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A circuit-level gateway is a firewall that provides User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection security, and works between an Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) network model’s transport and application layers such as the session layer. Unlike application gateways, circuit-level gateways monitor TCP data packet handshaking and session fulfillment of firewall rules and policies.
A proxy server is a security barrier between internal and external computers, while a circuit-level gateway is a virtual circuit between the proxy server and internal client.
For example, when a user Web page access request passes through the circuit gateway, basic internal user information, such as IP address, is exchanged for proper feedback. Then, the proxy server forwards the request to the Web server. Upon receiving the request, the external server sees the proxy server’s IP address but does not receive any internal user information. The Web or real server sends the proxy server a proper response, which is forwarded to the client or end user via the circuit-level gateway.