SOCKS proxy is a Layer 5 proxy that allows secure routing or tunneling of any program or protocol. You can create a SOCKS proxy from your local host to a remote host and then configure your applications to route their traffic through the proxy.

You could use it to securely access the internet in a public network such as in a public WiFi environment, as it encrypts the traffic between your host and the proxy server. It could also be used to access hosts behind a private network under a NAT or firewall just as a VPN would.

You need SSH access to a remote server and create a SOCKS proxy using an SSH client from Linux or any other Unix-based operating system to the server, and you can do this from the terminal.

Steps to create SOCKS proxy using SSH:

  1. Launch a terminal application.
  2. Test your SSH connection to the remote host (optional).
    $ ssh user@remote-host hostname
  3. Connect to the remote host using bind_address option to create an SSH SOCKS proxy from your local machine to the remote SSH server.
    $ ssh -D8080 user@remote-host
    The authenticity of host 'remote-host (' can't be established.
    ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:wGCE8M54I94AgSatEcB9Y26CxmDjb9YtlL0HMpSiIRA.
    Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
    ##### snipped 
    -D [bind_address:]port
            Specifies a local “dynamic” application-level port 
            forwarding.  This works by allocating a socket to 
            listen to port on the local side, optionally bound 
            to the specified bind_address.  Whenever a connection 
            is made to this port, the connection is forwarded 
            over the secure channel, and the application protocol 
            is then used to determine where to connect to from 
            the remote machine.  Currently the SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 
            protocols are supported, and ssh will act as a SOCKS 
            server. Only root can forward privileged ports.  
            Dynamic port forwardings can also be specified in 
            the configuration file.

    8080 in the example is the port that your SOCKS proxy will listen to. You can choose any number from 1025 to 65535 if you're running the command as a normal user, as long as the port number is not currently in use.

    Common options to run SOCKS proxy in the background::

     ssh -D8080 -fCqN  user@remote-host
    • -f: Requests ssh to go to background just before command execution
    • -C: Requests compression of all data
    • -q: Quiet mode. Causes most warning and diagnostic messages to be suppressed
    • -N: Do not execute a remote command
  4. Check if the tunnel is running in your local host.
    $ ss -natp | grep 8080
    LISTEN  0        128          *        users:(("ssh",pid=1640,fd=6))
    LISTEN  0        128                   [::1]:8080                  [::]:*        users:(("ssh",pid=1640,fd=5))
  5. Connect program to your SOCKS proxy to test if the tunnel is successful.
    $ curl # Direct connection
    $ curl -x socks5h:// # Via socks proxy tunnel
  6. Configure your browser or any other applications to connect through your newly created SOCKS tunnel.
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