Practical Ecommerce

Does A Proxy Server Keep Me Anonymous On The Internet?

Does a proxy server keep me anonymous on the Internet? No. And that is that.

Unless you are a very talented hacker, there is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet. A common misconception about anonymous is that they allow you to surf the Internet and do whatever you want without anyone being able to trace you. Again, this is a misconception. “Anonymous” takes on various levels of meaning when it comes to the Internet.

What’s a proxy server?

A proxy server is a server that retrieves web pages for you, providing only its own identity to the sites it visits. Examples of proxy servers are Ninjaproxy.com, Proxyblind.org, and Proxify.com. Most proxy servers that are available for public use simply allow you to surf websites on the Internet without having your browser type, IP address and other header information sent to the website you are viewing. Please don’t mistake this to mean that there is not a link between you and that website. It simply means the website itself does not receive this information because the proxy server blocks it. However, all of that information is (usually) collected by the proxy server, along with the requests you made through their proxy.

So in the end, the websites you visit will not be able to determine that your IP address has visited their site, which to some is considered an anonymous web excursion. They will only know the proxy server was there, which raises another area of caution. Many sites will deny access to servers they know to be proxy servers, which could become a hassle when surfing the Internet.

If there is one lesson to take home as an average Internet user, it is that nobody is anonymous on the Internet, regardless of what anyone tells you.


Brian Getting
Brian Getting
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Comments ( 34 )

  1. Legacy User February 8, 2007 Reply

    You really should mention the Tor. Tor is software that creates a proxy to various Tor servers. These servers use cryptography to create forward secrecy between routers. Your information is bounced through a series of routers and finally is routed to its destination. The end connection only sees the last router information. The Tor network includes servers in many different countries, many of which have stricter privacy laws. For more information see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tor_(anonymity_network)

    – *Bryan*

  2. Legacy User February 10, 2007 Reply

    Can you comment on Privoxy?

    – *Craig*

  3. Legacy User February 24, 2007 Reply

    I don't think the ability to surf while staying unknown is what people looking for a proxy is really after, after all if your trying to stay unknown then you've something to hide. If you've something to hide, your probably breaking the law. I'm pretty sure proxy servers are useless if the host is using Java because I recall reading that Java tries to take the shortest possible route and not one planned out — i.e it will not necessarily go through the proxy. (Something like that don't quote me on it). The reason the majority want a proxy is to get through those filters (probably those naughty school children who don't realize they'll seriously regret messing around in school 5-10 year down the line when they can't get a job, or they can but it's a dead-end factory job because they got rubbish grades, because they wasted their time playing games or browsing myspace).

    – *Alex*

  4. Legacy User February 23, 2007 Reply

    I disagree with the assertion that there is no such thing as anonymity in web surfing. Anonymizer.com offers it. It is an originator of it, and it has never been breached. Its security suites include anti-pharming, anti-spam and anti-phishing capabilities. Definitely worth checking out.

    – *JimmyJackFunk21*

  5. Legacy User February 23, 2007 Reply

    I should probably clarify the difference between "privacy" and "anonymity" when it comes to browsing the Internet. There are many services that offer "private" browsing, such as those mentioned in the above comments. However, that is a very different thing from "anonymity." The ability to go online and do whatever you want without anyone finding out is a hard-earned skill.

    Keep in mind that, when it comes to making statements, I will usually air on the side of conservative to avoid liability issues. If you do something illegal online with the thought that a proxy server will shield you from prosecution, you are mistaken. That was simply my point.

    – *Brian Getting*

  6. Legacy User February 21, 2007 Reply

    Dear Mr. Getting, I would like to offer another response to the recent question in your Tech Support column about anonymizing proxy servers. Many websites are turning to a technology known as “geolocation” which makes it possible to know the geographic location of its website visitors – even those trying to hide behind proxy servers.
    Geolocation technology uses Internet infrastructure information to determine the geographic location of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses associated with Internet-connected devices. This can be used, for example, by online gambling sites to determine the location of would-be betters in order to comply with national, as well as local laws or by ecommerce sites to compare the bill-to and ship-to address with the buyer’s actual location to prevent fraud.
    Public-source geolocation data, widely available in the industry, can help identify the location of IP addresses at the country, state and city levels. However often the IP location is not necessarily equivalent to the actual location of the end user. In fact, in some cases the user could be connected from a continent thousands of miles away and leveraging an anonymizing proxy to obtain illegitimate access. My company Quova, Inc. has spent more six years analyzing IP location, determining which IP addresses are representative of user location and which require more scrutiny.
    There are more than 1.4 billion publicly routable IP addresses recorded in five major global registries. An IP address block might be associated with a major Internet backbone, ISP, large enterprise or a public institution. A given network block can then be sub-allocated, sometimes down to the individual IP address level, possibly to a location that is different than that which is listed in the registry. This is why simply using registry information to discern user location is inherently inaccurate. Many organizations operate on a multi-regional or multi-national scale.
    Although registry is an important piece of evidence that should be assessed, it truly is only part of the equation. Active sensing techniques and human reasoning must also be applied. Quova continuously monitors the Internet and captures terabytes of data that is fed into patented algorithms that are constantly monitored and improved by human analysts with years of domain knowledge. The data is distilled into geographic information about the IP address including continent, country, region, state and city. It also offers information for use in many other client applications including representative time zone, postal code and latitude/longitude information.
    Again, knowing the location of the IP address would be enough if the laws of network physics dictated that a user be in close proximity, but this isn’t the case. Many gateways by their nature offer a large geographic separation between the IP address and the end user. Some gateways can be considered deliberate methods for obscuring end user location depending on the application, such as anonymizing proxies. Others, such as international proxies, introduce a level of ambiguity that makes them risky for transactions. Quova addresses this issue by providing a data element called IP Routing Type and strongly advocates its use in compliance as well as fraud detection applications.
    Quova divides IP Routing Type information into 10 major values indicating the prevailing network characteristic of an IP address. For the purposes of online gaming, all of these IP Routing Types are important. In particular, Quova strongly cautions clients on Special Routing Types which are a subset of IP Routing Type. For best practices, transactions coming from IP addresses with Special Routing Types should be blocked and some or all of the remaining IP Routing Types should be blocked or flagged so that they are escalated to the next level of validation within a gaming compliance or fraud department.
    I would like the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further. I think this would make an excellent subject for a future article.

    Thank you.

    Kerry Langstaff
    Vice President, Marketing
    Quova, Inc.
    650-528-3715
    klangstaff@quova.com

    – *Kerry Langstaff*

  7. Legacy User February 28, 2007 Reply

    There's anonymity if you surf via someone else's wireless connection.

    – *Jeb*

  8. Legacy User March 12, 2007 Reply

    About those services that offer private browsing: how private or anonymous is one who surfs the web? Does the proxy keep a record of the person's ip address even though he/she uses the private service? Will the respective proxy give that kind of information to whoever wants it?

    – *anna*

  9. Legacy User March 25, 2007 Reply

    After interesting article from Brian, and, as one of the creators of already mentioned site Proxyblind.org, I would like to elaborate on the meaning of word "anonymous."

    Almost all connections made on the net through proxy servers can be traced back if they are logged by the servers and if admin decided to keep logs.

    If someone (for example, state authorities) decide to trace you back, he/she can contact the administrator of the proxy server and ask for information or simply seize the server to investigate.

    Then came in the game some very smart people who make it very difficult (do not want to say almost impossible) to trace using proxy chaining.

    What is proxy chaining? It is using a couple of proxy servers in chain:

    Your PC —> ISP —> proxy 1 —> socks 2 —> proxy 3 —> proxy 4 —> final destination site

    What is the point of chaining?

    The point is to use proxies from different countries before you reach your final destination. For example:

    proxy1(North Korea), socks2(China), proxy3(Africa), proxy4(Russia)

    and "tracer" will have very hard task to get back to PC 1.

    The log of final destination site (in our example above) can be seen as coming from Russia. If Russia (proxy4) is contacted from tracer then they will (and it is only if log is kept) say that it comes from Africa (proxy3).

    Then is needed to contact Africa (proxy3) etc…

    If the tracer comes so far that the investigation and the log lead to North Korea, then it will be probably end of whole process because of relation between N. Korea and rest of the world.

    Tracing is almost always possible if the log exists and being anonymous on Internet is almost impossible.

    However, there are many things that will make it difficult to trace you back and where
    being anonymous means real anonymous as chaining, using anonymous encryption connection where TOR is excellent example (I have no time and space to say something more about this great program and technology behind it), and I believe that development in future will give more advantages to "being anonymous" as it suppose to be.

    – *Deny*

  10. Legacy User April 7, 2007 Reply

    All I know, are, proxies are very profitable, and some kids use them to access myspace from school or unblock websites. :)

    – *Hanson*

  11. Legacy User April 30, 2007 Reply

    I'm interested in Internet anonymity because I'm involved with creating a website that criticizes jihadists and Islam. I'm curious about how much security and anonymity a proxy server can give me and my family from having our location discovered by jihadist hackers (there are a growing number of them). You say there is no real anonymity, because the proxy server, at least, usually gets your IP address. I suppose there are also other security breach possibilities. So is the idea that the Internet permits safe free speech then really an illusion? Are there no real refuges for Salman Rushdies and Theo Van Goghs, etc., except police protection? If so, that is very depressing…

    – *traeh nam*

  12. Legacy User May 14, 2007 Reply

    The original author is correct. The FBI regularly gets logs from Anonymizer.com and every other so call anonimty service. Search Google for "FBI" and "Anonymizer.com". Let's face it – police are here to look after us and fight crime, and pretty much everyone who wants anonymity is doing something wrong – so sites that run these dubious services will be well used to one of either (A) handing over logs, or (B) spending time in prison. You can pretty much guarantee that (B) doesn't occur, or else the sites would not exist for long.

    Almost every proxy in existence is *not* anonymous. The proxy software sends through your true IP address to the server.

    Proxies are widely abused for spamming and crime – as soon as someone puts one up and people start using it – it gets "taken down" very quickly – within 24 hours usually. Because of this – it's almost impossible to construct proxy chains, so the only people who do this are the hardcore hackers engaged in very serious crimes – which means that the proxies in these chains suffer even *shorter* lifespans.

    And that's not even *starting* on the hundred-and-one ways to get people's IP addresses by bypassing their proxies in the first place…

    – *FBI*

  13. Legacy User May 30, 2007 Reply

    I agree with Deny. Everyone in our school is in a computer class with no work to do and the school blocks some sites that are not school related; they even block proxies.

    – *Bob*

  14. Legacy User July 4, 2007 Reply

    so does Tor actually work to keep you, "more" anonymous?

    – *guest*

  15. Legacy User July 27, 2007 Reply

    I had a question, does ISP know which site you surf if you are surfing thru proxy? I know ISP can get log from proxy to find out that information what I want to know is if they can find out without getting the information from the proxy server?

    – *w*

  16. Legacy User November 2, 2007 Reply

    Someone give list of proxy websites.. stop this discussion.

    – *Michalle*

  17. Legacy User November 16, 2007 Reply

    A lot of the above comments are mis-informed. It is true that through the use of Tor some anonymity can be achieved; however the many servers that are utilized in the process do not encrypt. Thus, passwords, etc, can be stolen. A user hoping to utilize simple things like an email program or access a credit card account would be better to use simple encryption such as is already offered by most mainstream browsers and Internet Providers.

    Secondly, it should be stated that proxify, etc, do not entirely hide I.P. to the diligent hacker.

    What needs to be emphasized is that there are practical uses of proxies and network solutions such as Tor, however they do not match, for example, a government funded researcher doing work to, say, discover a terror threat. While it may be possible for people to "for all practical purposes" be anonymous, other attempts such as using Tor could do exactly the opposite.

    I hope this clears up some confusion.

    – *James*

  18. Legacy User January 9, 2008 Reply

    The person who doesn't want to be "followed " around on the NET by anyone-would do well to use someone else's resources to look around. Probably the "best" way. That said-I do NOT do that-but I do "Anonymize the ISP location when I "surf.")

    Not everyone who wants to look around without "saying" WHO they are is criminal! How Stupid that assertion really is. I am a housewife. Is THAT a criminal endeavor? Lol! I just happen to want to look around at some websites and NOT have them "spam" the hell out of me-etc., or divulge my really harmless hobbies.

    I do not look at anything except a particular bunch of ninnies who quite ludicrously persist in thinking they are potential Best-Seller Writers. I enjoy "popping" in to check out their latest pretentious offerings. (Sorry to disappoint! Definitely NOT a Criminal act).

    – *Mem Sahib*

  19. Legacy User May 9, 2008 Reply

    Is it there a way to find out if someone is using a proxy or not? Games do not allow to make multi accounts, but some people use proxy servers to change their IP. Is there a way to identify if one is using a proxy or not by their IP?

    – *xXatticus182Xx*

  20. Legacy User May 13, 2008 Reply

    How about if I ask my friend to open an account under his name, his credit card…and he allows me to use it (even from Hong Kong)…then we don't need to do some much right? Of course the thing required is 'trust'

    – *findingLHs*

  21. pcpartsplus July 28, 2008 Reply

    I can find you and your Ip no matter what you do ,easy you can’t hide any way any how no matter what prozy you use ,have never seen anbody be able to hide yet ,if you are try to send info and not let someone know where from

  22. scoobyd00 September 12, 2008 Reply

    Bollocks! Mr. Getting says its impossible to go anonymous on the web… Mr. FBI gent here claims the FBI knows all too. I say your both just out to stab society in the knees so they can’t get anywhere without the agencies and corporations knowing where your going and why. This is utter crap IMO. I’d like to see your "hundred-an-one" ways try and find out where I am. Here’s a hint: I’m not in Germany you pretentious SOBs. ; )

    Bryan an James know whats up. Tor networks are an amazing thing. Although there are Tor networks that will handle encryption to mask the path back to the original client PC. Try torproject.org. I don’t care whether you are trying to be anonymous for criminal purposes or otherwise. I use anonymity because I am not a slave to corporations or governments trying to collect, sell, or use any of my information for purposes I did not consent to.

  23. outtanames999 November 23, 2008 Reply

    There is a difference between browsing the net in a secure manner (https encryption so that data you send such as your name or credit card number cannot be grabbed by servers and routers on the way to the web site you are doing business with), browsing privately (so that your name is not known to the web sites you visit) and browsing anonymously (so that neither your name nor your location, e.g. ip address, are known to the web sites you visit).

    Before you can decide if a proxy server can help you you need to decide which type of browsing you are trying to achieve and then make sure your proxy service supports that type of browsing.

    But keep in mind that even if you use a proxy to visit a web site, if you then give that web site your name and a credit card number to make a purchase, that web site will know who you are. A proxy can hide your identity to servers along the route from your machine to the web site, but if your connection from your machine to the proxy server is not encrypted any servers in between your machine and the proxy can still grab the information you send. And as pointed out, if logs are kept, then records exist that document your browsing behavior.

    Also keep in mind that if the web site uses cookies and stores a user id in the cookie or if the web site keeps a log of your visits and your cookie id, then even if you visit from a different ip address every visit by using a proxy or use someone else’s wireless connection, the web site still might be able to identify all the various ip addresses you used over time and tie them all back to the cookie id on your machine. If you have provided the web site with your name and a credit card, then they will be able to associate all of those ip addresses with you.

    There are a lot of moving parts on the Internet and it is important to identify all of them if you seek any degree of anonymity.

    Also keep in mind that if you use the proxy connection to send email, then you may be leaving a trail of ip addresses that tie back to your email address. So if you browse a web site and send email from the same connection via the proxy, then you could be creating data that ties back to you.

    Be careful out there!

  24. David Caruso September 29, 2012 Reply

    thanks for this info. I just got some proxies servers for my scrapebox, good stuff to know. thanks

    http://www.carusoandcompany.com

  25. Zachary Sonicfast December 13, 2012 Reply

    Good thread. I would like to point out that Google and others are beginning to track people via hardware ID’s.

    TOR can keep you anonymous but you still have to be smart about it.

    For those who think they can track who I am and where I am are sadly mistaken.

    I paid cash for a laptop, use public wifi exclusively, and know how to change my mac address on demand. I can toss a cheap used laptop, get another one, and where would that leave the trackers? I am not dumb enough to reuse email addresses when I do that.

    About MAC addresses – this is one of the primary ways you can be tracked. It is a unique hardware address assigned to each device that connects to the internet.

    The reported MAC address can be easily spoofed to appear to be someone else’s and therefor anyone looking would only know that person and not you.

    With TOR you can select say Germany or even N Korea as an exit node. Both of those countries do not have to honor US information Subpoenas unless there is a treaty saying so. And do you think that N Korea will be that forthcoming?

    The only way the US court system will want to track you is if you were a terrorist or some sort of high criminal. Or if some dumbdumb wants to file a lawsuit against you. Strange as it may seem but civil courts have the same power as criminal courts. So don’t do anything that someone could sue you for either. Oh, and don’t use any public wifi near your home or anywhere you are regularly at.

    I use anonymous web surfing to hide my location from a STALKER, which is perfectly legal. FYI: if the courts or police can track you so can a private investigator. You have been warned.

    Another item of interest is to use an offshore email client, preferably one whose native language is not english. Those places rarely have treaties with the US and if they do it is generally a long expensive legal process to get the information. You could easily move on to someplace else.

    Most times I do not need to be that private. But I do need it for some things.

    It is difficult to hide from everybody but it can be done if you are smart enough and careful enough. But is it really worth it? Sometimes.

  26. Airproxy January 9, 2013 Reply

    There’s 4 types for proxy :

    Transparent Proxy – This type of proxy server identifies itself as a proxy server and also makes the original IP address available through the http headers. These are generally used for their ability to cache websites and do not effectively provide any anonymity to those who use them. However, the use of a transparent proxy will get you around simple IP bans. They are transparent in the terms that your IP address is exposed, not transparent in the terms that you do not know that you are using it (your system is not specifically configured to use it.)

    Anonymous Proxy – This type of proxy server indentifies itself as a proxy server, but does not make the original IP address available. This type of proxy server is detectable, but provides reasonable anonymity for most users.

    Distorting Proxy – This type of proxy server identifies itself as a proxy server, but make an incorrect original IP address available through the http headers.

    High Anonymity Proxy – I suggest this one http://airproxy82.net/ ! worked good for me

  27. Dubiaku March 20, 2013 Reply

    The ISP has access to all communications through your connection that is not encrypted, i.e., https or through a VPN.

    Anonymous is not the same as not being traceable. Any connection can be traced to the user, and it is naive to think that it can’t, or the knowledge of the internet is lacking. If you have a connection, it is easily traceable at that time. Later, routing logs can be used to follow the connection even months after it has been broken. Routing tables on each server and connection logs keep information about the path even if some along the way don’t.

    And many more methods of tracing have been developed, such as "internet triangulation" that can locate a person to nearly pinpoint accuracy. Sometimes a lot of footwork is involved, but after time, they will find people, as they have many very talented hackers already. Many others have been located – it also takes a while to make a case that will stand up in court after that, so they just watch them for a long time.

  28. Leon Kazan May 29, 2013 Reply

    I use proxies from http://www.proxybridge.com and it helps me to stay anonymous in the internet.

  29. zeppelin9898 June 29, 2013 Reply

    There are proxies that exist that do NOT keep records or logs of the IPs that use them. I know for a fact that if certain proxy servers were contacted to hand over addresses they would not be able to due to the fact that there is no recorded information, and the servers are located in a chain of different countries in different continents. No files/logs = no trace.

  30. Harrassed_By_Montreal_Police July 27, 2013 Reply

    Tor does NOT protect you in anyway!! I started to use the Tor Vidalia bundle since the Montreal Police department monitored all my previous emails and contacted EVERYBODY I communicated with to be their informant and saboteur. I’ve lost employment because of their endless harassment of co-workers.

    I’ve noticed that since the creation of new email accounts through Tor, they STILL have the means to intercept and monitor my emails, even though I’ve been making contacts with completely new people.

    I’m not doing anything illegal, yet they constantly badger and coerce everyone I’m in contact with to be one of their informants and saboteurs, this has gone on for 30 years.

    TOR OFFERS ABSOLUTELY NO PROTECTION, SO BE CAREFUL!!

  31. Svetlana Glagoleva August 7, 2013 Reply

    Try Freedomza VPN. It is guaranteed Anonymous. And really fast.

  32. Jack black December 2, 2013 Reply

    VPN service is the best way for anonymous online and full internet access, vpn connection hide your real IP address.. try this! with price list. vpn service

  33. marklatov April 23, 2014 Reply

    I can advise for reliable servers, which I use myself. With
    http://anonymous-proxy-server.net/ you can transfer fairly large
    amounts of data and usehttp://www.anonymize.net/ ofshorof. Who knows the best options (may be cheaper)?

  34. george April 30, 2014 Reply

    I can advise for reliable servers, which I use myself. With http://anonymous-proxy-server.net/ you can transfer fairly large amounts of data and use http://www.anonymize.net/ ofshorof. Who knows the best options (may be cheaper)?

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