Okay so previous posts have covered how to make secure passwords, programs to keep your machines free of malware, and viruses, controlling your internet connection so that hackers can't access your computers/networks at the same time, programs can't use your connection to download malicious scripts off the internet. Which brings us to our next topic. Internet Proxies, and Internet Proxy servers.
A proxy server, in theory is just another line of defense against the evils of the internet. It's like a gateway that keeps the outside world (the internet) away from your computer at home. Most people use them all the time. At work, at the net cafe, even at home if your machines are on a home network. They're pretty common place, but what many folks don't understand is that you can connect to these proxies and do things like hide your ip, get to blocked websites, (like say if your school blocks facebook or myspace) get around ip bans, and a dozen other different things.
There are a few ways of using proxy servers and proxy software and they basically all do the same thing which is make computers think you're accessing their servers from somewhere else. The most common way to hide behind a proxy server is to use anonimity websites like hidemyass, or anonymouse. You surf on over, type in the url that you want to visit and voila, you're anonymous. Which basically means that the webpage or site that you want to visit, thinks you're coming from their servers (or other servers.) rather than your home isp. So like say, you want to download that new Justin Beiber album but you don't want people to know that it's you who's downloaded it. If you were to download it without a proxy, that server which you're pulling it down from will pretty much know that Joe Schmo from redneckton, Ohio is the one that pulled it down just based on your IP address. Go to anonymizer and see for yourself. It knows your ip address, the town/city you're in, your zipcode and your browser. Kinda creepy right? Now go to either hidemyass or anonymouse and then visit anonymizer again. Can you see the difference? Without the proxy server, anonymizer could pretty much send party vans and pizzas to at least the town you were living in, and eventually pinpoint where you were. Not so much with a proxy server. With the proxy, instead of Redneckton, Ohio, it thinks you're hanging out somewhere with BJ Penn in Hilo Hawaii downloading Justin Beiber albums. And that's just with using free web proxies. It gets even more interesting when you start plugging in proxy server IP addresses into your browser. But that's altogether a different post. This one should get you started on the practice of anonimity online. Have fun, and as always, be safe out there.