Running a Proxy Server as a Webmaster

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Benefits of Running a Proxy

While some webmasters look down upon proxies, many are embracing them as a new way to make money. And the thing it, it is extremely easy to make money off of proxies.

Proxies are the ‘now’ type of websites. Unlike blogs and forums, where you work your way up to making money, proxies get traffic and clicks in a snap. This is because people generally use them the day you advertise them, so as soon as you submit to a few toplists expect a few thousand visitors.

However, it is not uncommon to get 50,000 visitors one day, and then 4 the next. Getting the visitors is not the hard part, keeping them is. You may need to spend a little money on advertising in top lists, but you will definitely earn it back no problem.

As mentioned in Legal Issues, proxies are not legal worldwide. Some countries ban the use of proxies. Make sure proxies are legal in your country before attempting to run one.

What is a Web Proxy?

A web proxy is a script that is used request a page from another website.

For example, if you go on Proxy A, and try to get to Website B through it, you will see Website B, but you will still technically be on Proxy A.

Proxies are generally used for four reasons. First, they serve as a cache. Proxies are able to save website data onto their servers, so that next time you visit the website, it will be already loaded for you. This will make the loading time much faster.

Proxies are also used to unblock websites in places like schools, work offices, and libraries. Because you are technically still on the proxy when sending a request to another website, it will appear ‘unblocked’ for you.

People that wish to browse the internet anonymously tend to use proxies. These people can range from free speech activists, criminals, to teenage boys looking on porn sites without getting caught. Proxies are able to scramble the information your computer releases.

Finally, proxies are also used to browse the internet safely. Because proxies are able to remove or encrypt web pages and certain scripts, they lower the chances of you contracting a virus while viewing a web page.

Proxies are commonly used to circumvent bans and filters in place. It may range from the simple school block, all the way to the country ban.

Several countries such as Turkey, Syria, and Thailand block websites such as YouTube. However, people try to get on anyways. And that’s where proxies come in handy.

However, some countries, like China, block the usage of proxies altogether. Before using or starting a proxy, make sure that they are legal in your country. For a fact, they are completely legal in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Dangers and Moral Responsibilities

The use of proxies is generally frowned upon. While some people use proxies simply for anonymity and safe web surfing, others use it to circumvent filters at places like schools and work.

While it is ultimately your decision, there are possible consequences for using proxies at the wrong times. Some schools will suspend your computer rights or worse. In the worst case scenario, you can get expelled.

Jobs and offices use web filters in order to increase employee productivity. If you are caught using a proxy, it is not impossible that you will get fired. Make sure to check up with your employer whether the use of proxies is allowed.

Also, while many proxies are made by legit webmasters just trying to make money, some are created by hackers. It is not unheard of that a user logged into their MySpace or Facebook account, only to later find out that the password was changed and it was hacked into.

Make sure that the proxy can be trusted, and isn’t going to just steal any data that you enter into it. I personally don’t suggest you enter any financial or important information into web proxies, because you never know.

Finding Good Proxy Hosting

Proxies have a special characteristic: They use up insane amounts of bandwidth. And by that, we mean that a low to medium traffic proxy can easily use up 5GB/day of bandwidth, even more maybe.

Because of this, most web hosts do not allow you to run proxies on their shared hosting. Make sure that you check a TOS (terms of service) of a host before you run proxies on their servers!

Instead, you need a special type of hosting called ‘Proxy Hosting.’ There are several sites that have their servers especially built to host proxies, so you can get hosting from them.

Shared Hosting

While many people tend to go straight to a VPS or Dedicated Server, you can easily run a small proxy network on Shared Hosting. This is perfect for beginners.

Virtual Private Server (VPS)/Dedicated Server

These can be grouped together because the basically have the same specifications. The trick here is that you want a lot of RAM (for those traffic bursts), bandwidth, and great support. You also want a light weight control panel (Don’t go with cPanel, it uses up 256MB of RAM on it’s own).

A minimum of 1GB RAM is recommended, and LxAdmin or DirectAdmin are good control panels.

Once again, make sure that your hosting company allows proxies on their VPS.

Log Files for Web Proxies

Most web hosting companies automatically enable logging of web server activity. They maintain default policies for pruning the log files and the retention of old log files.

As a proxy owner, it is your responsibility to make decisions concerning what the correct logging strategy is for your proxies and your users.

Cons

Proxy sites create large numbers of log entries. These constant disk writes can create a considerable load on busy web servers. They also use considerable amounts of both primary and secondary storage.

Log files may be requested by oppressive governments seeking to restrict the free flow of information. They may also be requested by corporations seeking to silence whistle-blowers. Finally, the may be accessed illegally by hackers. If you do not keep log files, none of these risks can occur.

Pros

In some areas, you may be required by law to maintain log files. In the United States, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Banking Act (GLBA), Sarbanes-Oxley, and HIPAA laws require financial, publicly traded, and medical companies to create and archive certain types of log files. The U.S. does not impose any legal requirements for data retention on proxy sites.

Proxy sites hosted in the European Union may be subject to the Data Retention Directive, which requires “the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services…” This may require you to store the following data for up to two years:

  • the source of a communication
  • the destination of a communication
  • the date, time and duration of a communication
  • the type of communication
  • the communication device
  • the location of mobile communication equipment

In the United Kingdom, the Home Office “Voluntary” Code of Practice on Data Retention specifies “Proxy server logs (date/time, IP address used, URL’s visited, services. The data types here will be restricted solely to Communications Data and exclude content of communication. Web browsing information is retained to the extent that only the host machine or domain name (web site name) is disclosed. For example, within a communication, data identifying www.homeoffice.gov.uk would be traffic data, whereas data identifying www.homeoffice.gov.uk/kbsearch?qt=ripa+traffic=data would be content and not subject to retention.”

In addition to the strictly legal requirements, courts and juries may find that a lack of system logging makes you look guilty. The Securities and Exchange Commission fined one bank $10M because the bank could not produce log files requested by the agency. This may not have been strictly legal, but the bank felt it was better to pay the fine than to continue fighting with the SEC.

Your Right to Anonymity

Note that this applies to only certain countries. See your own country’s laws for specific information.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

According to the United States Bill of Rights, Amendment 4:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

You reserve the right to stay anonymous and private, and you have the protection of the law against any attacks on your privacy.

Encrypting Your Data

A huge reason that people use web-based proxies is to encrypt their online data.

With a simple script, a website is able to find out your browser, operating system, and even location. See your IP address? That can be used to track you right down to the computer you are reading from at this very moment.

People who do not want to be seen using the Internet, such as Free Speech activists and criminals may use proxies in order to hide their data. What a proxy does is it assigns random information to you.

Let’s say you live in the United States and use Mozilla Firefox. After using a proxy, somebody trying to track you will learn that you live in Greece and use Netscape Navigator. Unless they are able to circumvent the proxy encryption (not likely), they will not know your real location or information.

Useful Proxy Resources

Proxy Scripts

  • Glype
  • PHProxy
  • PHPhantom/Zelune
  • CGIProxy

Proxy Forums

DiscussProxy.com – Proxy Forum Web Proxy Forum NetBuilders – Web Proxies The Proxy Community Proxy Users Network WebEvader Forums

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