The internet has become an indispensable part of our lives today. Despite its importance, one of the questions that need answering is the issue of cyber safety and security. How safe are we from cybercriminals and malicious organizations while surfing the internet?
In this article, we will discuss an essential security item when it comes to the workings of the internet. This item is known as SOCKS proxy. You will get the necessary details about SOCKS proxies, how they work, and their benefits in this article.
What is a SOCKS Proxy?
SOCKs is an acronym for Socket Secure. It is a network protocol that bypasses an internet blockade by channeling network traffic through a proxy server on behalf of the client. A SOCKS proxy works by creating a TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) connection with another server behind the blockage. This connection then serves as a means of exchanging network packets between the client and the server.
Types of SOCKS Proxy
There are two types of SOCKS proxy. These are SOCKS4 and SOCKS5, SOCKS5 being the latest version of the SOCKS proxy. Its major difference from SOCKS 4 is the fact that it offers some forms of authentication. Some of the authentications offered by the SOCKS5 proxy includes
- Null Authentication: You do not need any authentication before you connect to a proxy in the type.
- Password/Username Authentication: In this type, you need to provide login details which include username and password before connecting to a proxy.
- GSS-API Authentication: In this type of authentication, you and the server need to verify your identity at the operating system level.
Apart from the authentication difference, other differences between a SOCKS4 proxy and SOCKS5 proxy includes better security on the part of SOCKS5 through the use of TCP connections and SSH tunneling. Also, SOCK5 supports UDP, while SOCKS4 does not.
How Does SOCKS Proxy Work
If you decide to use a SOCKS proxy, the proxy will create a TCP connection with a proxy server. The proxy server, with another IP address, will be able to connect to the website and obtain data from the website. The proxy server then sends the data to the SOCKS proxy, thorough the TCP connection, which sends the data to you (the client).
The SOCKS proxy also provides some excellent security features attributable to its layer 5 protocol. While the layer 5 protocol means that you cannot use the proxy to tunnel anything below layer 5, it also means that hackers will not be able to perform scans on your connection if they are using Nmap. This is because Nmap working with half-closed connections works below layer 5.
Advantages of Using SOCKS Proxy
There are numerous reasons why you should use a SOCKS5 proxy. While we may not be able to discuss all of these benefits in this article, here are some of the most important advantages of using the SOCKS proxy;
- Helps you Bypass Internet Blockage
Being the first purpose of a SOCKS proxy, the ability to bypass an internet blockade is also the most vital benefit of a SOCKS proxy. Apart from helping you gain access to geo-restricted web content, it is also useful for developers. Let’s take an example of a situation where the backend services of a certain web application are put in a cluster and hosted in the cloud. This is a security measure aimed at reducing the security vulnerabilities of the services. Normally, you may not be able to access it.
In fact, there are two ways of trying to access such backend services. These methods are both fraught with adverse security aftermaths. The first one is to expose the backend service to the public and accept the security risks that come with it. The second method is whitelisting specific IP addresses to allow them access to the backend service. This method poses a security risk when the user changes the IP address. As such, the two methods are not safe.
This is where SOCKS proxies come in, as an alternative to these two methods. When you combine a SOCKS proxy with an SSH tunnel, you can access any backend service in a cluster without exposing it to any form of security risks.
- Faster and Reliable Internet Connection
SOCKS5 offers a fast and strong internet connection when used. This benefit is due to the use of the UDP protocol as against the conventional TCP connection that its predecessor, SOCK4 uses. The purpose of a TCP connection is to ensure that all network packets from one end of the connection get to the other.
To do this, the TCP connection has to convert the packet into another format, to enable easy passage. The process of converting the network packets takes time, and this causes a slow internet connection. With the use of the UDP protocol, you can avoid this conversion process. The protocol doesn’t convert network packets into any fixed format, and this accounts for its faster internet speed.
- Improved Connection Performance and Fewer Errors
When in use, most proxies tamper with packet headers and rewrite them. In most cases, this action leads to mislabeling and errors in routing the data packets. However, you need not worry about this with the SOCKS5 proxy. The proxy does not relabel the data packets, and thus, there is no possibility of misrouting. By extension, you will enjoy an overall improved internet connection.
It is important to note that the failure of SOCKS5 to relabel the headers on data packets is a possible security risk. The header usually contains your details, and when they are not rewritten, it comes easily identifiable.
- No Need for a Special Setup
Remember how we talked about using a SOCKS proxy to access a clustered backend service hosted in the cloud? The good thing is, with SOCKS5, you don’t need a special setup to access the service, as long as you have an SSH tunnel. This means that as a developer or administrator, you don’t need a VPN.
Disadvantages of Using SOCKS Proxy
These are some of the few benefits of using a SOCKS proxy, especially the SOCKS5 proxy. Let’s see some of the drawbacks and disadvantages of using a SOCKS proxy.
- Proxy Providers Might Track You
While SOCKS proxies do a great job of masking your IP address on the internet, the provider of the proxy server in use might spy on you and track your internet activities. This is why it is necessary to research the proxy provider you intend to use before using them.
- Your Data Might Not Be Encrypted
One of the purposes of a SOCKS proxy is to provide some form of anonymity by encrypting your internet data. Most providers use SSL certificates to do this. However, SSL certificates are not enough to provide adequate encryption as hackers and cybercriminals can use SSL stripping to undo the encrypted connection.
For these reasons, you may want to use a VPN in conjunction with the SOCKS proxy server.
Some companies offer SOCKS proxies for sale. You pay some amount of money for the proxies, allowing you to connect to the internet without worrying about blockades. These providers are divided into two; Residential SOCKS proxy providers and Datacenter SOCKS proxy providers.
The Best Residential SOCKS Proxy Providers
These providers offer SOCKS proxies with real IP addresses for sale. Generally, residential proxies are regarded as the safest and best types of proxy servers. Some of the providers include;
- Locations: US
- IP Pool Size: Over 31 million IPs
- Price Charged: Port
- Minimum plan: Starts at $124.99 monthly for 10 ports
Shifter is a reputable name in the proxy service business. It offers wide coverage with over 31 million IP addresses scattered all over the world.
One of the unbeatable features you get from this proxy provider is its unlimited bandwidth. This means that you can use the proxy without having to worry about your internet connection going off. Moreover, you get an incredibly fast internet connection with this provider.
Shifter’s SOCKS proxies are also great for web scraping as it minimizes errors committed to the barest minimum. Finally, it is easy to use as its dashboard is well-organized and simplified.
- Locations: Israel
- IP Pool Size: Over 72 million IPs
- Price Charged: Bandwidth
- Minimum plan: Starts at $500 monthly for 40GB
This is another reputable provider of residential SOCKS proxy. Luminati ranks as one of the companies with the highest number of IP addresses in the business. Apart from wide coverage from its IP addresses, you get a secured and reliable SOCKS proxy server.
The SOCKS proxies from Luminati.io is also ideal for web scraping activities, verification of ads, and tracking results from search engines.
- Locations: The UK
- IP Pool Size: Over 8 million IPs
- Price Charged: Per Port and Bandwidth
- Minimum plan: Starts at $20 daily with 300 ports and 19GB
A back connecting residential proxy provider, Soax, has over 8 million IP addresses. While these IP addresses are not as much, they are widespread in most countries; thus allowing for easy geo-targeting.
This provider also excels with it comes to specialized web scraping and crawling activities. Thus, you can easily carry out activities such as price monitoring, travel aggregation, and SEO monitoring with its SOCKS proxies.
- Locations: US
- IP Pool Size: Over 5 million IPs
- Price Charged: Per Bandwidth
- Minimum plan: Starts at $14.95 for 1GB
One of the major selling points of this SOCKS proxy provider is the affordable and diverse pricing plans that it supports. This means you can get a SOCKS proxy that fits your budget with Proxyrack.
Its servers are also good for heavy-duty work as they can process about 800 million API requests per day.
- Locations: Undisclosed
- IP Pool Size: Over 6 million IPs
- Price Charged: Per Bandwidth
- Minimum plan: Starts at $5 monthly
One of the newcomers to the proxy business, Proxy-cheap’s selling points are its pricing methods and internet connection speeds. Its prices are affordable for most parts, and even flexible. Its connection speed is also impressive as it clocks an average of 33Mbps download speed in a speed test.
The Best Datacenter SOCKS Proxy Providers
As against residential proxy providers, the datacenter proxy providers cull their IP addresses from datacenters. Thus, these IP addresses are not real and untraceable. While these IP addresses provide some sort of anonymity on the internet, there are not as good as residential proxies as most websites block them.
Here is the list of top providers of datacenter SOCKS proxies;
- Locations: US and 7 other countries
- Price Charged: Per IP
- Minimum plan: Starts at $6 per 5 proxies
This company provides dedicated servers for internet connection. They offer 27/4 technical support and high-quality servers. This proxy ranks top when it comes to SEO utilization and social media management.
- Locations: British Virgin Islands
- Price Charged: Per Bandwidth
- Minimum plan: Starts at $75 monthly for 5GB
This is another company that provides dedicated servers for social media and SEO purposes. You can enjoy a fast loading time and dedicated servers in multiple locations with this company. Finally, these proxies have wide coverage, covering about 195 countries.
- Locations: Germany
- Price Charged: Per IP
- Minimum plan: Starts at $0.33 per IP
This is the last SOCKS proxy provider on our list. You can enjoy low prices, automated installations, and APIs for developers. All of these features make Proxy6 one of the best providers of datacenters SOCKS proxy.
- Locations: US
- Price Charged: Per Proxies
- Minimum plan: Starts at $0.79 for 1 proxy
Another reputable provider of datacenter SOCKS proxy servers is Proxyseller. The proxies provided by this company are culled from over 300 subnetworks and 100 networks. This proxy is ideal for social media management and SEO purposes.
- Locations: 28 countries including the US, Canada, Germany, etc.
- Price Charged: Proxies
- Minimum plan: Starts at $6.97 per one proxy
This company offers one of the best datacenter SOCKS proxies in the industry. It allows for a monthly payment structure and sets up your proxy server within 5 minutes. It is great for sneaker sites.
Free SOCKS Proxy List
There are also lots of proxy list websites that offer free SOCKS Proxies. However, their usability and security are not comparable to the paid SOCKS Proxy. Here's the list for you,
1. Are SOCKS proxies illegal?
SOCKS proxies are legal in every country in the world. Apart from protecting people against cybercriminals, they also enable remote working. It also allows people outside a particular network to access support systems.
2. When Do I Need SOCKS Proxies?
You need SOCKS proxies when any type of blockade restricts your access to a server. If you need to bypass the blockade, SOCKS proxies are your go-to option.
3. Which is better: Residential or Datacenter SOCKS Proxies?
While both types of SOCKS proxies have their inherent benefits and drawbacks, residential proxies are better than datacenter proxies. This is because residential proxies use a real IP address traceable to a real device.
The SOCKS proxy, especially SOCKS5, is a very useful aspect of internet connection as it helps bypass internet blockades. It also trumps other types of proxies as it works with other protocols such as HTTP, SMTP, and FTP. While it is faster and cheaper than a VPN, it doesn’t offer the same level of security as the VPN does.