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. There are many different types of proxy protocols. One of the most popular, especially among P2P users, is called SOCKS5. 

SOCKS5 is the newest variant of the SOCKS series. SOCKS is the shorthand for “SOCKetS” . It is an Internet protocol to allow one computer to connect to another computer using a SOCK server. The new and improved SOCKS5 variant uses a layer 5 protocol. This means that it will support all types of requests that sit above layer 5. Most regular internet activities can be handled by SOCKS5, such as web browsing, peer-to-peer sharing, file transfers, etc. 

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?

SOCKS5 is a proxy that allows your internet traffic to pass through a SOCK server. This process of connecting to the Internet has many advantages.  The most popular reason is that it allows you to generate a new IP address and mask your real location.

For example, say you are traveling in the Philippines, but are trying to access videos in Canada. The website will block the content it doesn’t have copyright privileges in both countries.

That is because copyright laws are often location-based and many contents are filtered using IP address locators. The SOCKS5 captures the requests sent by you and forwards it to the intended receiver. Doing so, it also masks the request through a newly generated IP address. This means that you can access content blocked from all around the world while being located anywhere in the world.  

SOCKS5 vs. Other Proxies

SOCKS5 is comparable to SOCKS4 which provides many of the same benefits. The issue with most proxy servers is that while it can mask your IP address, it doesn’t encrypt your data. A third party can maliciously intercept the connection from you to the proxy, such as when you connect to an open Wi-Fi. The hacker can then easily capture any data you send over. 

Where SOCKS5 is a game-changer is that it can support a variety of authentication methods. Depending on the provider, a connection to the SOCKS5 server can be done via a one-time password, SMS code, authenticator code, or other. While SOCKS5 is not fool-proof, it provides a layer of privacy that lower layer proxy servers aren’t able to support. 

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 the wide variety of other Internet activities other than web browsing. 

Sitting between layer 4 and layer 7 allows SOCKS5 to accept more arrays of requests than SSL proxies while providing more security than proxies sitting at layer 4. 

SOCKS5 vs. Virtual Private Networks(VPN)

As previously mentioned, SOCK proxies are very good at bypassing geographical restrictions by routing your requests through a different IP address. However, it has its fair share of limitations as well. Many of these limitations often push users to opt for a VPN or a combination of a SOCKS5 and VPN. 

Encryption

One of these limitations is the lack of encryption of the traffic. The big differentiator of SOCKS5 proxy and a VPN is that VPN traffic encrypts your data end-to-end. A SOCKS5 proxy does not. Think of encryption as a scrambler: it takes your request and scrambles it into a code that is only decipherable between you and the intended receiver. Hence, even if a hacker was to intercept your connection, it wouldn’t be able to understand it. The encryption provided by a VPN not only protects the identity, but it also hides any data and activities sent between the sender and receiver. 

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 level. 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 will allow you to bypass these firewalls, but SOCKS5 will not. 

Speed

The one advantage of SOCKs5 is that given the nature of its non-encrypted process, it can direct requests at a higher speed than VPN requests. That’s is why many users will opt to use a combination of both to protect their activities 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 a VPN can easily provide.