What is a SOCKS Proxy Server

Published: 31st March 2009
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SOCKS is an old Internet protocol that allows systems to route network packets through a proxy server that is done over client-server applications. What this basically means is clients that are behind a firewall are allowed to connect to a SOCKS proxy server. This allows those behind a firewall to access external information and services through the said firewall. This can also work the other way around where external clients are allowed entry through a firewall.

Function of a SOCKS Proxy Server

A SOCKS proxy can also work with other protocols. This proxy server simply functions as some sort of a gateway where it merely facilitates the transfer of data without actually delving into the contents of what is being transmitted. As such, a SOCKS proxy can handle or work with other protocols such as POP3, FTP, SMTP, HTTP, and NNTP.

Viewing the activities of such a proxy server, a web server will see it as merely a client and not a proxy. Thus it can be classified as a highly anonymous proxy server since the web server is not made aware of the presence of the proxy. The anonymity provided by this type of proxy is virtually absolute.

Comparing HTTP Proxy Servers with SOCKS Proxy Servers

To find the difference between these two proxies would require observing their behaviors. An HTTP proxy would evaluate the HTTP headers that were sent through so that it can figure out the address of the target server. On the other hand, a SOCKS proxy server would use a handshake protocol to create the said connection. Though the results of the actions of these protocols are the same, the method employed by each protocol is completely different.

Let's say you were trying to access a web page outside of your office network. However, you are prevented from doing so due to a firewall installed on your network. You then connect to your network's HTTP proxy server. Your computer then communicates with your HTTP proxy and that proxy relays the request to your target server by checking out the request's server field, thus bypassing the firewall. Your HTTP proxy now becomes the intermediary passing information to you from your target web server and vice versa.

A SOCKS proxy server would work quite differently. Let's say that instead of connecting to an HTTP proxy you have a SOCKS proxy. When you connect to that proxy server you are sending information about the connection you want to make. The SOCKS proxy then makes an opening in the firewall and facilitates your connection outside of the network.

A SOCKS proxy server is one of your options for anonymous surfing on the Internet. Like other proxy servers, this also allows a degree of security and anonymity to its users.Peter Garant has written many articles about New Proxy networks for a recently launched website about New Proxies. Visit What is a SOCKS Proxy Server.

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