercial IP addresses, whereas those assigned by ISPs are normally treated much more favourably. Which is why you’ll find most people have switched to using residential proxies especially for commercial online activities. Initially it was difficult to find a proxy service provider who offered a residential proxy platform, fortunately this situation is changing.
The latest generation of next gen residential proxies actually use different IP address ranges. They specialize in routing their proxies through residential IP addresses, which are the same addresses assigned by ISPs to home users through their internet connections. These residential proxies look like human users and are much less likely to be identified as originating from proxies. E commerce sites typically will restrict access to any non-residential addresses in order to combat fraud.
Standard residential proxies though are hard to set up because of the difficulty in obtaining genuine residential IP addresses. They are not available as widely as datacenter IP addresses although there are numerous innovative methods to obtain access to them. For example Luminati have established a huge global network of residential addresses through individual home connections. In exchange for using tools, games and software the company can route traffic securely through these home connections. Many of the next gen residential proxies have been created like this using shared or borrowed home connections.
Other developments include gaining access to other sources of addresses which are difficult to identify as commercial connections. One example is to route traffic through mobile gateways and use the addresses normally assigned to our mobile devices. These are called mobile proxies which use address ranges which are used to allow network connectivity to our mobile phones and other devices. These are extremely difficult to detect and also it’s not really feasible to block access as they are so dynamic switching between users as they move around.
Obviously these IP addresses are very much in demand, however there also difficult to obtain so only a few providers offer them. One of the biggest providers is a company called Luminati who have the largest network of residential IP addresses and also a substantial network of mobile IPs too.
The trouble with many definitions and descriptions with regards proxy servers is that there are very few standards. The time has passed when you could just browse through proxy lists searching for things like a UK or United States proxy server. Many of these simply don’t work anymore any sense of anonymity ruined because they don’t actually hide your real IP address or header information when you use them.
Many providers simply tag their own descriptions or opinions onto a convenient title. Some of the favourites are descriptions like anonymous and elite which you’ll often find used to explain the security level of a service. Obviously you would expect an elite proxy to provide a high level of both anonymity and security, however that’s not always the case.
What is an Elite Proxy ?
Don’t be fooled by the descriptions used online. There’s hundreds of proxy list web sites which label proxies as elite with the very minimum level of security. Sure they’ll label them secure and even group them by proxy country, but they carry all sort of risks to your computer and data. Most of these sites are just trying to sell a service, that elite proxy switcher will most often just switch through insecure free proxies it finds online. Also that web page offering a free portal to hundreds of anonymity proxies is very unlikely to be accurate. Setting up, maintaining and using a proxy and keeping it secure requires technical expertise, time and money – i.e. so it won’t be available for nothing or be supported by a few adverts.
These proxy descriptions are often used completely inappropriately, substituted or simply swapped around. Using them to hide your real IP address is not a good idea, as many of them simply don’t work properly. Calling something elite doesn’t make it so!
However there are some fairly standard definitions of these terms which are generally accepted by the majority of the IT community. So whether you’re looking for a basic HTTP proxy or just something to supplement HTTPS then it’s worth reading the below terms.
Here’s the three based standards which you will find referenced the most.
There are many other definitions but these are fairly standard and you’ll find them used by most of the serious proxy service providers and of course in thousands of lists available on the internet. It’s worth learning these terms and checking them against the proxy provider you choose. If they don’t know what you’re talking, evade the questions then move onto another company.
So here’s the three basic types of proxies –
The standard definition of a transparent proxy is a basic proxy which does not alter user information in any way. The proxy will simply pass the information along without modifying or hiding it in any way. The important factor to remember with regards security is that a transparent server will not hide the original IP address in any way.
Transparent proxies are able to transmit all standard HTTP traffic and the user does not need to make any modifications at all. There’s no real anonymity or security aspect to using these proxies, in fact they’re generally used to simply speed up access or act as a buffer in internal networks to internet access.
Many firms install them in their DMZ to create a barrier between desktop clients and the internet in general. It allows a single point where traffic can be monitored and checked for viruses without having to check each individual PC. All the relevant headers will transmitted including the following –
REMOTE_ADDR – includes the proxy IP
HTTP_VIA – includes the proxy software being used
HTTP_X_FORWARDER_FOR – includes client IP address
With regards to caching functionality, an anonymous proxy has the same functionality as the transparent server above. The major difference as suggested by the name is of course the ability to provide a level of anonymity to the client and proxy connection. This group probably represent the most common type of proxies that are available online.
The anonymous proxy server will attempt to forward the same headers –
However the true information will not be included in these fields, which will either be null or filled in with incorrect information depending on configuration.
So that just leaves us with the last and most frequently abused category, that of elite proxies. It is described as the highest level of security and potentially gives the most privacy and anonymity online. There are specific requirements but the overall concept is that an elite proxy will be undetectable and provide no traces of a proxy being used.
Also the real ‘client IP address’ should not be visible at all, this is essential in providing anonymity. If your actual IP address is visible this would negate all anonymity as it’s individually assigned to your internet connection especially if you’re using a home connection.
In this scenario the above headers are not forwarded at all, which is essential otherwise it would be evident that a proxy was being used. Any server specifically designed for a certain purpose like these which are used for Ticketmaster are likely to be configured as elite level proxies.
How Can I Get a Free Proxy
There are literally thousands of proxy services listed on many free proxy list pages which are little more than a basic install on shared hosting. They can usually be used for free but offer no internet privacy at all and the IP addresses they use will almost certainly be on most internet blacklists. If you need them as a country filter or with social networks and accounts then be aware that not only won’t they protect your anonymity there’s a real risk that your data and identity is being monitored and harvested too.
Many of the servers on these lists aren’t even running proxy servers intentionally, they’re hacked or compromised servers which have been picked up by the proxy scraping scripts that build these lists. Often hackers install the proxy software in order to infect computers or your web browser. They don’t generally work even on the most basic tasks anymore like bypassing things like the UK TV block on sites like BBC iPlayer.
Even if you only use them in a limited manner, there’s a real risk that your data could be intercepted. Many of them redirect your web browser to infected websites where you could end up losing your credit card details or other personal information.
Choosing a Safe and Secure High Anonymity Proxy
Using an elite proxy is the most advanced degree of security as it provides the best protection and privacy on the Internet. If privacy is your core concern you should definitely be looking at elite level proxies like the ones supplied by the premium proxy providers. They can supply you with working proxies which are safe to use and hide the fact evidence of the proxy connection too. Many tasks now also require residential IP addresses too, some firms even supply proxy rotation systems which can switch as your requirements change.
If you want to take a look at a company that is well respected and will enable you to both IP hide your location and keep your data secure then take a look at these two companies –
Luminati – the world’s largest proxy service providers. Not the cheapest but guaranteed security and anonymity – a quality service which you can configure yourself using their proxy manager.
IPBurger – company who I’ve used for internet marketing and eBay. One of the few companies able to provide specific geo targeting of their proxies which is essential for many services.
Many people use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) for security reasons, primarily because they create a secure, encrypted tunnel across the open architecture of the internet. Many firms use them as a secure method of allowing remote users to access corporate file servers and email systems from anywhere in the world. It has to be said that if you travel for any length of time, it’s probably one of the smartest moves you can make for keeping your data secure.
However there is another use of VPNs and it’s arguably becoming the primary reason and that’s to bypass internet censorship and filtering. This is a huge problem and one that you will find exists on many levels. At a country level – filtering used to be relatively rare, with only places like China, Iran and North Korea who did any serious censorship.
However now there’s rarely a country in the world that doesn’t censor their internet feeds to some extent. In many countries there are literally hundreds of thousands of web pages that are not accessible due to some sort of filtering. Countries like Turkey enforce their religious beliefs by blocking all sorts of sites including women and gay rights web sites.
On another level companies and corporations are increasingly blocking access mainly as a profit maximization technique. What happens in this case is that access is selectively restricted based on your physical location. This means you might find that parts of a web site are only accessible in particular countries and you’ll be blocked if you’re actually outside those locations. So if you’ve tried to watch Hulu from outside the US then you’ll have seen these blocks and similarly try and access the BBC from outside the UK and the same thing will happen.
In this post we’re going to focus on using a VPN to unblock BBC iPlayer although the principles apply to almost any blocked content online. Once you’re comfortable using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer you’ll find yourself using it more and more to access other sites and TV shows.
The BBC iPlayer VPN Workaround Still Works in 2020
What’s more they’re becoming very easy to use. A simple VPN program in your task bar allows you to bypass pretty much all blocks online, whenever you need. That includes both commercial and political filtering and lets you watch most entertainment channels including British TV. This is because the website you visit only sees the IP address and location of the VPN server not your real one. So if you’re connected to a VPN in the right country you can access whatever you like including allowing you to access BBC iPlayer anywhere in the world.
Indeed, millions watch the BBC from all over the world using a simple VPN to hide their location. If you go to any expat community you’ll find lots of VPNs which still work with BBC iPlayer. Indeed the BBC iPlayer VPN workaround is well known. Unfortunately things are beginning to change and the technology war between the web site and the VPN service providers has started to escalate.
This is significant as up until this point, the BBC have made very minimal effort to restrict the use of these programs. Many millions used them routinely, connecting to UK servers to watch British TV online wherever they happened to be. It’s no understatement that there was some element of panic when it was initially discovered BBC iPlayer not working! Many people had been using their favorite VPNs for lots of streaming services. It affected lots of people using all sorts of VPN providers. A friend of mine was upset when he found Express VPN had stopped being able to stream BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and other UK TV channels too.
We’re Still Watching BBC iPlayer Abroad, You Can Too
There is still some hope though, mainly because it is still extremely difficult to completely block access to VPNs completely. Also companies involved in this tactic tend to make aggressive noises initially then stop, it looks like BBC iPlayer blocking VPN might be one of them, simply because of the cost and effort it involves. The Chinese after all have not yet succeeded in completely blocking them through their infamous firewall. The reality is that although many of these media companies can block access through VPNs it is actually quite a difficult process which involves a lot of manual intervention. The best VPNs actually still work fine for unblocking BBC iPlayer.
A well configured VPN is still pretty much undetectable, so they instead focus on identifying IP addresses with multiple concurrent connections. This is very time consuming and also unreliable as often legitimate proxies in various establishments will look pretty much identical. It’s even harder to identify people accessing through other methods like the BBC iPlayer app too. They still actively do block though, and you’ll find BBC iPlayer only works with the better VPNs who are able to rotate addresses and don’t stick everyone on a few dedicated IP addresses which never change.
If a VPN provider has plenty of servers in the UK and ensures that the IP addresses are rotated regularly then you won’t have a problem. For instance Nord VPN have created a set of servers specifically for being able to stream BBC iPlayer.
It’s worth checking the latest servers but currently these are the BBC optimized VPN servers to use – UK# 1840-1847, 1850-1863, 1865, 1869, 1873, 1875-1878, 1880-1881, 1900-1901, 1903-1904, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919-1920.
The VPN is still one of the most useful internet tools especially for travellers, holiday makers and expats. The only company which has managed to block the majority of access is the media streaming giant Netflix. What this company has done is to restrict access from any server with a commercially registered IP address. This blocked a huge proportion (over 95%) of VPN services with only a few having the ability to use residential addresses. You can read about one company that has bypassed this issue here – supplying Netflix IP addresses. It is unclear whether other companies will follow suit to this method or they are simply evaluating the success of the method.