While a standard HTTP proxy is great for viewing web pages, SOCKS proxies are geared towards other software clients like email, instant messaging and even Internet telephony, adding an extra layer of security and anonymity to each. David Koblas invented the SOCKS Proxy while working at MIPS Computer Systems, a predecessor to Silicon Graphics. Koblas unveiled the architecture of SOCKS in 1992, and use of the new type of proxy spread rapidly.
Obtain access to a list of SOCKS proxy servers. There are two primary ways to do this. One is to surf the web on sites such as Public Proxy Servers (see Resources) to get information on free proxy servers. The other is to subscribe to a private proxy service, such as that offered by Unique Internet Services (see Resources), which provides you with private access to thousands of SOCKS proxies.
Download and install a free copy of Proxy Firewall. Go to proxyfirewall.org, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the "Download" link. When asked if you would like to "Run" or "Save" the file, choose "Run". When the program installation has finished, you will be prompted to restart your computer. Save any open files and then restart.
Open the Proxy Firewall software and add your proxies to the list. Go to the "Private Proxies" tab if you are a member of Unique Internet Services, then enter your user name and password to automatically import thousands of proxy servers. Non-members can still use the software by clicking the "Add Proxies" button in the bottom left corner, then manually entering the IP address and port number for each SOCKS proxy server.
Set permissions for your software programs. The first time you open each program after installing Proxy Firewall, the software will be detected and Proxy Firewall will ask you how to handle the situation. You can either allow the program direct access to the Internet or you can choose to have the program communicate via a SOCKS proxy. Proxy Firewall will remember your preferences for each program on the computer, but these can be changed anytime by clicking on the "Rules" tab in Proxy Firewall.
Although you can find free SOCKS proxies, they are often overloaded and unresponsive. Subscribing to a private proxy network will give you guaranteed connectivity without having your work interrupted by a server going down.