Proxy Anonymity Levels

If your Internet research goals include getting around IP bans and protecting your privacy, here’s something to consider: Many important use cases are best supported by high levels of proxy anonymity. When you send an information request over the web, it includes identifying information such as your IP address. A request sent directly to a remote site (your source for the requested information) makes that information visible to the site. This could lead the site to block your access or impose rate limits, such as controls on the amount of incoming and outgoing traffic. Moreover, from your IP address, it’s possible to obtain the city and country where you live, your physical address, and your provider’s name and email address.

Clearly, the level of anonymity your proxy provides can be important. By making HTTP requests via proxy servers, some or all of that identifying information is stripped out before the request goes to the remote site.

Proxy anonymity falls into three generally accepted categories. The main criterion for anonymity is the degree of exclusion of certain header information from requests over the Internet to a web server.

Elite Proxies (Level 1)

Elite Level 1 Proxies, also called High Anonymity Proxies (HAP), provide the very highest level of anonymity. With this type of proxy, the server you connect to receives no information about your actual IP address. In fact, it cannot even detect that the connection was made through a proxy because it presents itself as a regular computer or client, thus preventing the restrictions imposed on proxies by some websites and applications.

Elite Level 1 proxies enable this degree of anonymity in part by stripping out all identifying headers so that they’re not passed along in requests. The World Proxy and the rotating proxies from ProxyMesh.com are examples of Elite Level 1 High Anonymity proxy servers. The following headers are removed to prevent proxy identification by the remote site:

  • Authorization
  • From
  • Proxy-Authorization
  • Proxy-Connection
  • Via
  • X-Forwarded-For

If you are using sneaker or scraping bots, the Elite proxy prevents web servers from detecting and banning your IP.

Anonymous Proxies (Level 2)

Level 2 Anonymous Proxies provide a degree of anonymity acceptable for many purposes, such as whitehat practices (penetration testing to ensure the security of an organization’s information systems) and data mining. Like Level 1, this Anonymous proxy modifies the HTTP header to hide your IP address from a target server; but some servers and detection scripts will recognize that a proxy is making the connection. That’s because a Level 2 proxy sends through some information – such as the Via and X-Forwarded-For headers – omitted by Level 1 proxies. The X-Forwarded-For header still contains the clients originating IP address which the website can detect.

Level 2 Anonymous Distorting Proxies work like Level 2 Anonymous Proxies but pass along an incorrect IP instead of hiding it.

A proxy is anonymous as long as the headers do not include your actual IP address. Keep in mind that some server administrators restrict proxy requests. But restriction is based primarily on log analysis, and it can be offset by rapid proxy rotation, with a new IP chosen at random for each request.

Transparent Proxies (Level 3)

Level 3 Transparent proxies, also called intercepting proxies, inline proxies or forced proxies, do not hide your IP address from a server you are connecting to, so they do not provide anonymity. Although your address may not be immediately obvious, it’s easy to find it out. Requests from transparent proxies pass in the proxy’s IP address in the Via header and your IP address in the X-Forwarded-For header. The HTTP header is not modified, so most web servers do not recognize it as a proxy connection.

Transparent proxies are useful for improving network speed. They are used by many cloud-based systems which use multiple proxies but always show the primary IP address. They are also used by some businesses as a resource sharing computer.

There are three types of Transparent proxies:

Caching proxies: These proxies can be useful for caching data and for speeding access to a list of frequently visited websites. In addition, ISPs use them to limit external bandwidth usage.

Gateway proxies: These proxies are installed in public Wi-Fi locations to limit access to those with permissions, thus excluding outsiders. They work by connecting you to another proxy to reach your target webpages, giving a different IP address from your own.

Filtering proxies: These proxies are used in most workplaces to prevent employees from using the office network to access social media or perform streaming activities. They allow the system administrator to monitor employee activity.

One important focus for proxy anonymity is the prevention of automated collection and recognition of data from your computer. In this case, your information is only as secure as the protocols on the proxy server. For free anonymous proxies, whose attractions include easy access to them and their services, the potential risk from hackers knowing your IP address may be quite high.