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October 14, 2018
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SOCKS vs HTTP Proxy

Breaking Down SOCKS vs HTTP Proxy

Protecting your privacy and guaranteeing your anonymity online is more important today than ever before.

It feels like each day we learn about a new major data breach from some giant technology company, exposing our personal, private, and sensitive data and information to individuals and organizations that should NEVER have access to those details.

Facebook has been breached. Google has been breached. Twitter has been breached. Major credit bureaus and banks have been breached. The list goes on and on.

On top of that, we learn more about how organizations and agencies – private, public, and governmental – are spying on our every move made online as well. It’s critically important that you push back against this kind of unethical behavior, and the best way to do so is with the help of private proxies like the ones that we highlight below.

While there are a lot of different technological options out there to help better anonymize your activity online and secure your personal data, proxies – both SOCKS and HTTP proxies – give you a lot of flexibility and a lot of reliability that few other options provide.

Sure, there’s going to be a learning curve not only setting up but implementing these tools. But with the inside information we highlight below you’ll be better prepared to hit the ground running while guaranteeing your internet information stays self-contained, controlled, and away from prying eyes.

Let’s dive right in!

What is the SOCKS protocol?

SOCKS protocols (both the SOCKS 4 and SOCKS 5 protocols) have been described as “general-purpose” connections, the kinds of default connections that the overwhelming majority of proxies online use today.

When you use a SOCKS connection, you’re essentially establishing a TCP connection with another server on the behalf of your client machine. Through this connection, traffic is routed between the client and the server, essentially anonymizing and encrypting your data and your information along the way.

The biggest advantage in using a SOCKS protocol is that you’re going to be able to establish this proxy connection with TCP without having to blow holes in your firewall. You aren’t going to have to risk your overall digital safety and security just to take advantage of more anonymous internet browsing abilities, but will instead be able to use a SOCKS proxy with your firewall completely in place.

Another big advantage in using a SOCKS protocol is that you aren’t going to be dealing with penetrative data. You’ll be able to use a SOCKS connection with any type proxy with any type of connection, regardless of whether or not your network is leveraging HTTP, POP3, or any other type of network connection protocol.

As we highlighted above, you will be able to move forward with a SOCKS 4 or SOCKS 5 connection. A SOCKS 4 connection is the most commonly available proxy of this type, essentially acting as the “default” connection. It usually offers more than enough security and protection for your average internet user.

On the flip side of things, if you’re looking to take advantage of more robust safety and security, a SOCKS 5 connection is the protocol you’ll want to leverage. This increased SOCKS proxy protocol gives you improved authentication option not available otherwise, helping to add extra layers of protection to your proxy that further insulate your online activity, your downloads calmly your transfer of digital data.

What are HTTP Proxies?

While SOCKS proxies are certainly becoming more and more popular these days (with some arguing that the SOCKS vs HTTP proxy argument ended when SOCKS 5 became available), HTTP proxies remain the most common and the most popular form of proxy out there right now.

Operating at higher levels of internet security than SOCKS will, HTTP proxies are a little bit more limited since they are only going to be able to work with connections over the same HTTP protocol.

Though this may seem like a bit of a disadvantage, particularly if you’re looking for more protection across all of your online activity, the truth of the matter is HTTP proxies (and HTTPS proxies) are able to interface with the specific kinds of connections in a way that SOCKS protocols never could.

Whereas SOCKS are a “Swiss Army knife” proxy protocol, HTTP proxies are much more laser focused – a lot like a surgeon’s scalpel. If you’re going to be dealing with a lot of HTTP interfaces you could certainly use a SOCKS option, but you’ll save a lot of time and a lot of resources by leveraging all that HTTP solutions have to offer.

When you compare a SOCKS proxy vs HTTP proxy when it comes to interpreting data there’s really no competition. HTTP proxies will pull a lot less data to get you the information you’re looking for, helping to make the most of your online connection without bogging it down with mindless activity.

Anytime you can actually proxy your overall speed will be decreased somewhat, but HTTP proxies lighten the load significantly compared to SOCKS proxies and help you speed things up with a lot less lag time.

HTTP proxies are great for “general use” online activity, but if you want to make sure that your connection is completely secure HTTPS proxies on the way to go. If you’re doing any banking, paying bills, or doing any online shopping (or just want to be sure that your personally and private data stays both personal and private) you want to use HTTPS proxies.

The extra layer of encryption is well worth it.

Finding the Right Protocol for Your Specific Needs

Truthfully, there’s really no such thing as a competition HTTP vs SOCKS proxy solutions so much as there is finding the right tool for the right job when you are online.

The advantages of HTTP/HTTPS proxies with built-in encryption are significant.

You’ll be able to keep all of the data that you transfer back and forth from client to server 100% protected and completely anonymous, but you’ll also be able to better “hide” your online activity from your ISP. This allows you to avoid throttling, protects you when you’re downloading files or using torrents, and guarantees that you don’t have to worry about your personal information or your online activity falling into the wrong hands.

It also doesn’t hurt that a significant amount of HTTP/HTTPS solutions are available 100% free of charge. Dozens and dozens of free proxy lists exist to help you get up and running, and most of these free options come with guides that walk you through the entire process – step-by-step – to take advantage of their proxy options.

Of course, the danger of using free proxies that you never know who is running the service, you’ll never know if you’re being exposed to viruses or malware injection, and most free proxies maintain server logs that track your usage of the proxy even if they do not track your actual online behavior. A layer of anonymity is peeled back because of that.

HTTP solutions will only work with HTTP data as well. That can be a bit of a hassle when you’re looking to transfer information over UDP, POP3, or any other non-HTTP network connection.

SOCKS 5 vs HTTP proxy comes out on top when you’re looking for pure speed. Because this proxy connection supports both TCP and UDP transfer protocols, you’re going to be able to make the most of third-party applications (like bit torrent applications, for example) to dramatically improve your overall speed through the proxy set up.

That full UDP support allows you to connect to the maximum amount of “peers” using a SOCKS server, and that’s going to streamline your connection as well. You’ll not necessarily share your bandwidth or your network resources with anyone else through the server, but you won’t have to worry about big bottlenecks holding you back either.

SOCKS proxies guarantee that no data packet headers are rewritten, either. You won’t have to worry about data packets being mis-routed or mislabeled, improving the overall stability up your proxy connection and helping you to avoid a lot of errors that slow down your connection, too.

Best of all (especially for those that are security minded) is the benefit of SOCKS 5 protocols using absolutely zero log proxies whatsoever. You don’t have to worry about any of your information being collected or collated by any third-party service, guaranteeing you get the fully anonymized online activities you are looking for.

At the end of the day the SOCKS vs HTTP proxy argument is really going to come down to what you’re trying to do online, how seriously you take your anonymity, and how secure/speedy you want your proxy connection to be.

Do plenty of due diligence before you sign on the dotted line in take advantage of any proxy solution, regardless of the specific protocol that it leverages. There may be instances where HTTP solutions work best, where SOCKS solutions work best, and where either one will get the job done reliably.

Take advantage of this flexibility to make the most of both protocols and you’ll never find yourself choosing between the two!

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