SOCKS Protocol Version 5
Network Working Group M. Leech
Request for Comments: 1928 Bell-Northern Research Ltd
Category: Standards Track M. Ganis
International Business Machines
NEC Systems Laboratory
SOCKS Protocol Version 5
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
This memo describes a protocol that is an evolution of the previous
version of the protocol, version 4 . This new protocol stems from
active discussions and prototype implementations. The key
contributors are: Marcus Leech: Bell-Northern Research, David Koblas:
Independent Consultant, Ying-Da Lee: NEC Systems Laboratory, LaMont
Jones: Hewlett-Packard Company, Ron Kuris: Unify Corporation, Matt
Ganis: International Business Machines.
The use of network firewalls, systems that effectively isolate an
organizations internal network structure from an exterior network,
such as the INTERNET is becoming increasingly popular. These
firewall systems typically act as application-layer gateways between
networks, usually offering controlled TELNET, FTP, and SMTP access.
With the emergence of more sophisticated application layer protocols
designed to facilitate global information discovery, there exists a
need to provide a general framework for these protocols to
transparently and securely traverse a firewall.
Leech, et al Standards Track [Page 1]
RFC 1928 SOCKS Protocol Version 5 March 1996
There exists, also, a need for strong authentication of such
traversal in as fine-grained a manner as is practical. This
requirement stems from the realization that client-server
relationships emerge between the networks of various organizations,
and that such relationships need to be controlled and often strongly
The protocol described here is designed to provide a framework for
client-server applications in both the TCP and UDP domains to
conveniently and securely use the services of a network firewall.
The protocol is conceptually a "shim-layer" between the application
layer and the transport layer, and as such does not provide network-
layer gateway services, such as forwarding of ICMP messages.
2. Existing practice
There currently exists a protocol, SOCKS Version 4, that provides for
unsecured firewall traversal for TCP-based client-server
applications, including TELNET, FTP and the popular information-
discovery protocols such as HTTP, WAIS and GOPHER.
This new protocol extends the SOCKS Version 4 model to include UDP,
and extends the framework to include provisions for generalized
strong authentication schemes, and extends the addressing scheme to
encompass domain-name and V6 IP addresses.
The implementation of the SOCKS protocol typically involves the
recompilation or relinking of TCP-based client applications to use
the appropriate encapsulation routines in the SOCKS library.
Unless otherwise noted, the decimal numbers appearing in packet-
format diagrams represent the length of the corresponding field, in
octets. Where a given octet must take on a specific value, the
syntax X'hh' is used to denote the value of the single octet in that
field. When the word 'Variable' is used, it indicates that the
corresponding field has a variable length defined either by an
associated (one or two octet) length field, or by a data type field.
3. Procedure for TCP-based clients
When a TCP-based client wishes to establish a connection to an object
that is reachable only via a firewall (such determination is left up
to the implementation), it must open a TCP connection to the
appropriate SOCKS port on the SOCKS server system. The SOCKS service
is conventionally located on TCP port 1080. If the connection
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