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How often are proxies to obfuscate internet traffic used? Do most companies connect directly to the Internet (after using a proxy to cache and filter content), or is there some obfuscation of their traffic, is that permissible?

I was curious to know if there are better ways to track a page view from a particular client even if their IP address changes without the use of cookies. The best guess would be to use their http headers (user agent, locale), but that doesn't provide that much information.

There were several questions here.

  1. How often are proxies used to obfuscate traffic?
  2. Do companies do this?
  3. How to best identify a unique visitor without relying on cookies / remote address.
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By obfuscate, I mean if I work in Philadelphia PA, outbound Internet traffic is actually going to China before it hits the Internet or whatever other gateway it chooses that day/request. –  Walter White Oct 27 '09 at 17:26

3 Answers 3

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Most large companies proxy all internet traffic but it is not an attempt to obfuscate. The goal in most company proxies is to filter and cache.

To answer your questions:

  1. Almost never with the purpose of obfuscation, usually filtering and conservation of IPs is the reason.

  2. Companies often have a proxy for their outbound internet traffic.

  3. Possibly a stack overflow question for answering it in with code to uniquely identify. For anonymous users, this would be a difficult task to do.

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I'm not certain what you mean by "obfuscate traffic", but most reasonably sized companies will at the very least be using some form of NAT so that all clients will appear to the outside world as though they have the same IP address. The objective isn't specifically traffic obfuscation, but rather to segregate internal IP addresses from public ones (for security purposes), and to relieve pressure on available public IP addresses.

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Proxies are really common in big companies. If nothing else, the caching gains can be huge.

If you want a page to be unique to a user (not to an IP, etc), use something on the client side to keep track of them. There are two common ways to do this:

  • Cookies
  • Unique URL tokens (yourpage.php?USER=HUGESTRINGTHATREFERSTOTHEUSERINYOURDATABASE)
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