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What are Types of Network Protocols?

A network protocol is a collection of rules that govern the manner in which data is exchanged between devices connected to the same network. Essentially, it enables connected devices to interact with one another independent of the underlying processes, structure, or design of the devices. Network protocols enable easy connection with devices on the other side of the globe and hence play a crucial part in current digital communications.

Similar to how speaking the same language facilitates communication between two individuals, network protocols enable devices to communicate with one another through predefined rules included in their software and hardware. Without the usage of network protocols, neither local area networks (LANs) nor wide area networks (WANs) could operate in the manner they do today.

Network protocols decompose large-scale activities into smaller, more focused tasks or functions. This happens at every level of the network, and each function must work together to accomplish the greater objective at hand. The phrase "protocol suite" refers to a collection of smaller network protocols that cooperate.

Typically, multiple networking or information technology groups develop network protocols in accordance with industry standards. Different network protocols have been designed and published by the following organizations:

  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • The International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
  • The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

While most network protocol models function similarly, each protocol is distinct and runs according to the specifications specified by the organization that designed it.

Network protocols are not only for information technology professionals. Every day, billions of individuals utilize network protocols, whether they are aware of it or not.

Each time you connect to the internet or make a phone call, you are using network protocols. While you may not understand how network protocols function or how often you come across them, they are required for any use of the internet or digital communications.

Although there are dozens of distinct network protocols, they always accomplish one of three fundamental tasks:

  1. Security
  2. Communication
  3. Network management

Each kind is required for rapid and secure network device utilization, and they function in tandem to support such usage.

What is Network Security Protocol?

Network security protocols seek to protect the safety and security of data in transit across the network's links. Additionally, these protocols outline how the network protects data from unauthorized examination or extraction. This helps guarantee that no unauthorized users, services, or devices have access to your network data, and this is true regardless of the data type or network medium employed.

Typically, network security protocols depend on encryption and cryptography to protect data, ensuring that it can be accessed only via the use of unique algorithms, formulae, and logical keys.

The following are some of the most common purposes of security network protocols:

  • Transportation: Transportation security protocols safeguard data while it travels from one network device to another.
  • Entity Authentication Protocols: Entity authentication protocols provide a system in which various devices or users on a network are required to validate their identity prior to gaining access to protected regions.
  • Encryption: Encryption techniques safeguard data and protected regions by forcing users to provide a secret key or password to get access to the information.

Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), Secure Socket Layer (SSL), and Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTPS) are only a few of the most common protocols for network security.

1. SFTP

The SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), also known as secure FTP, is used to encrypt the connection between two systems when a file is sent remotely. It secures communication over the Internet and enables robust user authentication via the use of public-key encryption. This protocol was established by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in 2006 to secure shell protocols.

A user may connect to an SFTP server in one of two ways: through password authentication or using private/public-key authentication.

While FTP transmits data over two links, SFTP allows for the transmission of a file over a single connection. This alleviates server admins of the following inconvenience.

Additionally, file transfers through SFTP are substantially quicker since they are in binary format. It allows operations including the modification of permissions and attributes, as well as file locking.

However, SFTP has also some vulnerabilities. It is possible for an adversary to destabilize and bring down encryption via a "man in the middle" (MITM) attack and get access to encrypted data, including passwords. An effective attacker can inject instructions into a terminal to manipulate or steal data along the route. The attack may also enable hazardous malware to be injected into any binary files and other software upgrades that are received through the system.

2. SSL

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is a kind of network security protocol that is mainly used to ensure the security of internet connections and sensitive data. This protocol supports both server/client and server/server communication. SSL encrypts data in transit to prevent it from being read.

The Heartbleed problem, which facilitates the theft of data secured by the TLS/SSL encryption used to safeguard the Internet, is a major flaw in SSL protocol. Also, RSA export keys can be factored in, and a Compressing Ratio Info-leak Made Easy vulnerability can be exploited.

3. HTTPS

HTTPS (HTTP Secure) is a secure version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that is extensively used on the Internet. HTTPS uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) or, earlier, Secure Sockets Layer to encrypt the communication protocol (SSL). As a result, the protocol is often referred to as HTTP over TLS or HTTP over SSL. HTTPS is used when secure Web transactions are necessary. HTTPS is secured by the use of a certificate-based solution such as VeriSign.

Transactions based on certificates enable mutual authentication between the client and the server. Mutual authentication establishes the server's knowledge of the client's identity and the client's knowledge of the server's identity. Along with certificate-based authentication, HTTPS encrypts all data packets sent during a session.

The Drown attack, a critical weakness in HTTPS, allows attackers to bypass the encryption and acquire personal information such as credit card numbers and passwords.

What are Network Communication Protocols?

An effective network relies on a well-established set of communication protocols. Different communication protocols enable various network devices to interact with one another. Without these protocols, computer networks would not be possible. The formats and procedures by which data is moved over a network are described in these protocols. In both hardware and software, this is essential for transferring messages between your computers and other devices. They are utilized in both analog and digital communications and may be employed for a variety of vital tasks. In addition to authentication and error detection, communication protocols also manage the syntax, synchronization, and semantics that both analog and digital communications must adhere to in order to work.

The following are examples of common communication protocols:

  • Automation: These protocols are used to automate a variety of operations in both business and personal contexts, including smart buildings, cloud computing, and self-driving automobiles.
  • Instant messaging: A variety of distinct instant messaging network protocols provide instantaneous, text-based conversations on cellphones and PCs.
  • Routing: Routing protocols enable routers and other network devices to communicate. Additionally, there are routing protocols designed expressly for ad hoc networks.
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth devices, which are ubiquitous, such as headsets, and cellphones, operate using a range of distinct Bluetooth protocols.
  • Internet Protocol: Internet Protocol (IP) enables data to be sent between devices via the internet. Without IP, the internet could not function in its present form.

The most widely used network communication protocols are outlined below.

1. TCP

The transport layer is responsible for the effective and reliable delivery of data packets between networks. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a network communication protocol that enables the communication of applications and devices over a network. Because TCP is used in conjunction with Internet Protocol (IP) for data and communication transfer, the Internet protocol suite is often referred to as TCP/IP. Generally, a document, e-mail message, or other pieces of information is not sent on its whole. Rather than that, it is divided into little data packets, each of which has header information identifying its proper sequence and content.

When data packets are sent via a network, they may or may not travel the same path; this is irrelevant. The data packets are reassembled in the right sequence at the receiving end. TCP creates a connection between the source and destination and decomposes the data into smaller packet pieces while preserving data integrity. After receiving all packets, a message is sent back to the originating network. If a packet does not arrive, a message instructing the originating network to "re-send" it is sent back. Additionally, TCP is used to send data through protocols such as FTP, SSH, and Telnet.

TCP communication

Figure 1. TCP communication

The TCP protocol has a wide variety of applications, including secure shell, file transfer protocol, and web access through HTTP, the World Wide Web (WWW), and email.

The advantages of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) are as follows:

  • Ascertains that data is delivered to the specified node
  • Data delivery on time

2. UDP

The User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is a connectionless transport layer protocol that is used for time-sensitive communications across internet networks. It transmits messages without establishing a connection, which speeds up data delivery.

UDP is an insecure and connectionless protocol. Unlike TCP, UDP does not provide a means for packet recovery in the event of packet loss. Additionally, it lacks an error-checking procedure. However, UDP is more efficient than TCP in terms of latency and bandwidth.

Due to the fact that TCP maintains a conversational flow between linked devices, there is always a requirement to synchronize and acknowledge delivered messages. However, since UDP does not retain this connection, the sender device may continue delivering replies to a request without the need for an acknowledgment message:

UDP communication

Figure 2. UDP communication

UDP is used for real-time applications such as video communication, online gaming, and live video streaming.

3. IRC

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is a protocol used for Internet chat and other communications. This real-time text chat system was developed in 1988. Group chat rooms, known as "channels," are the primary mode of communication, while private messaging, data transmission, and server and client-side instructions are also supported. There were over 500,000 concurrent users on the top 100 IRC networks in April 2011.

Owners of botnets often use IRC to communicate with the machines in their network. It's possible to accomplish this on an IRC channel, a public IRC network, or even a dedicated IRC server all at the same time.

4. HTTP

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the underlying technology of the World Wide Web (WWW), and it is used to load web pages through hypertext links. HTTP is an application layer protocol that provides a graphical user interface for transferring data between networked devices.

Additionally, it exchanges hypertext between clients and servers in order to facilitate interaction with web browsers and HTML files. When a web client wishes to connect with a web server through the WWW, the client sends the server an HTTP request. Once the server gets the request, it processes it and provides the client with an HTTP response. The HTTP response is received by the client.

HTTP Request/Response

Figure 3. HTTP Request/Response

Additionally, it provides a single connection for file sharing and enables file transfer across hosts.

HTTP is a stateless and connectionless protocol. A client and server are only aware of one another during communication. Once their conversation is complete, they both forget about one another. Additionally, it is media-independent. HTTP is capable of transmitting any kind of data.

Advantages of HTTP are given below:

  • Provides accessibility by encrypting data and putting it in the cache memory.
  • Allows concurrent downloads of the same file across various connections.

5. DHCP

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) can automatically assign Internet addresses to networks devices, such as servers, desktop computers, mobile devices, etc.

DHCP is an acronym for "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol," which enables network managers to automate the job of allocating internet protocol addresses inside a network.

DHCP enables network administrators to distribute IP addresses from a central location and to automatically deliver the newest IP address when a device connects from a different place on the network. It is a client-server-based protocol.

Along with the IP address, DHCP gives the subnet mask, default gateway address, domain name server (DNS) address, and any other setup information that is necessary.

A client device sends discovery messages to a DHCP server via a network, which response with an offer. The client then sends a response acknowledging the DHCP server's query:

DHCP messages

Figure 4. DHCP messages

6. BGP

BGP is primarily used for internet routing, but it is often utilized for internal MPLS circuits as well. It is critical to understand this protocol in case you come across it on a network. The internet is the most popular use of this protocol. Internet routing is defined by data sent between internet routers through BGP. Understanding BGP may assist you in correctly configuring redundant internet connections. Additionally, you may configure BGP peering in such a manner that physical connections can be added to aid with particular user latency.

7. FTP

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a protocol that is used to transfer and manipulate files between devices or programs using TCP/IP connections. To enable FTP exchange, the client (localhost) and server (remote host) must be linked and configured over a network. FTP is a common communication protocol that is based on a client-server architecture. It permits the transmission of files between a server and a client.

With an established network connection, FTP enables users to download and transfer data from one device to another. Additionally, it will allow computers to transfer data stored remotely on the cloud. FTP is used when a client requests a file from a server. Clients create a data channel over which they may request files and download, copy, or change them. Additionally, FTP facilitates the exchange of private files.

Advantages of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) are listed below :

  • Reliable and efficient
  • Permits the transfer of big files
  • Allows for the recovery of lost files
  • Fast file transfer

Cross-Site scripting is the most prevalent attack method for FTP, in which the attacker sends malicious code to the victim through a web application in the form of a browser-side script (or cookie). There are no security measures in place for the remote File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Passwords and usernames are sent in plain text, making them vulnerable to eavesdropping by network sniffers or even man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM).

8. POP3

POP3 (Post Office Protocol Version 3) is a kind of email protocol that is used by e-mail clients to retrieve messages from remote servers. After downloading the e-mails, they may be viewed without an online connection. Additionally, when emails are transferred to a nearby server, they might be deleted from the server. This protocol is not intended to do extensive modifications to the server's messages. One of the drawbacks of POP3 is that login credentials are communicated across the network in plain text because login procedures enable users to join through unencrypted channels.

9. Telnet

A user may communicate with an isolated device using an application layer protocol such as Telnet or Terminal emulation. A Telnet client may be installed on the user's PC. It enables the running of a Telnet server software through the interface of a command line on another distant system.

Telnet is often used by network administrators to connect to and manage distant devices. A network administrator may access a distant device by entering the IP address or hostname of the device.

The absence of encryption in the telnet protocol is the most dangerous flaw in the system. Every communication made from a remote device that is being set up to a network device is transmitted in plain text. When an attacker gets into the device, he can see everything we're customizing, as well as the password that we entered when we connected to the device. Another sort of Telnet attack is the DoS, in which the attacker floods the connection with useless and irrelevant data frames.

What is Network Management Protocols?

In order to keep your network running smoothly and efficiently, you'll want to employ network management protocols to clearly define the rules and processes that will be used for network monitoring, administration, and maintenance.

Troubleshooting connections between hosts and clients is often accomplished via the use of a management protocol. These protocols influence a variety of devices connected to a single network, including switches, routers, and servers, in order to guarantee that each device and the network as a whole function properly. Host connection status, availability, packet or data loss, and other statistics regarding the health of the network connection are sent to network administrators through management protocols.

The following are the roles of network management protocols:

  • Troubleshooting: Troubleshooting protocols enable network administrators to discover network faults, assess the quality of the network connection, and decide how to resolve any difficulties.
  • Connection: These protocols are used to create and maintain reliable connections between devices connected to the same network.
  • Link aggregation: Link aggregation protocols enable the consolidation of several network connections between two devices into a single link. This increases the strength of the connection and aids in its maintenance in the event that one of the connections fails.

Protocols like SNMP and ICMP are two of the most frequent forms of network management protocols in use today.

1. ICMP

The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is a protocol that is included in the Internet protocol suite as a supporting protocol. It is used by network devices, particularly routers, to transmit error messages and operational information, such as when a requested service is unavailable or when a host or router cannot be accessed.

ICMP is a network monitoring protocol that was created with the express purpose of reporting errors. It is used by network devices, particularly routers, to transmit error messages and operational information, such as when a requested service is unavailable or when a host or router cannot be accessed. In contrast to SNMP, ICMP is not employed in situations involving data transmission between systems. However, network administrators and analysts often utilize it to troubleshoot internet connections using diagnostic applications such as traceroute or ping.

ICMP is a connectionless protocol that operates independently of transport layer protocols such as TCP or UDP. Unlike TCP, there is no need for a device to establish a connection with the target device before sending a message. Rather than that, ICMP messages are sent as datagrams, which include an IP header that encodes the ICMP data. This guarantees that the request source receiving the error message is aware of the exactly failed packet.

Typical error messages ICMP reports include the following:

  • Destination unreachable
  • Packet too big
  • Destination unreachable
  • Redirect
  • Parameter problem
  • Time exceeded

There are lot of security issues related with ICMP protocol and it is widely used to perform many types of cyber attacks such as, icmp tunneling, smurf attack, and fraggle attack.

2. SNMP

SNMP, or Simple Network Management Protocol, is a protocol used at the application layer. This protocol's primary job is to manage various nodes on an internet protocol network, such as workstations, routers, servers, and switches. It allows network managers to monitor the network's performance, and identify and fix network failures. Three components comprise this protocol: an SNMP agent, a managed device, and an SNMP manager.

The SNMP agent may be installed on the managed device. The agent is nothing more than a software module that contains management information and decodes it into various formats that are compatible with the SNMP manager. This manager displays information acquired from the SNMP agent, which assists network managers in effectively managing nodes.

Several SNMP versions are available, including SNMP v1, v2, and v3. The first two versions share several functions, while version two adds more protocol operations. This version 3 enhances the security and remote configuration capabilities of previous versions.

However, SNMP protocol is vulnerable against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. From multiple broadband networks, these cyberattacks may create attack volumes of hundreds of gigabits per second. The attacker uses a faked IP address (which is really the victim's IP address) to send a large number of SNMP queries to numerous connected devices, which then respond to the forged IP address. As more and more devices join in, the attack volume increases dramatically, eventually bringing down the targeted network as a result of the sheer amount of replies.

Which Network Protocol Should Be Used?

You may be perplexed about which computer network protocol is suitable for your company after learning about the many sorts of protocols.

TCP and IP communication protocols are frequently utilized by startups and small organizations and are straightforward to administer. When it comes to file transmission, FTP protocols may be a better option for your organization than HTTP alone. When it comes to network security, HTTPS and SFTP are the most used and reliable methods of data transit. UDP and SNMP are two of the most often used communication protocols for network management, and they perform even better together.

Which Network Protocol is Used to Route IP Addresses?

The Internet Protocol (IP) is used to route IP addresses. It is a set of rules for routing and addressing data packets to transit them across networks and reach their intended destination. Packets are the smallest units of data that may be sent via the Internet. Each packet has an IP address associated with it, which enables routers to route the packets to the correct location.

If you're working with policy-based routing, multiple-homed connections, or anything else that's more involved. The following routing protocols are used in this case:

  • RIP (Routing Information Protocol),
  • BGP
  • OSPF
  • RIP
  • EIGRP
  • ISIS.

Routing protocols provide the following advantages:

  • Stability
  • Robust network
  • Dynamic routing update of the network paths
  • Safety.

Routing protocols use the following routing metrics that allow the routers to decide the best route for the data packet:

  • Bandwidth
  • Load
  • Reliability
  • Hops
  • Cost

Why are Protocols Important in Network Communication?

Not only do network protocols describe how devices and processes operate; but they also define how devices and processes interact. If a problem arises in the network, they also define what will happen and how the network will respond. What a user sees and what he/she hears are two different aspects of network protocols, which are separated by a series of layers. Using the rules, these layers interact with one other, allowing for precise and efficient human communication. Without these set standards and regulations, the internet would be unable to operate and be used. Without network protocols, the digital world would not exist.