VPN and proxy services are not new to most internet users. Proxies have been around for so long now and are used for a wide range of purposes. What proxy servers do is act as a middleman between users’ devices and the destination server.
Instead of sending requests directly to a web server, for example, you can use a proxy server to act as a middleman. The original request is sent to a proxy server and then gets re-sent to the destination server from the proxy’s IP address.
The basic principles of using a proxy to access the internet are not malicious at all, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who use proxies for negative activities. The growing number of cyberattacks has put proxy services and their providers under a lot of pressure.
The Luminati Case
The most recent case of proxy service providers being accused of conducting malicious activities concerns Luminati and HolaVPN. At the time, both were operated by the same business entity and both are now seen as parts of a botnet operating across the World Wide Web.
The concerns are not unfounded. Spam attacks to large sites like 8chan did reveal some of HolaVPN’s nodes were part of the originating IP address pool. However, the accusation that Luminati and HolaVPN are exploiting user traffic – or are parts of a botnet – is completely unreasonable.
Both networks are operated in a secure and ethical way. Since these are publicly available services, however, anyone – including attackers – can use the available services for whatever purpose, including for masking the source IP address of a coordinated cyberattack.
Despite the noise about Luminati and a botnet, the services provided by the company continue to receive positive reviews from independent auditors, review sites, and users. In an independent review, Proxyway stated that “Luminati can offer really good speeds and the largest residential proxy network.”
From the basic description of how proxies work earlier, it is easy to see how the service can be used for various reasons. The most common one is using proxies to hide your real IP address, specifically for privacy reasons.
You see, websites and internet ad networks actively track your online activities using pixels and other tracking methods. They collect personal details like your IP address and the devices you use in order to build a comprehensive profile about yourself.
By switching to a proxy server, these entities can no longer track you using your IP address. As a result, you get a more neutral view of the World Wide Web, without targeted ads or risking your privacy in the process. This is one of the primary use cases of a proxy service.
Other cases are just as interesting. Security experts often use proxies to help analyze websites in a neutral way. They can also use IP addresses from different regions to get valid results when conducting security checks.
At the same time, malicious websites are known to block IP addresses of security experts and companies. This means using proxies is the best way to bypass such limitations since proxies mask the actual IP address of those security companies completely.
The same is true for web developers. Performance testing can be conducted more objectively when the test is done from multiple regions. One of the ways to do that is by using proxy servers that are capable of delivering maximum performance and not becoming bottlenecks.
For everyday users, proxies can do more than just protect your privacy. Limiting web tracking is only the beginning. Proxies also let you do more, including:
- Bypass location-based content restrictions, giving you full access to the best resources and information available online.
- Provide you with an added layer of security, simply by acting as a middleware. Attackers cannot reach your device directly and have to go through the security measures of the proxy server.
- Encrypt data transmissions to and from your device, even when you are not accessing a secure site. A valid SSL certificate is usually used to secure data transmissions every time you use a proxy server.
- Boost the speed of your internet connection. Proxies with advanced caching and capable backbones are known to improve your overall web browsing experience. Sites load faster and you can access more content without wasting bandwidth.
Proxies = Botnets?
So, are proxy services part of today’s botnets? From the points we’ve discussed in this article, it is clear that the answer to that question is a big NO. Proxy services are very useful when used to improve online privacy and security. If service providers like Luminati offer better transparency, this kind of confusion will go away completely.