Proxies no longer just sit in the server room quietly routing their traffic. The initial years of being basically a simple web gateway which nobody really bothered with are long gone. Proxies now are big business and exist in all sorts of guises, they can make serious money whether using them or running them.
The main growth area for proxies has taken them away from the corporate environment and into the mainstream. The actually servers themselves haven’t changed that much from the early days of Glype and Microsoft ISA server. However the way they operate and the IP address ranges assigned to them has changed a great deal. Instead of protecting the network and dumbly routing traffic, nowadays proxies offer the ability for people to control multiple digital identities from their desktop.
The biggest user of proxies that I know is a 24 year old man who I believe lives in New York. I only know him online and although he’s never worked in IT directly, he knows much more about proxies than most of my Cisco associates from over the years. The main reason is that he spend upwards of several thousand dollars every single month on proxies, that’s every single month ! You might well wonder what the hell he does with all these proxies, so I’ll tell you.
Every Proxy Connection is Potentially a New Digital Identity
As network professionals we’re of course all very familiar with the attributes of an IP address, but have you ever considered that potentially every unique IP address is a new identity for someone. This is exactly the reason that proxies have become so popular, as they have the potential to assign multiple digital identities through hundreds of IP addresses. Each unique connection allows the user to operate as a separate identity.
You might think so what? Who needs hundred or thousands of separate digital identities? Well my friend is perhaps the easiest example as he lives, breathes and works with designer sneakers. Those hugely prized and overpriced footwear that people will literally spend thousands of dollars on. The rarest of which are released periodically through the web stores of most of the biggest names in sports footwear. Nike, Adidas and Supreme to name just a few of the in-demand suppliers who release these ‘limited edition’ sneakers.
For you and me, it’s a matter of pot luck to log onto the site when a release takes place and hope we’re hit gold with our single sign on attempt. If we’re extremely lucky we’ll cop a pair although this is actually pretty difficult to do. However people like my friend make it much more unlikely as they sit with automated software called sneaker Bots running them through proxies which switch IP addresses on each new connection. For every single attempt you and I get, this set up can try hundreds of times to buy a different pair. The idea is to buy as many of these pairs as possible by appearing to come from unique customers (they’re always limited to one pair per customer).
Obviously these scarce items are extremely valuable and each pair of sneakers can be resold without difficulty for many times the purchase price. The potential for profit is huge and there are many ‘sneaker millionaires’ all over the world who use this or some sort of variation on this tactic.
You can’t just use any proxy though as the e-commerce servers are actively looking for people who operate like this. The classification and location of the IP address is crucial. Anything which looks unusual will lead to a block or redirection, the IP addresses must be clean and also originate from the right place. For example, if you’re hitting the Supreme servers for a limited San Francisco release, then using IP addresses registered from a datacentre in Moscow is a complete waste of time. They will be instantly detected and flagged as being suspicious and any accounts using them will be blacklisted.
The secret is to make every individual connection look ideally like a normal US home user attempting to cop a pair of their favorite sneakers. Firstly the IP address must be from either a residential or mobile range and secondly it must originate ideally from the US (if it’s a US release). This is why it’s important to use premium proxies with the ability to switch to different IP addresses. The best ones will rotate through each address when requested by the Bot and provide a unique connection to the sneaker server. If you want to try this for yourself, you’ll first need a Bot (try googling AIOBot to start) and a set of decent proxies. There are a few which offer trial proxies for a few dollars where you can test the water. The technical side is not that challenging although it is constantly developing, in my opinion knowledge of which sneakers to buy is the hardest part !