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What is SOCKS?
SOCKS—which is shorthand for Secured Over Credential-Based Kerberos Services—is one of the earliest and most universally used protocols on the planet that establishes a dependable, quick, and quality connection over the Internet. SOCKS also sports a variety of benefits that are common to clients who manage complex and complicated computer networks.
SOCKS is also a network protocol specifically engineered to enable clients to communicate with web servers through firewalls because of its ability to route network packets between client-server software through a proxy server. This handy protocol is compatible with all the popular instant messaging and Internet browsing applications as a proxy configuration choice. It can even be employed in several VPN implementations as well.
Even though the SOCKS protocol was established a long time ago, it's still considered a relatively new protocol when compared to, say, HTTP. SOCKS enables users to work with any of the other protocol types available. What's more, it approaches data transfers in a streamlined and straightforward manner, sending information from a client to a server without going through the data's content. As such, it works splendidly well with protocols like NNTP, POP3, SMTP, FTP, HTTP, and so on.
A multitude of SOCKS protocol versions presently exist, which includes SOCKS version 5 (also known as SOCKS5) and SOCKS version 4 (also known as SOCKS4). The latest iteration of SOCKS, SOCKS5, uses both TCP and UDP as transports, while the earlier iteration, SOCKS4, only uses TCP as a transport. In addition, the base SOCKS5 specification is RFC 1928, with its supplementary details captured in RFC 1961 and RFC 1929.
SOCKS is also a convenient protocol to have because it uses a handshake protocol to inform the proxy software—the best software to use when it comes to maintaining the privacy and anonymity of your Internet connection—about the connection that the client is trying to make. It's capable of transferring all information from a client to a server even through firewalls because the web server views the SOCKS proxy as the client.