Over the last few years, the cybercrime situation has significantly worsened. Affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns and Work From Home policies, it was further amplified by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. According to Comparitech gathered statistics, there were 153 million new malware reports from 2021 to 2022.
Businesses and casual Internet users alike hastened to protect their devices from new dangers. Cybersecurity has many different elements, and proxy servers are one of them. This article overviews how proxies are integrated into a broader cybersecurity structure and what cyber threats they protect from.
A proxy is an intermediary between your device and the Internet. Instead of connecting directly to the Web, your device channels the data flow through a proxy server, which takes over online communication.
Your device’s IP address is replaced by an alternative proxy IP address, protecting your online privacy and neutralizing several IP-based cyber attacks, such as DDoS or identity theft, which we’ll discuss shortly.
It’s essential to understand the difference between proxy types. There are forward proxies that accept clients’ requests and forward them to Web servers. This way, they prevent a Web server from directly communicating with a client, and they provide these benefits:
- Web server protection from malicious requests;
- Improve loading speed by caching content;
- Outgoing requests monitoring.
Reverse proxies, on the contrary, take outbound traffic and send connection requests to multiple servers preventing clients from directly communicating with Web servers. They provide these benefits:
- Neutralize DDoS attacks;
- Increase web speed performance.
Both types provide different and practical security benefits.
Other important categories arise from proxy server providers. Residential proxies come from genuine Internet users that share their devices as proxy servers. They are essential for online operations that require privacy and undetectability, can efficiently bypass geo-blocks, and allow simulating convincing cyber attacks to test network security.
It’s best to choose datacenter proxies to scrape publicly available Web data when online anonymity is not required. They provide the best availability and connection speed and often do not limit bandwidth. Cybersecurity inevitably involves data analysis, and scraping the Web is one of the most efficient ways to get it.
IP address obfuscation and incoming-outgoing data traffic monitoring are essential to an effective cybersecurity system. Here are concrete cybersecurity proxy use cases:
- DDoS attack protection;
- Identity theft protection;
- Brand protection;
- Email Phishing neutralization.
Let’s go over each individually.
DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service and is used to bring down online websites. It’s especially troublesome for businesses because if their websites go down during crucial sales periods (for example, Black Friday), they can lose vast amounts of revenue.
According to Cloudflare statistics, HTTP DDoS attacks have increased by 79% during the last quarter of 2022. They are relatively easy to carry out and, without adequate protection, are extremely effective.
Businesses use content delivery networks (CDN) to neutralize DDoS threats. It’s a geographically distributed server network that optimizes data exchange and Internet loading speeds. Properly configured CDN can neutralize DDoS attacks by distributing incoming requests across multiple servers and preventing sending overload to a single server, which would otherwise make it crash.
Identity theft is effective because, alongside technical hacking, it exploits human error. Nowadays, cybercriminals can use vast social media data to impersonate certain people, tricking others into believing they legitimately need money or some other important information.
They can efficiently impersonate someone if they obtain a genuine Internet user’s IP address. They can use this IP address to forge fraudulent emails with a higher chance of remaining undetected because they use a legitimate IP. Moreover, IP tracking is one of the most popular ways to follow a person online and gather their information.
Proxy servers obfuscate and substitute the original user IP address with an alternative. Moreover, rotating proxies will change the user IP at chosen intervals, significantly complicating this process.
Cybercriminals often launch fake and cheaply made products with famous brand logos and sell them online. However, they do not do that out in the open. They may configure their website to display specific results in certain geographical regions. For example, if they use a brand from the US, they will not show it to US users.
Furthermore, if they know your business’s subnet, they may configure the site to hide the scam if you visit them from the internal network. This is also used to falsify or display ads only to your IPs, even though you ordered more ad time on their website, but they use it for other purposes.
Businesses can use proxies to bypass geo-blocks and scrape the Web for scams using their renowned brands. Simultaneously, they can use proxy IPs to verify their ads are shown properly to all worldwide users.
Phishing remains one of the most popular techniques for gathering confidential data and infecting user devices with malware. It is often spread by email, tricking users into clicking on an infectious link or downloading an attachment with a virus. You can read our in-depth article on Phishing scams to learn more.
Proxies support cybersecurity teams that gather information on Phishing attempts against your enterprise. Cybersecurity companies can stay anonymous while scanning your network for malicious elements without exposing their activities to threat actors.
Furthermore, information obtained by Phishing frequently ends up in some dark corners of the Internet. Cybersecurity teams can use proxies to scout hundreds of such sites simultaneously, looking for suspicious elements. Without proxies, they would quickly get flagged and denied access.
Malicious websites that sell stolen data implement security measures to hide it from unwanted attention. Professionally used proxy services can avoid such detection, for example, by rotating a high trust score residential IP address.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, cybercriminals come up with new malware daily. Luckily, cybersecurity professionals utilize every tool at hand to neutralize them. Proxy servers are an effective tool in the right hands that provides privacy for data gathering operations, monitors incoming and outgoing traffic, and distributes it across the proxy network to prevent server overload.