Visit any social media platform and you’ll see people talking about Socks5 and how they use it to navigate the numerous restrictions imposed by US governments across the globe.
In August 2019, the US Commerce Department blocked the popular socks proxy service from operating on the grounds that it was ‘aiding and abetting’ criminal activity.
The move was a major blow to the anonymity of the millions of people who use Socks5 to access blocked websites and services. Not only does the US government have a long history of clamping down on anonymity-enhancing technology, but Socks5 also facilitates the occasional VPN, which the government has also tried to ban.
What is Socks5?
Socks5 is a protocol that enables users to access blocked content by acting as a middle man. When an anonymous user wants to access a website or service that’s censored in their country, they first connect to the Tor network, which then instructs their computer to contact a Socks5 proxy server.
When the proxy server receives the request, it then makes a connection to the destination server to fulfill it. In some cases, the connection is even established before the user’s computer has terminated the connection with the Tor network.
This design provides a high degree of anonymity for the user, as it prevents traffic analysis by intermediate entities. In 2019 alone, more than 200 million distinct Socks5 connections were made worldwide.
Why is Socks5 such a big deal?
Socks5 is a protocol designed for the masses. Not only does it allow anyone to access content restricted by a firewall, but it also offers the convenience of a one-click connection, which is designed to make accessing blocked websites easier and more accessible.
That’s not all. The Socks5 designers also intended for the connections to be made as quickly and as seamlessly as possible. According to the documentation, the service should only take a couple of seconds to initialize.
This makes Socks5 a perfect fit for today’s on-the-go internet users, who may be accessing the internet from a hotel room, public wifi hotspot or even a mobile device.
What you need to know about NordVPN
NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN services, particularly among the technologically savvy community. The service is immensely strong, with more than 1,500 servers located in 108 countries, including the US.
When you connect to NordVPN, you’re presented with a list of servers located near your current location. You then have the option of connecting to one of the servers, which NordVPN claims is the ‘best’ for your location. You can also click the gear icon to see more information about the server, including its speed and how many other clients are connected to it.
NordVPN offers a robust, multisignature feature, which you can enable within the app. Two-factor authentication is also a great choice for those concerned about security. You can enable it within the app as well.
There are also great deals if you’re planning to purchase a new device. Check out our best VPN services for Android or best VPN services for iPhone to see our top pick for each platform.
How to install Socks5 on Linux, Mac or Windows
Socks5 is a very simple service. All you need is an internet connection, a Tor directory (which you can download for free from the Tor Project website), and either a Linux, Mac or Windows machine. You can install the Tor directory on any of those platforms and then follow the installation instructions from the Tor website.
On Linux and Mac, you’ll first need to set up the Tor directory, which you can do by following the instructions in our step-by-step Linux tutorial or Mac tutorial, respectively. Once you have that set up, you can install the Socks5 client, which is available for all three platforms.
On Windows, you’ll first need to download the Tor Browser, which is basically the Firefox browser tailored for use with the Tor network. You can then follow the steps in our Windows tutorial to set up the browser.
Installing Tor Browser on Windows is similar to installing the standard Firefox browser. Simply download and install the Tor browser, and you’ll be able to use Socks5 on most websites with no problems. Just remember that the Tor Browser is not as feature-filled as other major browsers, so you may experience some quirks.
Setting up Socks5 on macOS Mojave
Socks5 is also available for macOS and it’s even easier to set up than the previous two platforms. All you need is a working internet connection, which can be accessed through Wi-Fi or a virtual private network (VPN), and the capability to install an app from the App Store. Once you have that, you can follow the Mojave tutorial from our macOS tutorial to connect to Socks5.
As mentioned by the document, setting up Socks5 on macOS is similar to setting up a standard HTTP proxy server. This means that you’ll need to utilize port 80, which is the standard port number for HTTP traffic, to communicate with the outside world. When you connect to Socks5, you’ll instantly be presented with a screen that allows you to configure a list of websites and services that you wish to connect to.
You can click the gear icon to the right of the list to see information about the various services, or simply click one of the entries in the list to connect to it.
Enable Socks5 on your router
For security-minded individuals who may access the internet through a public Wi-Fi hotspot, it’s also possible to enable Socks5 on their home router. If you have a D-Link, Linksys or Netgear router that supports UPnP, you can utilize its built-in HTTP server to create an HTTP proxy that points to the Tor network, enabling you to use Socks5 to access content restricted by your firewall or country’s internet regulations. Simply follow the instructions in our Router tutorial to set it up.
Use Socks5 with Your VPN
Using Socks5 with a virtual private network (VPN) is very easy to do. All you need is a standard VPN connection to your choice of app (we’ve detailed our favorite VPN providers in a separate article), and a Tor directory that you can download from the Tor Project website. Once you have that, you can click the gear icon to the right of the VPN app’s connection to see the options presented to you by the service, including whether or not to use Socks5. If you choose to use it, the VPN app will then ask if you’d like to use Socks5 for this connection. If you say yes, the VPN app will then ask you if you’d like to use the same Socks5 instance for all of the connections you make with it. Choose yes for that as well.
Once you’ve enabled VPN and Socks5, you can use the services to browse the web privately, even when your network administrator (if you have one) is looking over your shoulder. This is because everything you do on the internet through these services is encrypted, ensuring that no one—not even the companies you’re connected to—can see what you’re doing.
If you’re interested in trying out Socks5, which we think you should be, simply follow the instructions in our step-by-step how to use Socks5 manual. It’s very easy to do and if you have an interest in accessing content that’s restricted in your country, we think you’ll find it very helpful.