A proxy server is a gateway that acts as a middleman between you and the digital world. It filters your internet connection through a server that masks your IP address and location. One of the most popular types, especially among P2P users, is called a SOCKS5 proxy.
SOCKS5 is the newest variant of the SOCKS series. SOCKS is the shorthand for “SOCKetS” and is an Internet protocol that connects two computers together through a SOCK server. The new and improved SOCKS5 variant uses a layer 5 protocol, meaning it supports all types of requests that sit above layer 5 in the OSI model. Most regular internet activities can be handled by SOCKS5, including web browsing, peer-to-peer sharing, and file transfers.
Doesn’t it Make Connections Private?
While a proxy does provide anonymity, it doesn’t ensure complete privacy. The added advantage of SOCKS5 versus its previous generation, SOCKS4, is that it supports authentication methods. This makes it more secure and more appealing to most.
What is SOCKS5 Proxy?
A SOCKS5 proxy allows your internet traffic to pass through a SOCKS server. This generates a new IP, making you look like you’re originating there.
For example, say you were traveling in the Philippines, but trying to access videos in Canada. The website will block some content because it can’t be shown in both countries. IP address locators are used to determine where you are and what you can watch.
The SOCKS5 proxy captures the requests sent by you and forwards it to the intended recipient, making it look like you’re wherever the SOCKS server is. This means that you can access more content by making yourself look like you’re in other places around the world.
It also helps to hide where you actually are, preventing people who may be watching your traffic from knowing your real location.
SOCKS5 vs. Other Proxies
SOCKS5 proxies are comparable to SOCKS4, which provide many of the same benefits. The main difference is that with the latest version, you can use various authentication methods. Before, you would connect to the server, but others could still see what you were sending. Now, depending on the provider, a connection to the SOCKS5 server can be done via a one-time password, SMS code, authenticator code, etc. This adds another layer of protection to your connection. It’s not fool-proof, but it’s fast and reasonably safe.
Another proxy server you may be familiar with is SSL, which sits at layer 7. SSL is built mainly for application proxies such as HTTP and HTTPS traffic. While very powerful, it wouldn’t allow a wide variety of other Internet activities other than web browsing.
Sitting between layer 4 and layer 7 allows SOCKS5 proxies to accept more types of requests than SSL while providing more security than SOCKS4.
SOCKS5 Proxy vs. Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
While SOCKS proxies are good at hiding IPs, they are still limited in many ways. It’s because of that that many people prefer their SOCKS proxy to be part of a VPN service instead.
One of the limitations of a SOCKS5 proxy is the lack of traffic encryption. This is the biggest difference between a proxy and a VPN: the latter encrypts your data end-to-end.
Think of encryption as a scrambler: it takes your request and scrambles it into a code that is only decipherable by you and the intended recipient. Even if a hacker were to intercept your connection, they wouldn’t be able to understand it. The encryption provided by a VPN not only protects your identity, but it also hides any data exchanged.
ISP and Government Firewall
With a VPN connection, masking starts at the root of the request (your computer). On the other hand, SOCKS5 masking starts when the request is received at the proxy server. This means that your Internet service provider can monitor your activity with SOCKS5, but not with VPN. If a government body is blocking certain websites, it will often do it through ISP activity monitoring firewalls. Using a VPN allows you to bypass these firewalls. SOCKS5 does not.
The biggest advantage of SOCKS5 is that, because it doesn’t do any encryption, it can direct requests at a higher speed than VPNs. That’s is why many users will opt to use a combination of both to protect their online activity without sacrificing speed.
Moral of the Story
SOCKS5 proxies are a game-changer for privacy, IP masking, and speed. However, when it comes to the security of your data and complete anonymity, you still need that extra layer of encryption that only comes from a VPN.