Proxy avoidance is a means by which Internet users are able to browse websites that may otherwise be blocked by a network administrator. The term is something of a misnomer, however, in that it is the use of a proxy that provides the very avoidance of the blocking mechanisms in place. So, in essence, a user isn't avoiding a proxy in as much as he is using a proxy to circumvent another means by which access to a specific website or service is being denied. In many cases, these blocking methods are yet another proxy server or service.
The use of a proxy came into play for several reasons. Most of these revolve around caching web content for faster access by clients behind a proxy, providing anonymity for users, or other security purposes like encryption, virus scanning, and data integrity. Another type is used for monitoring the Internet content that is being accessed by the computers behind a proxy. In most cases, these types of listening proxies are found in use by business networks and educational institutions in order to deny access to websites that are found to be swallowing up precious time.
This latter form of auditing has manifested in a number of different ways. There are some web sites or entire networks that will not allow access from other Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, basically blocking access from remote clients originating in a particular region. In the reverse, or in addition to external monitoring, network administrators on some large networks implement a proxy server that will monitor requests to content outside of the network which will be configured to disallow access to certain locations on the Internet in order to improve productivity or bar access to certain types of content. Software programs have also been developed that reside on an individual computer which will block access to certain websites from being accessed by that computer. Proxy avoidance provides a workaround to these means of denying access.
In most cases where a service is termed a proxy avoidance, it is a website that acts as an intermediary, a proxy, for accessing content that falls outside of whatever acceptable use policy has been implemented on a network or computer. Proxy avoidance websites run common gateway interface (CGI) applications, programmed in various scripting languages, that allow a user to gain access to other sites that would otherwise be blocked. A user being blocked loads a proxy avoidance website into a web browser and then makes the request through it to the web address that would otherwise be disallowed. The circumvention occurs because the system in place to monitor and block access is duped into believing the request came from, or is going to, someplace else.
Due to the somewhat controversial nature of proxy avoidance websites, they are sometimes short-lived or of poor quality. If the individual creating the site is limited in resources, such as network bandwidth or processing power, the site can be overloaded by browsing requests and create a miserable experience for the user, even though it provides access where otherwise none would exist. Careful selection of a proxy avoidance site is also necessary in that it can feasibly be used to capture secret information such as passwords or credit card information. Some network administrators also watch these sites and will update their systems to further block access to or from an address known to be a proxy avoidance site.