What Is Socks Proxy

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SOCKS Proxy Primer: What Is SOCKs5 and Why Should You …

co-authored by Darshan S. Mulimath, Megha B. Sasidhar, and Ashiq Khader
In computer networks, a proxy or proxy server is a computer that sits between you and the server. It acts as a gateway between a local network and a large-scale network, such as the internet.
A proxy server works by intercepting connections between sender and receiver. All incoming data enters through one port and is forwarded to the rest of the network via another port.
Aside from traffic forwarding, proxy servers provide security by hiding the actual IP address of a server. They also have caching mechanisms that store requested resources to improve performance. A proxy server can encrypt your data so it is unreadable in transit and block access to certain webpages based on IP address.
Now that we have a general sense of how a proxy works, let’s zoom in on a specific type of proxy — SOCKS — and, specifically, the SOCKs5 variant.
What Is a SOCKS Proxy?
SOCKS, which stands for Socket Secure, is a network protocol that facilitates communication with servers through a firewall by routing network traffic to the actual server on behalf of a client. SOCKS is designed to route any type of traffic generated by any protocol or program.
A SOCKS proxy server creates a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection to another server behind the firewall on the client’s behalf, then exchanges network packets between the client and the actual server. The SOCKS proxy server doesn’t interpret the network traffic between client and server in any way; it is often used because clients are behind a firewall and are not permitted to establish TCP connections to outside servers unless they do it through the SOCKS proxy server. Therefore, a SOCKS proxy relays a user’s TCP and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) session over firewall.
SOCKS is a layer 5 protocol, and it doesn’t care about anything below that layer in the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model — meaning you can’t use it to tunnel protocols operating below layer 5. This includes things such as ping, Address Resolution Protocol (ARP), etc. From a security perspective, it won’t allow an attacker to perform scans using tools such as Nmap if they are scanning based on half-open connections because it works at layer 5.
Since SOCKS sits at layer 5, between SSL (layer 7) and TCP/UDP (layer 4), it can handle several request types, including HTTP, HTTPS, POP3, SMTP and FTP. As a result, SOCKS can be used for email, web browsing, peer-to-peer sharing, file transfers and more.
Other proxies built for specific protocols at layer 7, such as an HTTP proxy that is used to interpret and forward HTTP or HTTPS traffic between client and server, are often referred to as application proxies.
There are only two versions: SOCKS4 and SOCKs5. The main differences between SOCKs5 and SOCKS4 are:
SOCKS4 doesn’t support authentication, while SOCKs5 supports a variety of authentication methods; and
SOCKS4 doesn’t support UDP proxies, while SOCKs5 does.
A SOCKs5 proxy is more secure because it establishes a full TCP connection with authentication and uses the Secure Shell (SSH) encrypted tunneling method to relay the traffic.
Why You Should Adopt SOCKs5
Below are four key benefits to using a SOCKs5 proxy with SSH tunneling.
1. Access Back-End Services Behind a Firewall
Usually, a cluster is hosted in the cloud behind a firewall to minimize potential security vulnerabilities. There are two ways to access any backend services that are running inside a cluster, and each has its limitations:
Expose backend services to public (and accept the associated security risk); or
Whitelist the client or user’s IP to allow traffic to backend services (this is not the right solution for when a user’s IP changes, however).
A SOCKs5 proxy with dynamic port forwarding using SSH can be an alternative to the two undesirable options above. An administrator or developer could access any backend services within a cluster that is hosted in the cloud behind a firewall for debugging, monitoring and administrating from a public network without exposing the backend service ports or whitelisting specific IPs.
Let’s look at a use case. For security reasons, the administration or monitoring application APIs or web user interface (UI) ports for monitoring Hadoop cluster are closed by default when hosted on the cloud. To access these APIs or web UIs, you can use SSH dynamic port forwarding to master or edge a node cluster, since the master node will have a public IP and run SSH services by default, which is exposed so the user can connect from outside.
For another example, say you’re working with a virtual private cloud (VPC). You can deploy a bastion host to securely access remote instances within a VPC by limiting their access to the outside world. You can access the bastion host from the outside world, and only port 22 (SSH) is opened. Using SSH dynamic port forwarding (SOCKs5 proxy), you can access the remote instances that are running in the VPC.
2. No Special Setup Required
SOCKs5 doesn’t require special setup, as long as you have SSH access to either the Edge node or gateway of a cluster. Therefore, users such as administrators and developers can access back-end resources behind the firewall using an SSH tunnel without requiring a virtual private network (VPN).
3. No Third-Party Public or Free Proxy Server in Your Deployments
Since a SOCKs5 proxy routes all kinds of TCP and UDP traffic to their respective service through SSH tunneling, no layer 7 application-related special proxies are required for each service to route application requests.
4. Fewer Errors, Better Performance
Unlike other application proxies, SOCKs5 does not rewrite data packets. It just relays the traffic between devices. Therefore, it is less prone to errors, and performance increases automatically.
How Does SOCKs5 Work in Practice?
Any CISO wouldn’t jump at the chance to embrace the benefits listed above. But what does a SOCKs5 proxy look like in the context of an enterprise security strategy? Where do security leaders begin when implementing SOCKs5 in their environment? Below are some key steps to help you get started.
Setting Up a SOCKs5 Proxy Connection
To SOCKSify an IT environment, the client application must have the capacity to support the SOCKs5 protocol. The syntax below is based on the SSH client on Linux; it shows how to create a SOCKs5 proxy server running on your local computer and then authenticate to the Edge node of a cluster or gateway hosted on cloud that routes traffic to the servers inside the cluster:
$ ssh -D 30001 [email protected] -C -f -N (password: xyz; or
$ ssh -i /path/to/private_key -D 30001 [email protected] -C -f -N
The above command starts the SOCKs5 server and binds to port 30001, then connects to Edge Node, Master Node or Gateway Node over the SSH tunnel hosted on the cloud.
The options used in the above command do the following:
D 30001 tells SSH to create a SOCKs5 server on port 30001 on the client computer.
C compresses data before sending.
N means “Do not execute a remote command. ” This is useful for simply forwarding ports (protocol version 2 only).
F requests SSH to go to the background just before command execution.
Accessing the Endpoints Using the SOCKs5 Protocol
Once a SOCKs5 proxy is created, configure your clients to access the internal services of the cluster. To keep it simple, we use a command line URL (cURL) that supports the SOCKs5 protocol. Other methods such as using a web browser require some additional setup and configurations.
The below cURL command shows how to access one of the HTTPS application endpoints listening on port 8000 behind a firewall using the SOCKs5 proxy over the SSH tunnel created above:
curl -x socks5hlocalhost:30001 -v -k -X GET EdgeNodeSSHserverIP:8000
The above cURL tool connects to port 30001 on localhost. Upon receiving a HTTP GET request on port 30001 from the cURL, the SSH client sends the same request via SSH tunnel to the SSH server.
The remote SSH server handles the request and passes the request to a back-end service listening at port 8000. The response is sent back to the client over the same SSH tunnel to the client’s SOCKs5 proxy. The proxy relays the response to the cURL, which displays the response.
Once you have created a SOCKs5 proxy using the SSH dynamic port forwarding method, you can also use the netcat utility to test the TCP connection. As shown below, a TCP connection test is made for back-end services listening at port 8443 with the SOCKs5 proxy:
ncat –proxy 127. 0. 1:30001 –proxy-type socks5 EdgeNodeSSHserverIP 8443 -nv
In Summary
A SOCKs5 proxy is a lightweight, general-purpose proxy that sits at layer 5 of the OSI model and uses a tunneling method. It supports various types of traffic generated by protocols, such as HTTP, SMTP and FTP. SOCKs5 is faster than a VPN and easy to use. Since the proxy uses a tunneling method, public cloud users can access resources behind the firewall using SOCKs5 over a secured tunnel such as SSH.
SOCKS Proxy Primer: What Is SOCKs5 and Why Should You ...

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SOCKS Proxy Primer: What Is SOCKs5 and Why Should You …

co-authored by Darshan S. Mulimath, Megha B. Sasidhar, and Ashiq Khader
In computer networks, a proxy or proxy server is a computer that sits between you and the server. It acts as a gateway between a local network and a large-scale network, such as the internet.
A proxy server works by intercepting connections between sender and receiver. All incoming data enters through one port and is forwarded to the rest of the network via another port.
Aside from traffic forwarding, proxy servers provide security by hiding the actual IP address of a server. They also have caching mechanisms that store requested resources to improve performance. A proxy server can encrypt your data so it is unreadable in transit and block access to certain webpages based on IP address.
Now that we have a general sense of how a proxy works, let’s zoom in on a specific type of proxy — SOCKS — and, specifically, the SOCKs5 variant.
What Is a SOCKS Proxy?
SOCKS, which stands for Socket Secure, is a network protocol that facilitates communication with servers through a firewall by routing network traffic to the actual server on behalf of a client. SOCKS is designed to route any type of traffic generated by any protocol or program.
A SOCKS proxy server creates a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection to another server behind the firewall on the client’s behalf, then exchanges network packets between the client and the actual server. The SOCKS proxy server doesn’t interpret the network traffic between client and server in any way; it is often used because clients are behind a firewall and are not permitted to establish TCP connections to outside servers unless they do it through the SOCKS proxy server. Therefore, a SOCKS proxy relays a user’s TCP and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) session over firewall.
SOCKS is a layer 5 protocol, and it doesn’t care about anything below that layer in the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model — meaning you can’t use it to tunnel protocols operating below layer 5. This includes things such as ping, Address Resolution Protocol (ARP), etc. From a security perspective, it won’t allow an attacker to perform scans using tools such as Nmap if they are scanning based on half-open connections because it works at layer 5.
Since SOCKS sits at layer 5, between SSL (layer 7) and TCP/UDP (layer 4), it can handle several request types, including HTTP, HTTPS, POP3, SMTP and FTP. As a result, SOCKS can be used for email, web browsing, peer-to-peer sharing, file transfers and more.
Other proxies built for specific protocols at layer 7, such as an HTTP proxy that is used to interpret and forward HTTP or HTTPS traffic between client and server, are often referred to as application proxies.
There are only two versions: SOCKS4 and SOCKs5. The main differences between SOCKs5 and SOCKS4 are:
SOCKS4 doesn’t support authentication, while SOCKs5 supports a variety of authentication methods; and
SOCKS4 doesn’t support UDP proxies, while SOCKs5 does.
A SOCKs5 proxy is more secure because it establishes a full TCP connection with authentication and uses the Secure Shell (SSH) encrypted tunneling method to relay the traffic.
Why You Should Adopt SOCKs5
Below are four key benefits to using a SOCKs5 proxy with SSH tunneling.
1. Access Back-End Services Behind a Firewall
Usually, a cluster is hosted in the cloud behind a firewall to minimize potential security vulnerabilities. There are two ways to access any backend services that are running inside a cluster, and each has its limitations:
Expose backend services to public (and accept the associated security risk); or
Whitelist the client or user’s IP to allow traffic to backend services (this is not the right solution for when a user’s IP changes, however).
A SOCKs5 proxy with dynamic port forwarding using SSH can be an alternative to the two undesirable options above. An administrator or developer could access any backend services within a cluster that is hosted in the cloud behind a firewall for debugging, monitoring and administrating from a public network without exposing the backend service ports or whitelisting specific IPs.
Let’s look at a use case. For security reasons, the administration or monitoring application APIs or web user interface (UI) ports for monitoring Hadoop cluster are closed by default when hosted on the cloud. To access these APIs or web UIs, you can use SSH dynamic port forwarding to master or edge a node cluster, since the master node will have a public IP and run SSH services by default, which is exposed so the user can connect from outside.
For another example, say you’re working with a virtual private cloud (VPC). You can deploy a bastion host to securely access remote instances within a VPC by limiting their access to the outside world. You can access the bastion host from the outside world, and only port 22 (SSH) is opened. Using SSH dynamic port forwarding (SOCKs5 proxy), you can access the remote instances that are running in the VPC.
2. No Special Setup Required
SOCKs5 doesn’t require special setup, as long as you have SSH access to either the Edge node or gateway of a cluster. Therefore, users such as administrators and developers can access back-end resources behind the firewall using an SSH tunnel without requiring a virtual private network (VPN).
3. No Third-Party Public or Free Proxy Server in Your Deployments
Since a SOCKs5 proxy routes all kinds of TCP and UDP traffic to their respective service through SSH tunneling, no layer 7 application-related special proxies are required for each service to route application requests.
4. Fewer Errors, Better Performance
Unlike other application proxies, SOCKs5 does not rewrite data packets. It just relays the traffic between devices. Therefore, it is less prone to errors, and performance increases automatically.
How Does SOCKs5 Work in Practice?
Any CISO wouldn’t jump at the chance to embrace the benefits listed above. But what does a SOCKs5 proxy look like in the context of an enterprise security strategy? Where do security leaders begin when implementing SOCKs5 in their environment? Below are some key steps to help you get started.
Setting Up a SOCKs5 Proxy Connection
To SOCKSify an IT environment, the client application must have the capacity to support the SOCKs5 protocol. The syntax below is based on the SSH client on Linux; it shows how to create a SOCKs5 proxy server running on your local computer and then authenticate to the Edge node of a cluster or gateway hosted on cloud that routes traffic to the servers inside the cluster:
$ ssh -D 30001 [email protected] -C -f -N (password: xyz; or
$ ssh -i /path/to/private_key -D 30001 [email protected] -C -f -N
The above command starts the SOCKs5 server and binds to port 30001, then connects to Edge Node, Master Node or Gateway Node over the SSH tunnel hosted on the cloud.
The options used in the above command do the following:
D 30001 tells SSH to create a SOCKs5 server on port 30001 on the client computer.
C compresses data before sending.
N means “Do not execute a remote command. ” This is useful for simply forwarding ports (protocol version 2 only).
F requests SSH to go to the background just before command execution.
Accessing the Endpoints Using the SOCKs5 Protocol
Once a SOCKs5 proxy is created, configure your clients to access the internal services of the cluster. To keep it simple, we use a command line URL (cURL) that supports the SOCKs5 protocol. Other methods such as using a web browser require some additional setup and configurations.
The below cURL command shows how to access one of the HTTPS application endpoints listening on port 8000 behind a firewall using the SOCKs5 proxy over the SSH tunnel created above:
curl -x socks5hlocalhost:30001 -v -k -X GET EdgeNodeSSHserverIP:8000
The above cURL tool connects to port 30001 on localhost. Upon receiving a HTTP GET request on port 30001 from the cURL, the SSH client sends the same request via SSH tunnel to the SSH server.
The remote SSH server handles the request and passes the request to a back-end service listening at port 8000. The response is sent back to the client over the same SSH tunnel to the client’s SOCKs5 proxy. The proxy relays the response to the cURL, which displays the response.
Once you have created a SOCKs5 proxy using the SSH dynamic port forwarding method, you can also use the netcat utility to test the TCP connection. As shown below, a TCP connection test is made for back-end services listening at port 8443 with the SOCKs5 proxy:
ncat –proxy 127. 0. 1:30001 –proxy-type socks5 EdgeNodeSSHserverIP 8443 -nv
In Summary
A SOCKs5 proxy is a lightweight, general-purpose proxy that sits at layer 5 of the OSI model and uses a tunneling method. It supports various types of traffic generated by protocols, such as HTTP, SMTP and FTP. SOCKs5 is faster than a VPN and easy to use. Since the proxy uses a tunneling method, public cloud users can access resources behind the firewall using SOCKs5 over a secured tunnel such as SSH.
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What Is SOCKS5 Proxy?
A SOCKS5 proxy is a private alternative to a VPN that protects the traffic within a specific source, such as an application. When you use a SOCKS5 proxy, data packets from the configured source are routed through a remote server. This server changes the IP address associated with these data packets before they reach their final destination, offering greater anonymity online. And because IP addresses are associated with physical locations, a SOCKS5 proxy allows you to appear as if you’re using the internet in another place entirely.
SOCKS5 is the most recently optimized version of SOCKS; an internet protocol that funnels web traffic through a remote server. It builds upon previous versions of the SOCKS protocol to offer advanced security through multiple authentication methods. This means that only authorized users can access SOCKS5 proxy servers.
SOCKS5 proxies offer more flexibility than other types of proxies, while also offering greater security features. In cases where users aren’t primarily concerned with protecting their data with encryption, a SOCKS5 proxy may be preferable to a VPN, as SOCKS5 proxies are capable of functioning at higher speeds.
Circumvent Unjust Online Restrictions
Geo-restrictions limit access to specific websites and services. These digital barriers use your IP address to identify your physical location, and deny you access if your location isn’t approved. But a SOCKS5 proxy masks your IP address with its server’s IP address, expanding your access online.
Flexible Traffic Compatibility
Other proxies are only built to handle specific types of data. HTTP proxies, for example, only work with HTTPS and HTTP webpages. SOCKS5 proxies are unique, however, because they’re capable of interpreting and working with any almost protocol, any program, and any type of traffic without limit. Additionally, SOCKS5 proxies are ideal for P2P traffic because they can transfer smaller data packets than other types of proxies, resulting in faster download speeds. This means you can increase your security and anonymity no matter what you’re using your SOCKS5 proxy for.
Fewer Errors & Better Performance
Unlike other proxies, SOCKS5 proxy servers don’t rewrite data packet headers. This means SOCKS5 proxies are less likely to mislabel or misinterpret your data, and less likely to route your data to the wrong location. Because SOCKS5 proxies produce far fewer errors than other proxy types, they improve your performance and speed.
Should I Use a SOCKS5 Proxy or VPN?
While SOCKS5 proxies do provide a few of the same benefits as VPNs, they’re not a VPN replacement. You shouldn’t use them together, however, because routing your traffic multiple times will likely result in slower speeds. To determine whether you want to use a SOCKS5 proxy or VPN, you should first decide what your priorities are.
Use a SOCKS5 proxy if: you’re looking for increased online anonymity but want to achieve the fastest browsing speeds possible.
Use a VPN if: you want to protect your online privacy with encryption.
For more information about SOCKS5 proxies vs VPNs, refer to the comparison table below.
SOCKS5 Proxy vs VPN – At a Glance
SOCKS5 Proxy
VPN
Encryption
SOCKS5 proxies don’t encrypt your data.
VPNs encrypt all your network traffic, ensuring that no one can snoop on your activity.
IP Address
SOCKS5 proxies alter your IP address.
VPNs alter your IP address.
Speed
SOCKS5 proxies are faster than a VPN because they don’t encrypt your traffic.
VPNs are acutely slower than your normal internet speed, as they encrypt your traffic.
Ease of Use
SOCKS5 proxies are manually configured, which is not difficult, but requires some technical knowledge.
VPNs are run from an app downloaded to your device, which makes it extremely easy to use by anyone.
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SOCKS5 Proxy vs HTTP Proxy: What’s the Difference?
HTTP proxies come with limitations. They’re strictly designed to work with HTTP and HTTPS protocols. This means you can only use HTTP proxies for web browsing. SOCKS5 proxies, on the other hand, are compatible with any protocol, which means they can be used for a greater variety of functions.
Setup is another important distinction. All proxies are configured using ports. Ports are communication endpoints that are located inside your computer. They’re assigned numbers and correspond to specific protocols. Because HTTP proxies are limited in their protocols, they can only use specific ports. But since SOCKS5 proxies are compatible with more protocols than HTTP proxies, they offer more flexible configurations when it comes to ports.
There’s also the matter of security. SOCKS5 proxies offer bolstered authentication features, so that only authorized users can access them. This means your data is better protected as it’s transferred. HTTP proxies don’t offer the same authentication options, however, meaning they’re not as secure as SOCKS5 proxies.
SOCKS5 Proxy vs HTTP Proxy – At a Glance
SOCKS5
HTTP
Protocols
SOCKS5 works with data from any protocol, program, or type of traffic.
HTTP only works with web traffic in a browser over the HTTP and HTTPS protocols.
Configuration
SOCKS5 can use any port.
HTTP works with ports 80 and 443.
Security
SOCKS5 offers authentication feature to restrict unauthorized users from proxy access.
HTTP simply forwards server requests and does not offer user authentication, meaning anyone can use it.
Should You Use a Free SOCKS5 Proxy?
In short, no. Because free proxy service providers aren’t charging you, they have to cut costs or find other ways to make money. This creates several problems, making free SOCKS5 proxies both unsafe and undesirable, including:
Slow Speed. Without revenue from selling proxies, free proxy providers cannot offer optimal network infrastructure. This means free SOCKS5 proxies tend to be very slow and unsuitable for daily internet use.
Privacy Issues. Because they aren’t making money off of you, free proxy providers may monitor your traffic for financial gain. This includes selling your data to the highest bidding third parties, and serving you ads as you browse the web.
Potential Malware. In some cases, free proxy providers may be cybercriminals looking to bait victims with an offer that’s too good to be true. These hackers could even infect your computer with malware or ransomware.
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1. What does a SOCKS5 proxy do?
A SOCKS5 proxy routes data packets from a specifically configured source through a remote server, and offers authentication methods to ensure that only authorized users can access this server. Whereas other types of proxies are limited to re-routing web-browser traffic, SOCKS5 proxies are more flexible. They can be configured to work with multiple protocols, which means they’re compatible with multiple types of applications, not just web browsers.
2. Do SOCKS5 proxies hide your IP address?
Yes. When you use a SOCKS5 proxy, it routes your traffic through a server, and replaces your IP address with that server’s IP address in the process.
3. What is better, VPN or a proxy?
This depends on your personal priorities. Do you value privacy and security on the internet? Definitely use a VPN, as it protects your data with VPN encryption. On the other hand, if you’re just looking to hide your IP address without slowing down your internet speed, you can use a SOCKS5 proxy. If you’re using IPVanish, you’re getting both for the price of one!

Frequently Asked Questions about what is socks proxy

Do I need SOCKS proxy?

No Special Setup Required SOCKs5 doesn’t require special setup, as long as you have SSH access to either the Edge node or gateway of a cluster. Therefore, users such as administrators and developers can access back-end resources behind the firewall using an SSH tunnel without requiring a virtual private network (VPN).Sep 27, 2019

What is SOCKS5 proxy used for?

A SOCKS5 proxy is a private alternative to a VPN that protects the traffic within a specific source, such as an application. When you use a SOCKS5 proxy, data packets from the configured source are routed through a remote server.

What is the difference between HTTP and SOCKS proxy?

HTTP proxies can add a layer of security between the client and the server and can detect and deny suspicious data packets or spyware. SOCKS proxies do not directly use the HTTP protocol. It is commonly used for more general purposes such as content streaming and P2P file sharing.Jun 8, 2021

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