Gone are the days when you surfed the Internet without an iota of worry. Comparatively speaking, shocking security concerns are growing fast, day after day. In such an unsafe environment, people tend to fancy a modicum of refuge no matter how minute. It is this pressing need that fathered the notion of privacy tools such as proxy servers and VPNs. Every stated solution has its share of pros and cons and enjoys varied popularity amongst the populace. While VPNs are the undisputed leaders in the privacy and security arena, proxy servers aren’t that behind. A SOCKS proxy, in particular, is employed even by leading VPN providers to attract a plethora of clients. One of its iterations is its latest version, namely the SOCKS5 proxy. And it proved to be quite the game-changer. How so? Continue scrolling to learn more about this advanced protocol.
What is a proxy server?
The term proxy means the authority to represent someone. It isn’t a fallacy to claim that the exact words can easily define a proxy server. It isn’t that far-fetched from the said definition as a proxy server works similarly to what you pictured. Used to remain secure and ensure privacy, a proxy is an intermediary between users and the internet. Proxy or proxy servers provide a gateway between end-users and the websites they visit online. It is an intermediary server that acts on behalf of the user to ensure efficiency, security, and user privacy. It can be software or dedicated hardware. Proxy servers are unlike VPNs as they are not networks, but at the same time very similar to them as they strive to provide the same benefits. A detailed comparison between a proxy and a VPN is available on our site.
A proxy server is a machine or software that translates traffic between networks or protocols, while it serves as an intermediate and separates end users from the destinations they browse. Your outgoing traffic flows to the proxy server before it reaches the website and vice versa. But a proxy server does much more than forward web requests. It acts as a firewall, a web filter, provides shared network connections, and concurrently caches common data to speed up your daily browsing.
Devised to add structure and encapsulation to a distributed system, a proxy server allows you to surf the internet with a completely different IP. A proxy server has its IP address independent from the end-user, which serves the purpose of privacy and secure browsing for individuals, and network security and performance for corporations. The two central functions of a proxy are:
- To keep the system behind it anonymous.
- To speed up access to a resource through caching.
Types of proxy servers
There are a lot of proxy servers under different branches and functionalities. However, we will only cover a few common ones. Such as:
- Forward proxy — A typical proxy that sits in front of a client. Best suited for internal networks that need a single point of entry. However, it limits the ability to cater to the needs of individual end-users.
- Transparent proxy — Well-suited for corporations. It lets one or more users make use of proxies without other individuals knowing that they are using one. Identical to a generic browsing experience. Nonetheless, more susceptible to SYN-flood DOS attacks.
- Anonymous proxy — This proxy server’s primary objective is anonymity online. It establishes Internet access on behalf of the end-user while hiding the originating IP address. Suitable for users with privacy concerns.
- Distorting proxy — It hides its real IP while accessing websites. Unfortunately, leading websites commonly block access to distorting proxies.
- Highly Anonymous proxy — It is a subtype of Anonymous Proxy. It makes sure the end-user remains anonymous by not only hiding but also erasing backlog traces. However, it is pertinent that a user doesn’t depend on free services, as that can be a trap.
- Data Center proxy — Independent of ISPs, but reliant on data centers. It is a physical server suited for a quick response while harvesting data.
- Residential proxy — Provides a static IP address. Useful in blocking ads/cookies. One of the most trustworthy options but often costly to implement.
- Public proxy — Provides free access to everyone. However, it is slow and compromises security.
- SSL proxy — It provides decryption between the client and server. Due to the double-ended encryption, the proxy hides from both clients and servers. Most suitable for enhanced protection.
What is the SOCKS protocol?
SOCKS is a web protocol that a proxy server uses to accept requests on behalf of users. It stands for “SOCKetS” and facilitates communication with servers through a firewall by routing network traffic to websites on behalf of a client. It can route any traffic generated by any protocols and or programs. SOCKS uses sockets to represent and keep track of individual connections. It is inbuilt into some explicit browsers on the client-side while it needs manual installation on the proxy server at the server end.
SOCKS creates a transmission control protocol (TCP) connection behind firewalls and then exchanges packets between the client and server. It doesn’t translate the traffic between them. It is prominent in bypassing client-centric firewalls. That’s why it relays a user’s TCP and user datagram protocol (UDP) sessions. SOCKS is a layer5 protocol and sits between SSL (layer 7) and TCP/UDP (layer 4); Therefore, it can effectively handle several requests from HTTP, HTTPS, POS3, SMTP, and FTP. Therefore it has a diverse clientele, including email, web browsing, P2P sharing, file transfer, and more.
There are only two versions of SOCKS
- SOCKS4 — It supports neither authentication nor UDP proxies and is less secure.
- And SOCKS5 — It uses three authentication methods, which make it more secure. The protocol establishes a full TCP connection with authentication and uses Secure Shell (SSH) encryption to tunnel the traffic.
SOSCKS5 proxy: An overview
SOCKS5 proxy is a lightweight, general-purpose proxy that is the most up-to-date version of the SOCKS protocol. It sits at layer 5 of the OSI model and uses tunneling, unlike the previous version 4. It supports almost every protocol like HTTP, HTTPS, SMTP, FTP, etc. As such, it can virtually work with any traffic. SOCKS5 offers three methods of authentication and supports UDP too. On the surface, SOCKS5 appears as the same as a VPN, yet, it is not. It is true that in some cases, it is faster than a VPN but also less secure. It doesn’t encapsulate packets with encryption, which is what makes it faster with a lighter payload. Therefore, any third party can intercept and read your data even when using a SOCKS5 proxy. Yet many users prefer SOCKS5 over VPNs all because of its ability to bypass firewalls and greater speed.
SOCKS5 proxies are traffic agnostic. It means they do not inspect traffic but directly pass it through the server and to the destination. They, just like the previous SOCKS protocol, establish a TCP connection to transport UDP packets. But unlike SOCKS4, this latest protocol performs an authentication while connecting to the server. It means that the browser also performs a handshake with the server before opening the connection.
The three types of authentication SOCKS5 supports are:
- Null Authentication — No authentication required.
- Username/Password Authentication — Needs login credentials.
- GSS-API Authentication — Both sides rely on operating systems to verify identity.
Note. In some cases, a SOCKS5 proxy is much better than a VPN at bypassing geo-restriction. It can even bypass VPN blocking, which is why leading VPN providers oftentimes bundle their VPN with a SOCKS5 server.
How SOCKS5 proxy differs from an HTTP proxy?
SOCKS5 is one of the popular proxies right now, while HTTP needs no introduction. Some common differences between these two proxies are:
|Traffic||Universal works with any traffic, protocol, or program||It works with only web traffic in browsers over HTTP or HTTPS protocols.|
|Level||It is a high-level proxy.||It is a low-level proxy.|
|OSI layer||Session (Layer 5)||Application (Layer 7)|
|Header modification||No, that is why it is fast.||Yes, according to the source.|
|Ports supported||It can use any port.||It supports only port 80 and port 443.|
|Security||Needs authentication.||Free access.|
How SOCKS5 proxy differs from a VPN?
It is inevitable for us to make comparisons between the SOCKS5 proxy and a VPN. Some generic differences between a SOCKS5 and a VPN are:
|Encryption||It doesn’t encrypt traffic; thus, less secure.||It encrypts the traffic to and from the client and is provides high levels of security.|
|IP address||It alters your IP address.||A VPN also modifies your IP address.|
|Speed||It is faster because it doesn’t modify headers. NO Encryption||It is slower than SOCKS5 as it encapsulates the header.|
|Ease of use||Most SOCKS5 needs a manual configuration that makes it a bit harder to use.||VPN, although also manually configurable, often runs via a user-friendly app.|
How does a SOCKS5 proxy work?
SOCKS5 first routes your traffic through a proxy server, generating an arbitrary IP address. Technically, it uses the server to form either UDP or TCP connection through a despotic IP address before reaching the destination. For example, if your IP address is 184.108.40.206 and your traffic routes through a SOCKS proxy with the IP 220.127.116.11, the target destination will assume that the request originated from the last address. It will effectively hide your presence from the website in question. However, SOCKS5 cant ensure your data’s security as it doesn’t support any encryption.
SOCKS5 tunnels UDP data packets over a TCP connection and circumvents firewalls. While this method may not be 100% anonymous, it does come close. Always remember there is no such thing as total anonymity when it comes to the internet.
Common uses of a SOCKS5 proxy
One of the most popular use cases of SOCKS5 is to facilitate the administration of network firewalls. However, it isn’t limited to just that. Some common uses of a SOCKS5 proxy are:
- Overcoming network firewalls.
- Hiding your online presence by providing an arbitrary IP address.
- Changing your geo-location.
- Hiding your online browsing activity by tunneling UDP over TCP connection.
- Bypassing censorship.
- Faster browsing.
- P2P sharing and torrenting.
- Increase in bandwidth.
- Web scrapping.
Advantages of SOCKS5 proxy
The key benefits associated with a SOCK5 proxy are as follows:
Bypass internet blocks to circumvent censorship/geo-restrictions
SOCKS5 can not only overcome internet blocks but can also enable a user to circumvent VPN blocking. It is a relay between your device and the internet. However, a SOCKS5 cant get you past a national firewall (like the Great Firewall of China) as they employ deep packet inspection (DPI). In simpler words, your traffic is blocked by your ISP even before it reaches the internet.
No limits on protocols, traffic, or program
The SOCKS5 proxy is universal in application. It means that it can handle any traffic or protocol. For instance: HTTP, HTTP, FTP, SMTP, POS3, etc.
SOCKS5 is faster and more reliable
SOCKS4 used TCP, which required a secure connection between a client and server, ensuring that all data packets arrive in the same order. SOCKS5, however, uses UDP that doesn’t limit data packet order; as a result, it is much faster.
Fewer errors and enhanced performance
Proxies rewrite data packet headers which can lead to the data being misrouted or mislabeled. SOCKS5, on the other hand, doesn’t practice header modification. Thus, it is not only faster but also with fewer errors. The point to note is that: your data is not secure when using SOCKS5 as it doesn’t engage in encryption.
Good for P2P/torrenting
SOCKS5 transfers smaller packets of data and is faster than other proxies on the block. That makes it the number one choice for P2P/torrenting.
SOCKS5 proxy is compatible with VPNs
Many VPN providers bundle VPNs with SOCKS5 as an additional layer of protection. In the event of a VPN failure, the SOCKS5 will ensure your privacy and vice versa. However, when you use SOCKS5 with a VPN, you may have to sacrifice speed for added security.
Disadvantages of SOCKS5
SOCKS5 also have some severe limitations such as:
- No Encryption — SOCKS5 is fast, but it doesn’t encrypt your online traffic.
- No header modification — Since SOCKS5 doesn’t practice header modification, it can be a problem. Headers often contain crucial metadata that can be useful in tracing you.
- Free proxies are a trap — Nothing in the world is free. Attempting to use a free proxy service may be a trap. It may also perform the exact opposite of what you intended for it.