Software

Sharing Internet access on your home network with just one IP address

Would you like to share Internet access among several computers in your home with just one Internet account? AnalogX and Proxy+ provide the means to do so. Learn more about each of these software options.

After receiving so many responses about my previous article, “Sharing Internet access with just one IP address,” I decided to explore some of the options the readers suggested. In the wake of all of the posts, I wrote an article about Windows 2000 Server and how it can be used to share one IP address for Internet access. In a professional environment, Win2K Server is a good fit, but what about the home user? Many possible solutions geared towards the home network were posted, in particular, several software options. Two standouts were AnalogX, submitted by Al Yakus, and Proxy+, submitted by dkman. Both are easily configured and can be a great option when you want to share Internet access with one IP address.

AnalogX
AnalogX is available for download at AnalogX.com. The best part of this program is the cost—it’s free. In addition, downloading the program is a breeze due to its small file size of 251 KB.

AnalogX proxy supports the following protocols: HTTP (Web), HTTPS (secure Web), POP3 (receive mail), SMTP (send mail), NNTP (newsgroups), FTP (file transfer), and Socks4/4a and partial Socks5 (no UDP). When configured properly, it works with Internet Explorer, Netscape, AOL, AOL Instant Messenger, Microsoft Messenger, and others. This program also reduces costs by effectively providing Internet access without the overhead of additional hardware. You only need one NIC, one account, and one PC to operate the server. In addition, the configuration of AnalogX is a breeze. I had this program downloaded, installed, configured, and running in a matter of minutes. Figure 1 shows the main control panel.

Figure 1
AnalogX main control panel


Outside of the Network Information screen, the About screen, and the E-mail setup screen, this is all there is to this small proxy server. All configurations are made right from this screen. You turn on each component by clicking on the appropriate button. For example, if you want only the HTTP proxy, then you would turn off all the other protocols, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2
AnalogX configured for only the HTTP proxy


To configure for use with e-mail, you click on the Configure Email Alias button. Figure 3 shows the e-mail address configuration dialog box in detail.

Figure 3
AnalogX e-mail alias configuration panel


AnalogX adds security
AnalogX is a small proxy with many powerful utilities. One of its capabilities is its binding feature. There are many hackers surfing the Internet looking for vulnerable proxies to use. An open proxy allows hackers to anonymously scan remote computer ports, surf the Internet, and send e-mail. Once hackers find your open proxy server, they will add it to their list of proxies and make their Internet hacking footsteps that much harder to track.

The more proxies hackers send their packets of data through, the less likely it is that they will get caught. Each proxy server is considered a “hop,” and each hop has a log. If a hacker can send his data packets through many hops, then the chances of someone not logging his moves are greater. All it takes is one system admin to either delete or not keep the logs at all and the hacker becomes untraceable.

AnalogX’s binding feature will protect you from these hackers. By default, the proxy binds to all TCP/IP interfaces on your computer. This is primarily to make it easy to get running, but it also means that it will service requests from the Internet as well. You can force proxy to bind only to your local IP address in the Configuration menu, at the Proxy Bind option. If this is set to Disabled, then it will bind to all interfaces. If a valid TCP/IP address is entered, however, the proxy will bind only to that address—so if you enter 10.0.0.1 as your server's IP address, then the proxy will only talk to machines that connect to that IPI—in other words, only your local network.

Overall, AnalogX is a good solution. Its small size, ease of configuration, and protection from possible malicious users make it a very desirable program.

Proxy+
Another utility to use to share one IP address for Internet access is Proxy+. Like AnalogX, Proxy+ is also a proxy server. Proxy+ is a simple program. It can be found at Proxyplus.cz. It supports POP3, FTP, GOPHER, TELNET, HTTP, RAUDIO, SOCKS 4, and SOCKS 5 protocols. The configuration of Proxy+ is not as clear as AnalogX, but it offers almost the same capabilities. The one and only screen you get with this program is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4
Proxy+ main screen


Proxy+ configuration and features
Proxy+ is not as easy to configure as AnalogX. However, it does come with a more extensive manual. Everything from choosing port settings to assigning configuration passwords is handled through its Web-based manual. Proxy+ also offers more options than AnalogX and can perform a wide variety of tasks. For example, you can set up user/group accounts on the server, as well as set “time limits” and “time of day” terms to your user accounts. Proxy+ also supports the dial-on-demand feature.

The Proxy+ server may look small at first glance, but it does offer a lot under the hood. Getting under the hood may prove to be a little bit confusing, but it is well worth the effort. Read the manual to understand what this entire program offers. Proxy+ can also be set up to run as a Windows NT service. If this method is used, the program can be configured to start automatically upon boot-up and not have a program window appear on the desktop.

Proxy+’s security options
Proxy+’s manual states that there are two ways to configure the proxy. One approach is to configure it to act as a router sending packets of data from LAN PCs to the Internet and vice versa. The second method is based on an "alternative" (proxy) server on a PC connected to the Internet. The proxy server receives requests from LAN PCs and sends them to Internet servers. Because these LAN stations are communicating only with a proxy server, they may have an IP address independent of the Internet. In addition, the station is completely separated from the Internet and is entirely safe from possible outer data attacks. Now I might be missing something here, but the second method sounds a lot like the first, and I do not really see the security.

The bottom line
In conclusion, both of these proxies would be very beneficial. However, when compared to the Sygate and Linksys options discussed in my previous article, there are some major differences. Built-in firewalls and DHCP servers are enough to set Sygate or Linksys a notch higher. The ability to log HTTP traffic and restrict unwanted Web content to younger users on the network is also a great tool for the parent/network admin of the house. Regardless, both AnalogX and Proxy+ are worth a try for the home user who is looking to share Internet access with just one IP address.
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