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A transparent proxy is also commonly referred to as an inline proxy (or intercepting/forced proxy) and it is a specific type of proxy that intercepts connections between end-user devices and the internet, the reason transparent is part of its name is due to the fact it does this without modifying any requests or responses.

So, for example, if a user was logged into a corporate network domain and using their workstation to browse the internet they use a request when they visit the sun to read a news article and it views the same content as it would appear on their local area network in their home.

However, there’s a catch, unknown to the user browsing is that the news article isn’t being served by the sun’s origin server but from a transparent proxy which is running on the corporate network. The experience is exactly the same, but the difference is that the user’s employer has the ability to monitor all network usage and activity, as well as having the ability to restrict certain website access and usage.

Transparent Proxy and Forced Proxies

Transparent proxies and forced proxies are one and the same thing, they are known as forced proxies because of how they can be applied to a users active connection without even so much as a change on their end system’ proxy settings.

This is how the term “forced” has also been given to this specific type of proxy, due to the nature of them being forced onto a user without their consent or knowledge (however, it’s worth noting that in most cases, users are informed prior to their usage).

Transparent Proxy Settings

When you set up a transparent proxy, some of the common proxy settings are:

  • Authentication — Provides the same data to the website as the people behind the proxy.
  • Interception — defines how the proxy should intercept traffic, at the operating system level or at the router level
  • Caching—Defines whether the contents of the proxy server can be cached for returning users
  • Reverse proxy—You may put a proxy in front of a web server to speed up user efficiency (as opposed to setting it to intercept remote access)
  • Filter chat, data downloading, torrent threads, etc—configure a translucent proxy to block users from accessing certain protocols or ports.

Uses for Transparent Proxy on Client Side

You should deploy a transparent proxy on the client-side, which ensures that all traffic to and from the endpoint of the client is intercepted by the proxy. Usage cases with clear proxies on the client-side include:

Content Filtering

You may use a clear proxy to screen out undesirable content specified by proxy settings. For eg, if a particular website is requested, the proxy can refrain from forwarding the request to the webserver. Instead, it intercepts the connection and shows an error or warning to the recipient.

Gateway Proxies

You can use a gateway proxy to modify or block network traffic based on rules. For example, a firewall is a transparent proxy, which allows traffic to pass between an internal network and the Internet, but blocks traffic if it violates the firewall’s rule table.

Transparent Caching

If many people access the same content from the same location—for example, many students visit the same news site from their university network—it is more effective to first mask the content and serve it from the cache to subsequent users. This may be achieved by a straightforward proxy for an agency, facility or community.

Traffic Monitoring

If you are running a network, you should set up a clear proxy to track user traffic and behavior.

Traffic management can also have illegal uses—for example, an unscrupulous public wifi provider can track user connections and snatch data and certificate.

Authentication

Public wifi spots and wireless Internet providers often use clear substitutes to compel users to authenticate themselves on the network and settle on terms of service. They are allowed to surf only after the user authenticates and approves.

Users may not know that even after the initial authentication screen, the entire link is intercepted and can be tracked by the user using a clear proxy.

Transparent Proxy + CDN = Superior Front-End Optimization

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a globally distributed network of proxy servers, which caches and serves content to users near their geographical location.

A CDN, such as Imperva’s Global Content Delivery Network, is a type of transparent proxy operating on the server side, whose purpose is to perform front-end optimization to improve the end-user experience. It intercepts traffic to a web server and instead of letting the user access the origin server directly, it offers the same content from its cache. This results in improved performance for users and reduced system resources required on the server.

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