By Nancy William 7 minutes
Censorship and geo-restriction are commonplace on the internet. It means that some content may be blocked in your region by the government, or it’s intended to be available for a particular region. The quickest way to get around this roadblock is by using a SOCKS proxy.
However, is it better than a VPN?
A proxy is a server that acts as an intermediary between you and the destination server. It tricks the destination server into thinking the request is coming from it – not you.
Proxy servers are located remotely. It masks your IP address, thereby letting you spoof your location. So, you could be sitting anywhere in the world and connect to a proxy server in the United States to access content from the region.
A SOCKS proxy is one of the leading proxy protocols. Continue reading as we explain how SOCKS works and how proxies differ from VPN.
What is SOCKS
SOCKS stands for Socket Secure, is an internet protocol for communication that passes data packets with servers on behalf of a client. It routes all your traffic to the real server. A Socks proxy works by creating TCP connections to other servers behind the firewall, exchanging network packets. Speaking of a SOCKS proxy, the SOCKs5 is the latest socks proxy version that replaced SOCKS4.
In a previous blog, we explained what a proxy server is and how it helps you gain unrestricted access. Proxies intercept your request, deliver the data packets to its destination, then return the requested action to you, such as opening a webpage. SOCKS stands alongside HTTP and HTTPS proxies, but it’s a little more flexible than the latter two.
HTTP (Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol) is a protocol for web communication. The webpage you currently view is an example of HTTP communication. HTTPS – on the other hand – is a secure version of HTTP. It encrypts communications and relies on authentication for a secure connection. What makes SOCKS flexible is its inherent ability to work with not just web pages but other protocols such as POP3, which is used for e-mails.
It works on Layer 5 (Session Layer) on the OSI Model. The OSI Model conceptualizes different levels of network communication, from the application right down to the hardware. SOCKS can bypass firewall which HTTP cannot.
What is SOCKS5 Proxy?
If we talk about SOCKS5, it’s currently the optimized and latest SOCKS protocol. It’s an internet protocol that routes all web traffic through its remote proxy server. It’s built on the foundation of the previous versions of SOCKS protocol but stronger – adding extra layers of advanced security. It even utilizes multiple authentication methods, where only particular users with authorization can access these SOCKS5 proxy servers.
SOCKs5 uses Secure Shell Host (SSH) on either a TCP or UDP connection to relay traffic. The addition of UDP allows for faster performance. You can learn about TCP and UDP in our blog here.
Additionally, a SOCKS5 proxy is an alternative to using a VPN, protecting your web traffic within a particular app or website. While using the SOCKS5 proxy, all data packets are routed through a remote proxy server, changing your IP address along the way and then passed to the final point.
However, we wouldn’t compare a SOCKS5 proxy to a VPN, considering that the latter offers greater security and encryption – something that the proxy doesn’t come with. Take a look at some of the comparisons below.
How to use a SOCKS5 proxy on Windows 10
- Go to “Control Panel” and then click on “Internet Options.”
- Head to the “Connections” tab.
- Click on “LAN settings.”
- Enable “Use a proxy server for your LAN.”
- Now, enable “Bypass proxy server for local addresses.”
- Click on “Advanced.”
- Disable the “Use the same proxy server for all protocols” option.
- On the “Socks” tab, enter in the socks proxy server address and port of the SOCKS5 proxy.
- Clear out the “HTTP,” “Secure,” and “FTP” tabs completely.
- Click on “OK” and then “Apply.”
Setting up a SOCKS5 proxy on your Windows 10 is easy, but make sure you know the risks! We still recommend using FastestVPN and connecting to its secure and private servers. Plus it’s encryption will protect your connection, which is something a proxy cannot do.
SOCKS5 vs VPN – How is a socks proxy different?
A SOCKS5 proxy and VPN, will both route your internet traffic through its server and then to the final destination. However, even though users might think that using a free socks proxy server is a good idea, it’s not safer than a VPN and does come with certain risks.
The difference comes down to core functionalities. A proxy server does not provide the kind of encryption you expect from FastestVPN, which uses AES 256-bit encryption for end-to-end communication.
It’s an encryption standard that’s trusted by security experts around the world. What it means for you is impenetrable security that’s not susceptible to external threats.
Compared to a VPN, the SOCKS5 proxy doesn’t come with a myriad of features – something that a provider like FastestVPN offers. Features such as Kill Switch, Anti-Malware Protection, Ad-Blocker, multi-logins, and the ability to choose from a sizable global network of VPN servers are standard across all FastestVPN packages.
When compared to a paid VPN service, a proxy server does not provide the kind of speed that can give you the best streaming experience. Moreover, proxy services are not guaranteed to work on streaming services such as Netflix.
Many proxy servers are free, which makes them highly popular.
But it comes with a massive drawback in terms of privacy. Proxy servers handle your traffic, and it means they can see what websites you visit. Your internet activities can potentially get logged and sold to advertisers for marketing purposes.
Running a server 24/7 requires money, and if proxy services are not charging you to use the server, you can bet they are selling your data.
Unless you trust the proxy service, we highly recommend that you use a VPN to bypass restrictions and for anonymity. FastestVPN follows a strict no-logs policy, so your browsing history will remain to your knowledge.
SOCKS4 vs SOCKS5 – What’s the difference?
If we talk about the Socks proxy, there are only two versions of it – SOCKS4 and SOCKS5. However, there are quite distinct differences between the two.
For starters, the SOCKS5 proxy is much safer to use. It’s because SOCKS5 supports various kinds of authentication methods, whereas SOCKS4 does not. Other than that, we’ve mentioned that the SOCKS5 proxy supports both UDP and TCP connections, while the SOCKS4 proxy only supports TCP.
Generally, this is why SOCKS5 is considered as much more secure – offering multiple authentication methods, and utilizing the Secure Shell (SSH) encrypted tunneling method it transfers data. The SOCKS5 proxy with SSH tunneling methods offers quite a bit of advantage, like better performance, no extra setups, and more!
A SOCKS proxy, in short, is a socks protocol that routes your data, but without encryption. The latest version of it is the SOCKS5 proxy, which allows users to bypass censorship and geo-restrictions.
It’s lightweight and sits at layer 5 of the OSI model, the speeds are faster when compared to a VPN, however, a privacy tool needs to do more! It should have the ability to keep you cloaked when the connection to the server drops by suspending your internet connection, for example.
You can also learn about the various phishing scams that have emerged during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on our blog here, and how VPN protects you online.