What is a Forward Proxy and How Does It Work?

Julia Smith
Julia Smith
Community manager @ SOAX13 May, 2022

The globalization era and COVID reality gradually marked the transition from everything on-site to everything remote. As many enterprises expanded into multiple and geo-branched offices while the working-from-everywhere tendency continues to thrive, the popularity of SaaS-based applications (Software-as-a-Service) has also increased. SaaS applications allow direct access from everywhere and ensure optimal performance as well as a positive user experience. A SaaS app implementation, however, leads to the emergence of new-era security issues. Unsanctioned applications, for example, are one of them.  

Without security tools to spot traffic anomalies and malicious incidents on the private networks enterprises can not keep their businesses safe. The implementation of a proxy, however, can add value to a business’s security: it blocks direct access from unauthorized users, thus preventing data breaches and saving internal resources from harm.

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What is a Forward Proxy?

A forward proxy (or a proxy) is a mediator between a user and a web server. It allows bypassing firewall restrictions to visit websites in different geo-locations or access restricted content by changing, hiding, or faking a user’s real IP address. 

The common use cases for proxies are web scraping, social media accounts management, sneaker copping, filtering traffic, caching and compressing files, etc. Nowadays there is no one big enterprise that does marketing research without proxies. Proxies have proven to be a valuable asset for performing business tasks while providing an extra level of security by inspecting traffic going to and from the network. 

How Does a Forward Proxy Work?

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A user on the private network makes a request to a web server using a forward proxy’s identity. A proxy intercepts the request and examines the encrypted traffic coming from a user before forwarding it to a web server. 

A proxy (in contrast to a firewall) does not use a passthrough approach, which means that a proxy does not forward a user’s traffic to the target source until it is sure this traffic does not contain malware or other security threats. 

If a proxy finds a request not valid, it blocks the request with an error message.

If a request is valid a proxy sends it through a firewall to the target server. The latter then returns the information to the proxy, which sends it back to the user. 

A forward proxy is far more than a simple traffic controller. It filters and analyzes the outcoming and incoming requests. It serves as a shield and restricts direct access to or from suspicious actors. A proxy prevents compromising private data or corporate secrets, whether caused by malicious attacks or users’ errors. 

Deployed in a cloud, a forward proxy does the same: it adds up to the security level by raising the safety of SaaS application traffic. Moreover, a cloud-based proxy has no latency and scans encrypted traffic in real-time. The quick response improves network performance and is crucial for a good user experience. 

Why Do You Need a Forward Proxy?

A forward proxy is essential for businesses because it provides safe and zero-fault internet access to employees, regardless of their physical location. With the implementation of SaaS apps and the growing popularity of the remote workplace, business processes and corporate data are gradually moving to the cloud.

As a result, there is a need to create a cloud-based security architecture where a forward proxy (proven to be a reputable tool for internal network safety) plays a vital role in doing the following:

protecting data

Many people nowadays work off the network as remote work becomes mainstream. So the employees upload important business data to risky locations, for example, third-party cloud platforms or public clouds. A forward proxy scans all traffic in real-time and prevents users from uploading sensitive information wherever it has been sent (unintentionally or on purpose). 

preventing threats

A forward proxy analyzes incoming encrypted traffic and detects malware. If incoming traffic is not checked for threats, various nasty viruses can sneak in and spread quickly within the enterprise. A proxy prevents infected files from being downloaded to the corporate cloud by intercepting suspicious requests in real-time. 

discovering unsanctioned apps 

As the usage of SaaS apps is expanding, unsanctioned apps are bustling too. Users’ smartphones and tablets are difficult to control, thus constituting the risk of active attacks, data leakage, and data snatching conducted by third parties. When users’ devices require access to cloud services and SaaS applications a forward proxy scans the incoming traffic identifying shady apps.  

How to Choose the Right Proxy Server?

A proxy must have a wide range of geolocations, offer the best speed, and have a high uptime ratio, so an effective proxy is costly. Moreover, a forward proxy needs to be properly configured with physical appliances and software.

Although, with a cloud-based proxy, there would be no drawbacks at least because there is no need to install and manage the hardware and it is possible to handle extensive traffic and corporate data on a very large scale. 

A forward proxy server provides:

  • protection across all cloud data channels with a unified automated policy; 
  • unified security for safe access to cloud apps, the web, and internal resources;
  • an opportunity to build a solid cloud-based architecture to provide data protection and secure access;
  • ability to avoid complex configurations of physical appliances.   

 

With the growing popularity of cloud apps and remote access work mode, data protection is more difficult and more important than ever. With the extensive cloud network traffic between multiple offices across the globe and employees working from various locations, the reduced visibility can create major security issues for enterprises and their employees. A forward proxy used in corporate interests protects from cyberthreats maintaining centralized visibility across corporate data exchanging. It also optimizes traffic flow and controls access across cloud-based applications strengthening corporate security protocols.