Depending on your technical knowledge, you probably know that every computer on the Internet has a unique designation assigned to it when it connects online. It is called an IP address and it’s basically a series of numbers and decimals that signify which Internet provider company you use for Internet access, what country you’re in and even what city you’re located in. Why is it necessary to have such sensitive data on something so easily available? Well, it’s just a basic precaution. If we could compare it to something, we would compare it to fingerprints. If someone commits a felony, they can often be tracked to the crime by fingerprints. An IP address is a virtual fingerprint that links a user account online to an actual existing individual. It’s very handy, but it can also be potentially exploited. To prevent the risk of IP address misuse, proxies are available for everyone to use. A proxy basically makes sure that your IP address can’t be so easily detected.
Proxies are basically used through proxy servers which have their own IP addresses. In short, whenever you use a proxy server, you use their IP address. You still retain your own unique IP, but your actual visible IP address is the one the proxy server uses. Since some information is contained in an IP address, this can produce some amusing results. For instance, you could be sitting behind your computer in the UK and appear as though you’re in Croatia, if the proxy server uses an IP address for that country. A lot of services actually use proxy servers by default. For instance, if you’ve ever used a modern chat client, you first connect to their proxy server before connecting to any other user. This ensures that not just anyone can get your real IP address.
To be blunt, no, using proxies does not make you truly anonymous. Using a proxy server simply adds an additional security layer to increase your own security while surfing. It’s not an excuse to feel like you’re undetectable while online and attempts to exploit proxies will be punished eventually. A proxy provider keeps a log of IP addresses that used their services, so there’s always residual information remaining that can link a person to a certain activity that way. Fortunately, this happens very, very rarely and using proxy servers is just simple enough to warrant their usage as an added security layer.