Proxy Server

SOCKS Proxy: Be Fast and Anonymous Online

Silvia Benetti
Author
29. Nov 2022
Last update

Do you worry about preserving your privacy online, but not enough to pay for a premium VPN? Proxy servers offer a free and efficient alternative that provides extra digital anonymity. They hide information that could identify you, such as your IP address, and also help to bypass country or region restrictions.

Alongside the more well-known HTTP proxies, there are also SOCKS proxies, which stand out owing to the speed of their connections. In this article, we'll let you know about some of the other advantages of SOCKS proxies, as well as their disadvantages.

SOCKS Proxies: How They Work

As its name suggests, a proxy serves as an intermediary between a user that wants to connect to a website or a net-based application, and the server where that website or service is hosted.

Among other things, surfing on a proxy connection enhances your privacy, since it makes your IP address invisible to the website or service you're attempting to access. This also allows you to circumvent censorship and geoblocking opening up the figurative door to otherwise blocked websites or content. A proxy server operates as an intermediary server between your computer or device and the target server.

In general, when talking about proxies, those that use the HTTP protocol are usually meant. A second, less well-known type is SOCKS proxy servers.

SOCKS is an abbreviation of socket secure, a type of protocol on the session layer (No. 5) of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. This regulates communication and connections between two network participants, such as a client and a server. With the SOCKS protocol, it's possible to send HTTP as well as POP and SMTP requests. Many email servers use these two protocols to exchange data.

SOCKS proxies work at one of the lower layers of the OSI model, supporting more connection types than HTTP proxies.

Most of the time, the SOCKS protocol is used to establish connections between a computer behind a firewall and a server. Such firewalls are common in corporate networks or Intranets. Since the SOCKS proxy filters and forwards requests, it protects the computer.

SOCKS5 vs SOCKS4

The original variant, SOCKS4, supports neither the authentication of individual users nor UDP requests. This puts it at a disadvantage, since UDP, an Internet protocol, is often used for streaming and DNS requests. Authentications are also essential to commercial providers. For this reason, the developers of SOCKS overhauled their protocol and introduced SOCKS5, which provides both UDP connections as well as authentications.

SOCKS vs. HTTP Proxies: The Differences

When opening a website in Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, you'll connect to the target server using the HTTP protocol. This occurs on the highest layer of the OSI model (Layer 7) and facilitates communication between a browser and a server. HTTP proxies were primarily designed to support such browser-based HTTP connections.

As a result, there are a number of differences between HTTP and SOCKS proxies:

  • Supported protocols – You'll be able to surf the Internet without issues on an HTTP proxy, however, filesharing with P2P applications won't work, since these rely on other protocols. Accordingly, SOCKS proxies are more flexible and facilitate communication to a greater extent thanks to the larger number of protocols they support.
  • Privacy and data protection – HTTP proxies are situated at the highest layer of the OSI model and capable of reading any data they receive. SOCKS proxies don't possess these capabilities, since they're on a different layer of the OSI model. However, they do provide enhanced data security. On the other hand, because they're unable to "read" this data, they can't filter out unwanted, infected data packets, such as malware.
  • Security – When talking about an HTTPS proxy (in contrast to an HTTP proxy), connections between the client (your computer) and the proxy are encrypted. Third parties can only see that you've sent a proxy request, but won't be able to capture any data. In contrast, SOCKS proxies do not, by design, encrypt client-proxy connections.
  • Speed – The speed of a proxy server depends on whether you select a private or public server. This makes bluntly comparing the performance of both proxy types difficult. Generally speaking, SOCKS proxies are slightly faster, since they use a simple protocol.
  • Compatibility – All applications that support HTTP allow HTTP proxies, making them suitable for nearly all operating systems and programs. With SOCKS, compatibility isn't as far-reaching. However, you can still use SOCKS4 or SOCKS5 by installing Proxifier, a program that allows a proxy connection to be established, even if you haven't installed the original application.
  • Ports – HTTPS proxys use ports 80, 8080, or 3128. This isn't set in stone though, and you can configure them to utilize other ports if desired. With SOCKS servers, the default port is 1080, but again, you can change this if you're so inclined.
VPNHTTP ProxySOCKS Proxy

Encryption between client and intermediary server (proxy or VPN)

Yes

Some

No

Conceals IP address

Yes

Yes

Yes

Circumvents geoblocking and censorship

Yes

Yes

Yes

Protects against malware

No

Yes

No

Speed

Very high

Varies from high to low (dedicated, semi-dedicated, or public)

High

SOCKS Proxy List: Free SOCKS Proxies

Our constantly updated list provides a guide to free proxy servers around the world. Entries can be filtered by the kind of proxy, location, and reliability. The last of these details how often a successful connection with the proxy was established. We also note when the last check was made, as well as the IP address and necessary port.

Should you be unable to find a suitable free proxy, just as with HTTP proxies, there exist private providers that sell access to dedicated proxy servers.

There are paid services that offer premium access to SOCKS proxies.

Private proxies offer the advantage of being more exclusive, meaning that fewer users share the same connection. This makes the data transfer rate considerably higher than on public servers. Beyond that, customers can often select from multiple server locations and change servers in order to get around geoblocking or other regional restrictions.

Configure a SOCKS Proxy

If you'd like to use a SOCKS proxy to connect to the Internet in the future, you'll need to set one up on your operating system. This requires inputting the IP address and port number, regardless of whether you're using Mac, Windows, or a smartphone. Be sure to check out our step-by-step guide to see how exactly to proceed depending on your device and operating system.

Conclusion

SOCKS proxies are a useful alternative to their more popular HTTP counterparts. In contrast to the latter, SOCKS proxies can be used with email programs, P2P software, and other applications. Still, there's a trade-off, as SOCKS proxies generally don't encrypt data by default.

Determining which type of proxy is best for your needs depends on your needs and what you intend to use it for. Should you primarily want a proxy to surf in your browser and protect against malware, HTTP proxies are a good option. However, if you'd like to quickly stream content from abroad that would otherwise be inaccessible owing to geoblocking, we recommend going with a SOCKS proxy.

FAQs

What is a SOCKS proxy?

SOCKS proxies are proxy servers that act as an intermediary between a client and a server and use the SOCKS protocol. Should the client (your computer, for example) send a request to a server, its IP address will remain concealed, with only that of the SOCKS server revealed to the server.

What are the differences between SOCKS and HTTP proxies?
Where can I find free SOCKS proxys?
What is the difference between SOCKS4 and SOCKS5?
Author: Silvia Benetti
After her studies in physical engineering, Silvia Benetti was active in the development of wind turbines. She has been writing about technical subjects as a freelance author for several years. Her focus areas include IT, artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 and renewable energies.
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