Reverse Proxy Guide to Refer in 2024

Having improved online security isn’t a luxury these days. It’s an uncompromised necessity. A reverse proxy is one of the many security approaches that AppSec experts recommend implementing. Designed to do more than filter the traffic, a reverse proxy is an unsung hero.

In this post, you have a chance to learn more about this tool and how it can improve your cybersecurity standing.

Learn more about proxies here:

Reverse Proxy – the Basic Understanding

In simple technical language, a reverse proxy is a type of server that is placed in front of backend applications like web servers and forwards client requests. It exists in multiple forms, like an app, web server, or cloud service. In every form, the reverse proxy receives the client request, intercepts it, and makes it look more authentic.

Reddit Reverse Proxy Review

To better understand reverse proxies, it’s crucial to know how the internet works and how a reverse proxy is part of that ecosystem. Internet users access a website or any other online resource by typing the domain name or clicking on a link.

As the domain or link is accessed, the client’s request is forwarded by the website server, and a respective response is offered. This is how the normal internet works. However, as there is no barrier between the client and the website server, multiple issues like IP address threats, improper traffic distraction, DDoS attacks, and troubles in bypassing geo-restrictions.

Clients deploy proxy or forward proxy to resolve many of those. The proxy server sits in front of the client, and the request is forwarded to the website via it. It forwards the request to the DNS, resolves it, and collects the server response.

how does forward proxy work


A reverse proxy does the opposite of a traditional proxy. Instead of protecting the client, it protects the website’s original server, which is at high risk of traffic overload, crashes, DDoS attacks, and more.

how does reverse proxy work


Types of Reverse Proxy

Based on the functionality and usage, reverse proxies are of two types: basic and load-balancing reverse proxies. Let’s understand these terms in detail.

Basic Reverse Proxy

These basic proxies are most commonly used for security purposes. They ensure that no ill-intended request or code reaches the original server, receive incoming requests and forward them to the server.

Load Balancing Reverse Proxy

They are the server-side reverse proxies handling multiple requests. At a time, load-balancing reverse proxies are responsible for equal distribution of traffic so that website and content delivery is optimized.

What Is the Purpose of a Reverse Proxy?

Enterprises are recommended to include reverse proxy in the ‘Essential Resources’ list because of its multi-dimensional abilities. From speed to security, the reverse proxy can help businesses improve client-server communication on various fronts. When used correctly, reverse proxy intent to:

  • Protect the main server

Cyber attacks are on the rise, and protecting sensitive information saved on servers or stored on websites is crucial. A reverse proxy is a great way to keep the original website server away from cyberpunks’ reach. It hides the IP address of the main servers and receives clients’ requests on its behalf.

This way, threat attacks fail to recognize the original server, which remains safeguarded from hassles like DDoS attacks, malware, XSS attacks, and so on. As traffic is filtered before reaching the original server, the risk is further reduced. It can also prevent a few requests from reaching the main server.

  • Increase the website speed

Maintaining optimal speed is crucial for SEO ranking, user experience, and brand value. A reverse proxy can help website owners ensure the website is not lagging and content is loading seamlessly. It can also compress heavy website files and deliver them according to geographic location.

It supports CDN and stores website copies on globally distributed servers. This way, your global audience will always have a website version readily available. Hence, they will get an instant response.

Website speed is also improved with a reverse proxy because it ensures that the main server is not overloaded or stuffed. It keeps reducing the load from this server and improving its request response.

  • Website maintenance

Enterprises with multiple websites or huge server networks often use a reverse proxy to simplify the website maintenance process. It can work like a centralized traffic receiving unit for all traffic and even help with website upgrades. The IT team can easily control server operations, update software, fix a bug, and even troubleshoot operational errors for all the servers from one point.

  • Streamline application development

Not many of us know this. But, developers can get great help from reverse proxies if they know how to make the most of this technology. It can help in A/B testing, multivariate testing, application, and decoupling.

For instance, developers can use reverse proxy for strategic content distribution without impacting the main page or application. This permits developers to run multiple versions of an app or website at the same time and perform extensive testing.

It can also easily decouple one application into various systems while keeping the basic SOA the same. As conciliation takes place, the proxy can direct the request to the designated application.

  • Avoid security risks from remote or personal devices.

As BYOD and remote work are here to stay, enterprises need to find a way to control the threat unmanaged and poorly secured devices pose for their endpoints. They can’t control third-party devices or resources. However, a reverse proxy gives them a chance to protect crucial endpoints as it can restrict malicious traffic and even dictate access to particular endpoints.

  • Support brand building

E-commerce businesses or websites with heavy content generally host the shopping cart and CMS outside the periphery of the internal network. This is why you’re redirected to another URL for the payment. Many buyers are not comfortable with this redirect as they are not sure about the security of the third party.

Businesses can use a reverse proxy to hide this redirect, as it can conceal the identity of the external vendor.

  • Improve by using subdomains

While using subdomains can sound great from a website management point-of-view, it harms the website’s SEO ranking greatly, primarily because subdomain URLs won’t have main keywords.

Without keywords, a website and its hosted content will certainly be ranked low. A reverse proxy is of great help in fixing this problem. It will let search engines and people access the subdomain via the main domain. Even if the subdomain and main domain are not hosted on the same server, reverse proxy will make them look like they are.

As we all know, reverse proxy acts like a web broker for the server and requests content for the server from other resources. So, when it’s in place, the subdomain content becomes a part of the main domain for the search engines and the viewers if it’s hosted somewhere else. Hence, ranking is not disturbed as you use subdomains.

We hope you understand what is a reverse proxy now. Let’s talk about its advantages now.

Benefits of Reverse Proxy

When used in the right manner, reverse proxy tends to reap multiple benefits, such as:

Effective load balancing

A website server’s workload could be too heavy to handle, as millions of users might access a website in a day. This excessive traffic can exert great force on the website server and may lead to incidents like failure or server downtime.

Rightful implementation of reverse proxy can be of great use to do traffic load balancing. It will effectively distribute the incoming traffic and ensure that a single server does not handle it. Rather, multiple servers are at work.

Continual service delivery

Reverse proxy brings multiple servers into action. So, if one server is down, you have another server as a backup. If you’re promising your customers an always-active website, reverse proxy will help you fulfill this promise.

Better cybersecurity protection

When the reverse proxy is at work, there is no need to reveal the actual IP address. This makes it hard for hackers to track and spot the activities of a specific IP address. The tool has a proven history of effectively reducing the possibilities of DDoS attacks and cyber dangers.

Reddit Reverse Proxy Review 2

Improved internet security also comes with the fact that reverse proxy helps in threat protection, privacy, and traffic filtration. When it comes to threat protection, reverse proxies can prevent malicious threats from reaching the original servers by blocking them at the entrance.

As the real IP address of the main website server is not revealed to anyone, better data security is experienced. Reverse proxies can blacklist certain IP addresses and even the number of requests per connection, which further reduces the possibilities of DDoS attacks.

Enjoy targeted global server balancing

Global server balancing is an advanced version of loan balancing and is preferred for effective traffic management. In this kind of loan balancing, the functioning of a website is dependable on servers spread across the globe when traffic or requests are forwarded to the server closest to the source of the request/traffic.

This way, the distance between request and response becomes short. As the response has to travel less distance, performance is surely improved.

Easy encryption optimization

Encryption implementation is necessary to make data untraceable. But, it is tough to implement encryption on every request. With the help of reverse proxy, it’s easy to encrypt all the outgoing responses while keeping the originating serverless resource extensive.

Powerful content caching

If you’re skilled, you can easily use a reverse proxy to cache both dynamic and static content.

It basically distributes the traffic and reduces the load on the origin server. Both these things add to the performance of the website. Content caching in reverse proxy works like that.

If a website has the main server located in Australia, the requests coming from Canada will be automatically answered by a cached website version that must be saved on a server near the request’s location. As the response has less distance to cover, it will be delivered quickly.

Limitations of Reverse Proxy

Even though reverse proxy servers offer many benefits, they are never without limitations. If you’re planning to use this tool, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the restrictions.

  1. Implementation of reverse proxy automatically applies SSL/TLS encryption. This encryption is strong and will not let any app or plugin work if anything suspicious is spotted.
  2. The reverse proxy will make client requests totally dependable on the proxy. While it seems good from a security point of view, it makes auditing difficult. AppSec security experts will have a tough time finding out which request is corrupted, as verified and unverified requests are coming from the same source.
  3. The reverse proxy will request additional power and resources to keep the backend servers running, which increases the cost.

What Is the Best Reverse Proxy Provider?

For websites seeking optimized speed, content delivery, security, and other performance metrics, the best reverse proxy must be used. Despite that, only 17% of websites are using this tool. As server-side attacks are on the rise, neglecting reverse proxy can prove fatal. Organizations should start looking for a reliable reverse proxy provider offering considerable features.

Nginx is a worthy option. As Datanyze reveals, 55.42% of websites use Nginx. This open-source web server is the first choice of many looking for a feature-rich reverse proxy service. It works great as a load balancer and offers everything required for ideal server maintenance. Its configuration is easy and is fully supported by the configuration files.

Those looking for more than the usual reverse proxy features can choose Nginx Plus, which offers API configuration and many more enterprise-suitable features. Apache Traffic Server and Varnish are two other choices to consider.

Also, BrightData is widely regarded as the best reverse proxy server in the market today, and for a good reason. Its unparalleled performance and robust feature set make it a standout choice for businesses of all sizes. With BrightData, users can effortlessly manage and route their web traffic, ensuring seamless connectivity and reliable access to online resources. The platform boasts an extensive global proxy network, guaranteeing exceptional speed, reliability, and anonymity. BrightData’s advanced security measures, including IP rotation and anti-blocking technologies, further enhance its standing as the top choice. Combined with its user-friendly interface and exceptional customer support, BrightData sets the standard for excellence in the realm of reverse proxy servers.

Try BrightData here >

Use Cases of Reverse Proxy For WordPress Websites

With a 42.9% market share, WordPress is the world’s leading CMS hosting most websites. While WordPress offers considerable features and facilities for website management, troubles like traffic burden, DDoS attacks, sluggish speed, and many more can be a matter of concern.

When used diligently, a reverse proxy can help one manage and maintain WordPress websites. This tool can direct traffic to a website’s subdomains and distribute it without harming the SEO ranking.

Reverse Proxy Primary Server - Secondary Server


Below-mentioned are the use cases of reverse proxy for WordPress websites.

Both main and proxied sites are hosted using the same server

If you’re using a main and a proxied site to manage the traffic load, experts recommend using a reverse proxy for the hosting of the main WordPress website. The proxied site can be configured to get loaded with the help of a reverse proxy.

Only proxy sites are hosted on an in-house server

In case you have access to the proxied site and its relevant server, you can’t configure the reverse proxy on your own. You have to contact the main site admin and request them to configure this tool for you.

The main site is hosted on your server

When you only have access to the main site and its corresponding server, you need to configure a reverse proxy and define the rules. Defining loading rules is important so that the main website can load the proxied site from an outsider host.

Reverse Proxy – How Different It Is From Other Kind Of Servers

A reverse proxy is one of the many proxy server options offered. It’s great to understand how a reverse proxy differs from its peers.

Proxy vs Reverse Proxy

Proxy is the name of the technology wherein a server is used as a barrier between the client and the server. Based on the placement, resource, features, and other factors, a proxy could be of any kind, like a residential proxy, data center proxy, forward proxy, and on. A reverse proxy is one of our many kinds of proxy servers.

In all varieties, except the reverse proxy, a proxy server is deployed on the client side, and forwards requests to the server on its behalf.

As the name suggests, a reverse proxy does the opposite of a proxy. It’s deployed on the server side and filters content/traffic for the server.

In a normal proxy setup, the client’s request will be forwarded to the proxy server first and then forwarded to the website server. The reverse proxy receives the client’s request and forwards it to the server.

Because both these have different placements and functions, they also have different use cases. For instance, proxy servers are used mainly in request blocking, real-time monitoring, and logging. A reverse proxy is mainly used for load balancing, API gateways, caching, and security scanning.

Reverse proxy vs Forward proxy

A forward proxy is placed in front of the user and works as an intermediary between the server and the end user. Every user-generated request will have to pass through the forward proxy before reaching the end user.

The forward proxy aims to make sure that the client’s identity is not revealed and that there is no harm caused to it.

A reverse proxy protects the original server. Its key purpose is to ensure that the main server is not overburdened, on hackers’ radar, and poorly maintained.

Front-end servers use the forward server, while internal or backend servers use the reverse proxy.

Use cases for both proxies are also dissimilar. Forward proxy is mainly used for bypassing geo-restrictions and IP address leaks to protect online identity as the original IP address of the client is not revealed.

Reverse proxy helps in load balancing, traffic distribution, content caching, and A/B testing.

Reverse proxy vs Load balancer

Even though both these technologies dictate how client requests will be forwarded to a server, they have different trajectories to follow. For instance, the reverse proxy receives the client request first and then forwards it to the respective server. It follows the ‘one-request per server’ rule. Load balancer, on the other hand, handles bulk requests.

It receives multiple requests and forwards them to the group of servers. It does more than request forwarding. It collects the response and forwards it to the respective client.

Reverse proxy’s operational capabilities are limited to HTTP web requests. However, the load balancer can handle a myriad of web request types, including SSL, TCP DNS, and many more.

They both exist in different OSI layers. For instance, a reverse proxy is a Level 7 tool, while a load balancer can operate anywhere between Level 3-7 of the OSI model.

A reverse proxy wears a different hat and can be used for purposes like content caching, A/B testing, traffic distribution, multivariate testing, working as a WAF, and providing adequate security features. But, a load balancer does nothing other than traffic distribution. Hence, a reverse proxy could be a load balancer, but a load balancer can’t be a reverse proxy.

CDN v/s Reverse Proxy

CDN and reverse proxy are used for optimized content delivery. They have overlapping characteristics and functionalities, but they are not the same. CDN is an advanced version of reverse proxy delivered with third-party maintenance. Its website monitoring and performance acceleration are better than a reverse proxy.

Reverse proxies are good enough only for contact caching. On the contrary, CDN handles cache content, load reduction, improved security, trimming down the bandwidth cost, and SEO ranking optimization in one go.

Reverse Proxy v/s API Gateway

API Gateway is better referred to as the reverse proxy superset, which handles the API calls. It forwards the API calls to the right set of microservices and prevents the client from communicating directly with the client. Along with API call forwarding, it also takes care of orchestration as it keeps the API calls under control.

This is different from reverse proxy as there is no protocol-to-protocol communication, which is the case with API Gateway. A reverse proxy can work only with HTTP, while API Gateway can handle XML to JSON or gRPC to JSON requests.

Speaking of the use cases, API Gateway is mainly responsible for API Authentication and Authorization, as API requests are fully controlled. Rate Limiting and caching are the functionalities that both API Gateways and reverse proxy can perform.

A reverse proxy can manage internet and bandwidth and even dictate secured node will handle the requests. API Gateway is concerned only with the microservices access within the given API Architecture. Just like reverse proxy, it can also control the bandwidth. Clearly, API Gateway shares some functionality with reverse proxy. But it’s more advanced and viable.

Reverse Proxy Setup Process

After all the above-mentioned information, you need to learn how to set up a reverse proxy. We’re going to explain the process using Apache and Nginx, as both are very famous reverse proxies.

Let’s consider you have two fully-functional websites,, and Out of these two websites, the second website is a proxied WordPress site and is installed on a subdomain of the primary website,, so that it can easily load the root domain’s blog for the first website at the subdirectory link.

Now, suppose they both are using Apache and are running on Ubuntu 18.04.

Step #1 – Begin with Apache configuration

Once the basics are in place, you must begin the server implementation by accessing the Apache server’s terminal. You would require SSH for the job, and you must also enable the proxy module of Apache.

The required command is:

sudo a2enmod proxy proxy_http ssl

Step #2 – Configure a reverse proxy

Up next is editing the origin server’s virtual host file. This file is required for generating a reverse proxy. The following codes need to be added to the file.

<VirtualHost *>

DocumentRoot /var/www/app/public

SSLProxyEngine On ProxyRequests off

ProxyPass /blog

ProxyPassReverse /blog


Note: “*” will be replaced with the IP address.

The ProxyPass directive used will generate a reverse proxy for the predefined path. On the other hand, the ProxyPassReverse directive will decode the HTTP response headers that the ProxyPass reverse proxy will forward. Upon receiving the HTTP response headers, the directive will rewrite them to match up with the Apache server configuration easily.

Step #3 – Editing wp-config.php file

Save the file and make changes in the  wp-config.php file. You need to keep on adding the below-mentioned code until you’re told to stop.



$_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’] = ‘/blog’ . $_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’]

The above code will check if the variables exist and override them in case they do. The request is then sent to the /blog/* subdirectory.

Step #4 – Updating the site’s database

At last, update the website’s database so that the configuration values for the /blog subdirectory link are added. The required SQL query for this task is:

UPDATE wp_options SET option_value = ‘’ WHERE option_name IN( ‘siteurl’, ‘home’ );

After successfully entering these codes, you can access the URL and load the subdomain of without making any changes to the URL.

Nginx Reverse Proxy Setup

Nginx is a leading reverse proxy provider with a straightforward setup. We will take the above-mentioned scenario into consideration.

Step #1 – Nginx installation

To start the set-up, one must access the server terminal using SSH and update the distribution packages using the apt-get command. Next, install Ngnix reverse proxy on the website server using the below-mentioned command.

sudo apt update

sudo apt install nginx

Step #2 – Nginx configuration to proxy requests

Next, you need to configure Nginx to the proxy requests for Apache-hosted domains. For this, the primary step to take is to generate an entirely fresh virtual host file with the help of the code editor. Any reliable code editor is good for the job. In the example, we used Nano editor, and the command for file creation is as stated below.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/

Once the file is created, you need to deploy Nginx directives so that proxy requests are carried forward to Apache. You need to add server {…} and location blocks for this.

server {

listen 80;


index index.php;

root /var/www/ # fallback for index.php

location / {

try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$query_string;

}location /blog {

proxy_pass;proxy_http_version 1.1;

proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;

# Proxy headers

proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;

proxy_set_header Connection “upgrade”;

proxy_set_header Host $host;

proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;

proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;

proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;

proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Host $host;

proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Port $server_port;

# Proxy timeouts

proxy_connect_timeout 60s;

proxy_send_timeout 60s;

proxy_read_timeout 60s;


Code Source

As the code explained, it’s required to define the subdirectory link for Apache. Also, it’s important that the proxy_pass directive has the well-defined public IP address of the proxy website. It’s imperative to have pre-installed proxies websites in place before bringing any changes into action.

Step #3 – Save the file created

You need to save the virtual host file by generating a symlink for the file The link should be generated for /etc/nginx/sites-available and the /etc/nginx/sites-enabled directories. The below-mentioned command is useful for this.

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/ /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

Step #4 – Test the errors

You need to find out any configuration errors in Nginx.

sudo nginx -t

If no errors are detected, reload the Nginx server to enforce the changes.

sudo systemctl reload nginx

Finally, Nginx is now successfully established as a reverse proxy. You can test its operation using the phpinfo() function. The function will help you check the loaded PHP variables as the proxied site is accessed.

The PHP variables are easily found in SERVER_SOFTWARE and DOCUMENT_ROOT. As you access them, you will see Apache servers working at the backend.

For testing Nginx, you need to check HTTP_X_REAL_IP and HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR PHP variables.

To speed up the WordPress site hosting over Nginx, use fastcgi_cache and ngx_cache_purge modules.

fastcgi_cache module will cache the site, while the ngx_cache_purge module will automate the caching according to particular events like editing or publishing a WordPress page. It’s recommended to use a WordPress plugin that can control the caching for Nginx from the Dashboard.

Common Server-side Attacks Targeting Reverse Proxies

Reverse proxies are great, but they are not the greatest tool of all time. History has many reverse proxies bypass incidents or cyberattacks targeting reverse proxies to narrate. Have a look at the most commonly seen threat to reverse proxies.

#1 – HTTP Request Smuggling

Perhaps HTTP request smuggling is the reason behind most reverse proxy abuse or bypass. This is a web application that aims to exploit the gap between website servers and their respective proxies. Using it, bad actors manage to proffer an HTTP request on behalf of the user.

#2 – Restriction bypassing

Attackers don’t like access restrictions, and they try their best to bypass these restrictions. They can succeed by adding # in the HTTP request.

When a reverse proxy like Nginx receives this request, it discards everything that comes after #. For instance, if hackers forward a request as GET /#/../console/ HTTP/1.1 to Nginx, it will skip /console/ instantly. This way, bypassing is successful.

#3 – Misusing of header modification

As reverse proxy modifies the response’s header, it leaves scope for abuse. Hackers can modify headers in the backend. At times, they manage to modify some security-critical headers, which can cause serious troubles.

Are Reverse Proxies 100% Secured?

Exposed IP addresses are the core of most internet troubles. Keeping them out of the reach of threat actors reduces the possibilities of online data theft, XSS attacks, DDoS attacks, and many other cyber vulnerabilities.

A reverse proxy is delivered with capabilities like traffic filtration, IP address masking, and controlling the incoming requests per IP address. It keeps the original server so well hidden that threat actors will have limited or zero access to it.

Additional security comes from the fact that reverse proxy can handle the SSL negotiation for all the internal servers. Hence, website owners don’t have to invest extra effort in managing certificates for multiple networks or websites. Encryption for internal networks is also not required.

A reverse proxy can also work like a firewall for websites and deliver more on the security front. Considering all this, we can conclude that it does a great job of securing the original website server.

But does it offer unbreakable security?

If we dig deeper, some evident security loopholes will come to the surface. For instance:

A reverse proxy can read or modify non-encrypted traffic, log passwords, and even inject malware as it allows all requests to pass through it. It works only with HTTP requests, which is not a safe protocol. HTTPS is the bare minimum requirement.

A reverse proxy is an easy technology to bypass, and hackers don’t have to invest much effort to deactivate it. However, if it’s not configured to filter attacks or remains inactive for a long time, it can allow zero-day vulnerabilities.

A single failure or technical fault in the reverse proxy can threaten the entire server architecture. Therefore, you can’t bank upon its default security.

For advanced security, a VPN is a preferred option as it provides top-notch security. VPN is an advanced version of a proxy. It’s a proxy with iron armor, as its security features are far more cutting-edge than any proxy type, including reverse proxy.

VPN or Virtual Private Network is an established way to establish a secure connection between the internet and computing devices. It is an encrypted tunnel placed between the internet and the client. It’s a client-side technology forward request to the internet on the client’s behalf.

As a client requests to connect to a website, the request has to pass through the VPN first. VPN forwards the request to the server, replaces the original IP addresses, and adds encryption to the process. This way, IP masking and encryption are enjoyed in one go.

Security-wise, VPN is one of the most secure technology by far as:

  • You can use multiple security protocols and advanced encryptions
  • There are advanced features like IP Leak protection, DNS Leak protection, Kill Switch, AdBlocker, Malware, and many more
  • Complete privacy and anonymity are offered
  • DoubleVPN is an advanced feature of many best VPNs that filters the traffic twice

To create an unbreakable security shield, enterprises are recommended to use reverse proxies for servers and hand over VPNs to their employees.


A reverse proxy is more than a way to improve the security stature of the website. Its successful implementation leads to improved website performance, quick response delivery, and SSL encryption optimization. Now that you understand what reverse proxy is try it once. You’ll be able to realize its power in full swing.

Related articles


What is the reverse proxy used for?

While there are multiple use cases of reverse proxy, the most common ones are using it to hide the identity of the origin server, add protection against DDoS attacks, perform A/B and multi-variant testing, and add access authentication to the server.

Is a VPN a reverse proxy?
Is DNS a reverse proxy?
Is CDN a Reverse Proxy?
Is a Load Balancer a Reverse Proxy?
Is an API Gateway a Reverse Proxy?


Write comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *