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SOCKS Proxies: Overview, Benefits, and Disadvantages

Online security plays a massive role in how people interact on the internet. It offers better opportunities for surfing the internet without the fear of being exposed to cyberattacks. Online security tools are essential for offering safe, fast, and reliable connections.

In this article, we will take a close look at the use of SOCKS proxies for online security. We will also discuss how the protocol works and its benefits and disadvantages.

So, let’s dive in.

What is a SOCKS Proxy?

SOCKS stands for Socket Secure. It is an internet protocol that facilitates communication between a client and a destination server. SOCKS is one of the most sophisticated security protocols. It is specifically designed for routing your traffic through various internet programs or protocols.

SOCKS can handle several request formats. It covers HTTPS, HTTP, SMTP, FTP, and POP3. This is because it’s positioning at layer 5 – between UDP/TCP in layer 4 and SSL at layer 7 – gives it better opportunities to deliver secure connections.

There are two types of SOCKS proxies available in the market today:

  • SOCKS4 – It is the previous version of the SOCKS proxy. SOCKS4 does not support Datagram Protocol (UDP) packets or authentication.
  • SOCKS5 is the latest and most preferred protocol. It delivers traffic through UDP and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) packets. SOCKS5 offers better security and has three authentication methods
  • Null authentication: The user does not require authentication to connect to the proxy.
  • Password/ username-based authentication: The user needs login credentials to access the proxy.
  • GSI-API authentication – Both the user and server use authentication data at the operating system to connect to the proxy.

Note: SOCKS is a layer 5 protocol. Any tunnel protocols operating below layer 5 cannot use SOCKS proxies. This means that even attackers operating below the standard levels cannot scan your sites when using half-open connections.

How Does a SOCKS Proxy Work?

Let’s say your IP address is 5.5.5.5, and you are routing your traffic through a SOCKS proxy. The SOCKS proxy will send your request via a third-party server through TCP. Throughout this process, you will be assigned a new IP address like, let’s say, 1.1.1.1.

Since the new IP address is different from your servers’, the destination website cannot view your real identity. Your location is also hidden, and you can easily access geo-restricted content. 

Image source: Canva

The Benefits

1.    Fewer Errors

Unlike most proxies, SOCKS5 does not rewrite data packet headers. It transfers traffic between devices without any changes. Because of this, there are fewer chances of mislabelling the headers during transmission. Since SOCKS5 minimizes error in headers, misrouting the information is also less likely. Fewer errors translate to better performance in your systems.

However, the transfer of headers, as is, comes with its downside. The data packet headers contain your personal information, which means that using a SOCKS proxy exposes your sensitive data. If not well managed, the access of this data by a third-party could lead to attacks. That’s why it’s advised to carefully choose your proxy provider for better security of your data.

2.    Improved Speeds and Better Performance

SOCKS5 uses both the UDP and TCP packets. This makes it a convenient proxy for browsing across different platforms.TCP delivers organized formats ensuring that every packet you send passes from one end to the next.

On the other hand, UDP spends less time on transfers since it does not focus on whether the packets reach the other side. UDP does not convert all files to fixed formats, and this offers faster speed on your system. With improved internet connections, you can expect better overall performances while browsing.

3.    Circumvent Online Restrictions

If your Internet Service Provider(ISP) has blocked access to specific sites, SOCKS proxies can help you circumvent such restrictions. It may be for movie streaming or accessing educational content, but SOCKS proxies are relevant for bypassing internet blocks.

With SOCKS proxies, you can also access websites that have blocked your standard IP address. The proxy is essential in websites that monitor and limit access to specific content. If, for example, you want to access content accessible in only specific locations, you can use proxies to mask your identity and expand viewable information.

4.    Does not Require Special Set-Up

SOCKS5 uses the Secure Shell(SSH) tunneling method to transmit traffic. As long as you have access to the SSH through the gateway or Edge node, you can set up the proxy. SOCKS5 does not require any layer 7 application-based proxies to relay its requests. That’s why it’s easy to use by administrators and developers.

The Disadvantages

1.    Access by Third-Party

While your IP address is inaccessible by the public, your proxy provider can still see it. If you are dealing with a questionable provider, they could expose you to cyberattacks. There are also instances where unreliable providers have been known to sell such sensitive data.

It would help if you always were cautious of the risks of using SOCKS proxies. That’s why your first step to successful online security is choosing a reputable provider. Always make sure to check for reviews and recommendations before making any purchasing decision.

2.    Paid vs. Free Proxies

If you are looking for your proxy’s utmost performance, consider using the private or paid versions. Paid proxies may come at an extra cost, but their services are top-notch. Free proxies, though economical, do little to secure your information. Free proxies are also slow and have poor internet connectivity.

The paid SOCKS proxies also transfer data in small packets. This means that every piece of information passes through the servers much faster. The proxies also come with additional features that ensure better privacy and performance as you surf.

Better still, consider including a VPN in your security protocols. Since SOCKS does not encrypt data, VPN will ensure that your information is encrypted as it goes through the different servers. When a proxy and VPN work together, you can be sure of better security for your system.

The Bottom Line

Safer browsing requires that you include a SOCKS proxy in your system. A proxy will deliver anonymity, better speeds, and support for your programs. When you use a SOCKS proxy, you make it difficult for anyone tracking your online tracks to discover your standard IP address.

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SOCKS Proxies: Overview, Benefits, and Disadvantages

Online security plays a massive role in how people interact on the internet. It offers better opportunities for surfing the internet without...

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