Ever needed something like a VPN, but you don’t have the time to set one up?Well, a SOCKS proxy can do just that! SOCKS proxy stands for Socket Secure, and is a way of encrypting all your internet traffic without the need to set up a VPN server. All you need to use a SOCKS proxy is a server that you have SSH access to, and a simple command. I generally just use localhost port 8080, then just adjust my browser to use localhost port 8080 as a proxy. Then all traffic sent through the browser will get encrypted to your server.
The main reason to use a SOCKS proxy instead of a VPN is because there is no setup required, you just need a SSH server. You can also use both to overcome deep packet inspection, by using a VPN through an SSH tunnel, which allows for all your traffic to be secure instead of having to configure each application individually. More recent versions of SOCKS, SOCKS 5 support sending your DNS requests through the proxy, greatly increasing privacy, as a hacker can no longer see the sites you are visiting. In terms of security, I’d put a SOCKS proxy and VPN in the rank, because you can configure both to use keys and AES-256.
My main use for a SOCKS proxy is on my chromebook. As the built in OpenVPN client sucks, a SOCKS proxy is the easiest to configure, and offers more than adequate security. All you need to do on a chromebook is install two plugins: one for ssh port forwarding, and one for setting the proxy settings(as the default proxy manager uses SOCKS4).