Socks app sifts multimedia data streams

Socks app sifts multimedia data streams

By Kevin McCaney

GCN Staff

A downside of firewall security is the barrier it creates to secure videoconferencing and other multimedia applications.

The inability of firewalls to handle streaming audio and video data has often left systems managers looking at options that are time-consuming and challenging, such as writing a proprietary proxy server, or insecure, such as setting up a server outside the firewall.

An effective way around the problem is to go through the firewall using the latest version of the Socks protocol. Developed in 1990 for circuit-level security, Socks Version 5, released last year, provides authentication and management capabilities for all of a network's Internet functions. It also provides security for client-server connections.

Socks Version 5 allows the transfer of User Datagram Protocol data as a stream, rather than inspecting each packet as an independent message. This helps solve the problem of getting multimedia applications through a firewall.

Version 5 also supports TCP, provides user authentication for a wide variety of Internet protocols, and features enhanced access controls and policy management. Socks has steadily gained support in security products, including firewalls from IBM Corp. and Novell Inc. NEC USA Inc. has been a major backer of Socks and licenses its server software to IBM, among others.

It is not the answer to every problem, nor is it always an easy fix. After installing the software, users have to make their applications Socks-ready, which can be difficult.

But for network managers looking for a practical way to run multimedia transmissions without giving up security, Socks Version 5 can be a big step in the right direction.

One site for information about Socks is at

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