There are two different protocols which proxy servers use to communicate with the internet, either by HTTP or SOCKS.
HTTP protocol is designed to internet traffic at the HTTP level. It means that it can only handle traffic that starts with http:// or https:// or simply any web pages. Therefore, it is only good for web surfing. However, since all it does is handling HTTP requests, it is faster than either SOCKS proxies or VPN servers. Its advantages are:
- It is not expensive and often free.
- It caches the web pages you visited so it is faster to load if you ever go back on it.
- It supports safe connection HTTPS.
- It is well supported by all browsers.
- It will hide the IP address of your computer from basic checks so you can access some geo-restricted websites and for account creation.
However, it also has its disadvantages:
- It is only useful for accessing web sites.
- HTTP traffic is not encrypted, thus, government surveillance systems and your ISP can monitor your online activities. While HTTPS or SSL traffic can’t be monitored but the IP of the HTTPS website can be logged. Moreover, SSL encryption is roughly equivalent to 128-bit key length.
- To use this, each web browser must be configured individually.
SOCKS proxy servers don’t interpret network traffic at all, which makes them much more flexible. However, since it usually handles more traffic, it is slower. The latest iteration of this protocol is SOCKS5. Their advantages are:
- SOCKS protocol is that it supports any kind of internet traffic including POP3 and SMTP for e-mails, IRC chat, FTP for uploading files to websites, and torrent files.
- It provides absolute anonymity because it doesn’t transmit your real IP address in queries.
- The SOCKS chain increases user’s anonymity manifold.
On the other hand, it also has its disadvantages:
- It is slower than HTTP proxy server.
- Each piece of software, like a BitTorrent client, must be configured individually.
- It also has the same security issues like HTTP proxy server.
- A good SOCKS server can be very expensive.