A computer network is a digital telecommunications network for sharing resources between nodes, which are computing devices that use a common telecommunications technology. Data transmission between nodes is supported over data links consisting of physical cable media, such as twisted pair or fibre-optic cables, or by wireless methods, such as Wi-Fi, microwave transmission, or free-space optical communication.
Network nodes are network computer devices that originate, route and terminate data communication. They are generally identified by network addresses, and can include hosts such as personal computers, phones, and servers, as well as networking hardware such as routers and switches. Two such devices can be said to be networked when one device is able to exchange information with the other device, whether or not they have a direct connection to each other. In most cases, application-specific communications protocols are layered i.e. carried as payload over other more general communications protocols.
Computer networks support many applications and services, such as access to the World Wide Web, digital video, digital audio, shared use of application and storage servers, printers, and fax machines, and use of email and instant messaging applications. Computer networks may be classified by many criteria, for example, the transmission medium used to carry their signals, bandwidth, communications protocols to organize network traffic, the network's size, topology, traffic control mechanism, and organizational intent. The best-known computer network is the Internet.
The chronology of significant computer-network developments includes:
Computer networking may be considered a branch of electrical engineering, electronics engineering, telecommunications, computer science, information technology or computer engineering, since it relies upon the theoretical and practical application of the related disciplines.
A computer network facilitates interpersonal communications allowing users to communicate efficiently and easily via various means: email, instant messaging, online chat, telephone, video telephone calls, and video conferencing. A network allows sharing of network and computing resources. Users may access and use resources provided by devices on the network, such as printing a document on a shared network printer or use of a shared storage device. A network allows sharing of files, data, and other types of information giving authorized users the ability to access information stored on other computers on the network. Distributed computing uses computing resources across a network to accomplish tasks.
A computer network may be used by security hackers to deploy computer viruses or computer worms on devices connected to the network, or to prevent these devices from accessing the network via a denial-of-service attack.
Computer communication links that do not support packets, such as traditional point-to-point telecommunication links, simply transmit data as a bit stream. However, the overwhelming majority of computer networks carry their data in packets. A network packet is a formatted unit of data a list of bits or bytes, usually a few tens of bytes to a few kilobytes long carried by a packet-switched network. Packets are sent through the network to their destination. A longer message is packetized before it is transferred and once the packets arrive, they are then reassembled back into their original message.
Packets consist of two kinds of data: control information and user data payload. The control information provides data the network needs to deliver the user data, for example, source and destination network addresses, error detection codes, and sequencing information. Typically, control information is found in packet headers and trailers, with payload data in between.
With packets, the bandwidth of the transmission medium can be better shared among users than if the network were circuit switched. When one user is not sending packets, the link can be filled with packets from other users, and so the cost can be shared, with relatively little interference, provided the link isn't overused. Often the route a packet needs to take through a network is not immediately available. In that case, the packet is queued and waits until a link is free.
The physical layout of a network is usually less important than the topology that connects network nodes. Most diagrams that describe a physical network are therefore topological, rather than geographic. The symbols on these diagrams usually denote network links and network nodes.
Network topology is the layout or organizational hierarchy of interconnected nodes of a computer network. Different network topologies can affect throughput, but reliability is often more critical. With many technologies, such as bus networks, a single failure can cause the network to fail entirely. In general the more interconnections there are, the more robust the network is; but the more expensive it is to install.
Common layouts are:
The physical layout of the nodes in a network may not necessarily reflect the network topology. As an example, with FDDI, the network topology is a ring actually two counter-rotating rings, but the physical topology is often a star, because all neighboring connections can be routed via a central physical location. Physical layout is not completely irrelevant, however, as common ducting and equipment locations can represent single points of failure due to issues like fires, power failures and flooding.
An overlay network is a virtual computer network that is built on top of another network. Nodes in the overlay network are connected by virtual or logical links. Each link corresponds to a path, perhaps through many physical links, in the underlying network. The topology of the overlay network may and often does differ from that of the underlying one. For example, many peer-to-peer networks are overlay networks. They are organized as nodes of a virtual system of links that run on top of the Internet.
Overlay networks have been around since the invention of networking when computer systems were connected over telephone lines using modems, before any data network existed.
The most striking example of an overlay network is the Internet itself. The Internet itself was initially built as an overlay on the telephone network. Even today, each Internet node can communicate with virtually any other through an underlying mesh of sub-networks of wildly different topologies and technologies. Address resolution and routing are the means that allow mapping of a fully connected IP overlay network to its underlying network.
Another example of an overlay network is a distributed hash table, which maps keys to nodes in the network. In this case, the underlying network is an IP network, and the overlay network is a table actually a map indexed by keys.
Overlay networks have also been proposed as a way to improve Internet routing, such as through ] On the other hand, an overlay network can be incrementally deployed on end-hosts running the overlay protocol software, without cooperation from Internet service providers. The overlay network has no control over how packets are routed in the underlying network between two overlay nodes, but it can control, for example, the sequence of overlay nodes that a message traverses before it reaches its destination.
For example, Akamai Technologies manages an overlay network that provides reliable, efficient content delivery a kind of multicast. Academic research includes end system multicast, resilient routing and quality of service studies, among others.
The transmission media often referred to in the literature as the physical medium used to link devices to form a computer network include electrical cable, optical fiber, and radio waves. In the OSI model, these are defined at layers 1 and 2 — the physical layer and the data link layer.
A widely adopted family of transmission media used in local area network LAN technology is collectively known as Ethernet. The media and protocol standards that enable communication between networked devices over Ethernet are defined by IEEE 802.3. Ethernet transmits data over both copper and fiber cables. Wireless LAN standards use radio waves, others use infrared signals as a transmission medium. Power line communication uses a building's power cabling to transmit data.
The following classes of wired technologies are used in computer networking.
Network connections can be established wirelessly using radio or other electromagnetic means of communication.
There have been various attempts at transporting data over exotic media.
Both cases have a large round-trip delay time, which gives slow two-way communication but doesn't prevent sending large amounts of information.
Apart from any physical transmission media, networks are built from additional basic system building blocks, such as network interface controllers NICs, repeaters, hubs, bridges, switches, routers, modems, and firewalls. Any particular piece of equipment will frequently contain multiple building blocks and so may perform multiple functions.
A network interface controller NIC is computer hardware that connects the computer to the network media and has the ability to process low-level network information. For example, the NIC may have a connector for accepting a cable, or an aerial for wireless transmission and reception, and the associated circuitry.
In Ethernet networks, each network interface controller has a unique Media Access Control MAC address—usually stored in the controller's permanent memory. To avoid address conflicts between network devices, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers IEEE maintains and administers MAC address uniqueness. The size of an Ethernet MAC address is six octets. The three most significant octets are reserved to identify NIC manufacturers. These manufacturers, using only their assigned prefixes, uniquely assign the three least-significant octets of every Ethernet interface they produce.
A repeater is an electronic device that receives a network signal, cleans it of unnecessary noise and regenerates it. The signal is retransmitted at a higher power level, or to the other side of an obstruction, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. In most twisted pair Ethernet configurations, repeaters are required for cable that runs longer than 100 meters. With fiber optics, repeaters can be tens or even hundreds of kilometers apart.
A repeater with multiple ports is known as an Ethernet hub. Repeaters work on the physical layer of the OSI model. Repeaters require a small amount of time to regenerate the signal. This can cause a propagation delay that affects network performance and may affect proper function. As a result, many network architectures limit the number of repeaters that can be used in a row, e.g., the Ethernet 5-4-3 rule.
Hubs and repeaters in LANs have been mostly obsoleted by modern switches.
A network bridge connects and filters traffic between two network segments at the data link layer layer 2 of the OSI model to form a single network. This breaks the network's collision domain but maintains a unified broadcast domain. Network segmentation breaks down a large, congested network into an aggregation of smaller, more efficient networks.
Bridges come in three basic types:
A network switch is a device that forwards and filters OSI layer 2 datagrams frames between ports based on the destination MAC address in each frame. A switch is distinct from a hub in that it only forwards the frames to the physical ports involved in the communication rather than all ports connected. It can be thought of as a multi-port bridge. It learns to associate physical ports to MAC addresses by examining the source addresses of received frames. If an unknown destination is targeted, the switch broadcasts to all ports but the source. Switches normally have numerous ports, facilitating a star topology for devices, and cascading additional switches.
A router is an internetworking device that forwards packets between networks by processing the routing information included in the packet or datagram Internet protocol information from layer 3. The routing information is often processed in conjunction with the routing table or forwarding table. A router uses its routing table to determine where to forward packets. A destination in a routing table can include a "null" interface, also known as the "black hole" interface because data can go into it, however, no further processing is done for said data, i.e. the packets are dropped.
Modems MOdulator-DEModulator are used to connect network nodes via wire not originally designed for digital network traffic, or for wireless. To do this one or more carrier signals are modulated by the digital signal to produce an analog signal that can be tailored to give the required properties for transmission. Modems are commonly used for telephone lines, using a digital subscriber line technology.
A firewall is a network device for controlling network security and access rules. Firewalls are typically configured to reject access requests from unrecognized sources while allowing actions from recognized ones. The vital role firewalls play in network security grows in parallel with the constant increase in cyber attacks.
A communication protocol is a set of rules for exchanging information over a network. In a protocol stack also see the OSI model, each protocol leverages the services of the protocol layer below it, until the lowest layer controls the hardware that sends information across the media. The use of protocol layering is today ubiquitous across the field of computer networking. An important example of a protocol stack is HTTP the World Wide Web protocol running over TCP over IP the Internet protocols over IEEE 802.11 the Wi-Fi protocol. This stack is used between the wireless router and the home user's personal computer when the user is surfing the web.
Communication protocols have various characteristics. They may be connection-oriented or connectionless, they may use circuit mode or packet switching, and they may use hierarchical addressing or flat addressing.
There are many communication protocols, a few of which are described below.
IEEE 802 is a family of IEEE standards dealing with local area networks and metropolitan area networks. The complete IEEE 802 protocol suite provides a diverse set of networking capabilities. The protocols have a flat addressing scheme. They operate mostly at levels 1 and 2 of the OSI model.
For example, MAC bridging IEEE 802.1D deals with the routing of Ethernet packets using a Spanning Tree Protocol. IEEE 802.1Q describes VLANs, and IEEE 802.1X defines a port-based Network Access Control protocol, which forms the basis for the authentication mechanisms used in VLANs but it is also found in WLANs – it is what the home user sees when the user has to enter a "wireless access key".
Ethernet, sometimes simply called LAN, is a family of protocols used in wired LANs, described by a set of standards together called IEEE 802.3 published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Wireless LAN, also widely known as WLAN or WiFi, is probably the most well-known member of the IEEE 802 protocol family for home users today. It is standardized by IEEE 802.11 and shares many properties with wired Ethernet.
The Internet Protocol Suite, also called TCP/IP, is the foundation of all modern networking. It offers connection-less as well as connection-oriented services over an inherently unreliable network traversed by datagram transmission at the Internet protocol IP level. At its core, the protocol suite defines the addressing, identification, and routing specifications for Internet Protocol Version 4 IPv4 and for IPv6, the next generation of the protocol with a much enlarged addressing capability.
Synchronous optical networking SONET and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy SDH are standardized multiplexing protocols that transfer multiple digital bit streams over optical fiber using lasers. They were originally designed to transport circuit mode communications from a variety of different sources, primarily to support real-time, uncompressed, circuit-switched voice encoded in PCM Pulse-Code Modulation format. However, due to its protocol neutrality and transport-oriented features, SONET/SDH also was the obvious choice for transporting Asynchronous Transfer Mode ATM frames.
Asynchronous Transfer Mode ATM is a switching technique for telecommunication networks. It uses asynchronous time-division multiplexing and encodes data into small, fixed-sized cells. This differs from other protocols such as the Internet Protocol Suite or Ethernet that use variable sized packets or frames. ATM has similarity with both circuit and packet switched networking. This makes it a good choice for a network that must handle both traditional high-throughput data traffic, and real-time, low-latency content such as voice and video. ATM uses a connection-oriented model in which a virtual circuit must be established between two endpoints before the actual data exchange begins.
While the role of ATM is diminishing in favor of next-generation networks, it still plays a role in the last mile, which is the connection between an Internet service provider and the home user.
There are a number of different digital cellular standards, including: Global System for Mobile Communications GSM, General Packet Radio Service GPRS, cdmaOne, CDMA2000, Evolution-Data Optimized EV-DO, Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution EDGE, Universal Mobile Telecommunications System UMTS, Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications DECT, Digital AMPS IS-136/TDMA, and Integrated Digital Enhanced Network iDEN.
A network can be characterized by its physical capacity or its organizational purpose. Use of the network, including user authorization and access rights, differ accordingly.
A nanoscale communication network has key components implemented at the nanoscale including message carriers and leverages physical principles that differ from macroscale communication mechanisms. Nanoscale communication extends communication to very small sensors and actuators such as those found in biological systems and also tends to operate in environments that would be too harsh for classical communication.
A personal area network PAN is a computer network used for communication among computer and different information technological devices close to one person. Some examples of devices that are used in a PAN are personal computers, printers, fax machines, telephones, PDAs, scanners, and even video game consoles. A PAN may include wired and wireless devices. The reach of a PAN typically extends to 10 meters. A wired PAN is usually constructed with USB and FireWire connections while technologies such as Bluetooth and infrared communication typically form a wireless PAN.
A local area network LAN is a network that connects computers and devices in a limited geographical area such as a home, school, office building, or closely positioned group of buildings. Each computer or device on the network is a node. Wired LANs are most likely based on Ethernet technology. Newer standards such as ITU-T G.hn also provide a way to create a wired LAN using existing wiring, such as coaxial cables, telephone lines, and power lines.
The defining characteristics of a LAN, in contrast to a wide area network WAN, include higher data transfer rates, limited geographic range, and lack of reliance on leased lines to provide connectivity. Current Ethernet or other IEEE 802.3 LAN technologies operate at data transfer rates up to 100 Gbit/s, standardized by IEEE in 2010. Currently, 400 Gbit/s Ethernet is being developed.
A LAN can be connected to a WAN using a router.
A home area network HAN is a residential LAN used for communication between digital devices typically deployed in the home, usually a small number of personal computers and accessories, such as printers and mobile computing devices. An important function is the sharing of Internet access, often a broadband service through a cable TV or digital subscriber line DSL provider.
A storage area network SAN is a dedicated network that provides access to consolidated, block level data storage. SANs are primarily used to make storage devices, such as disk arrays, tape libraries, and optical jukeboxes, accessible to servers so that the devices appear like locally attached devices to the operating system. A SAN typically has its own network of storage devices that are generally not accessible through the local area network by other devices. The cost and complexity of SANs dropped in the early 2000s to levels allowing wider adoption across both enterprise and small to medium-sized business environments.
A campus area network CAN is made up of an interconnection of LANs within a limited geographical area. The networking equipment switches, routers and transmission media optical fiber, copper plant, Cat5 cabling, etc. are almost entirely owned by the campus tenant / owner an enterprise, university, government, etc..
For example, a university campus network is likely to link a variety of campus buildings to connect academic colleges or departments, the library, and student residence halls.
A backbone network is part of a computer network infrastructure that provides a path for the exchange of information between different LANs or subnetworks. A backbone can tie together diverse networks within the same building, across different buildings, or over a wide area.
For example, a large company might implement a backbone network to connect departments that are located around the world. The equipment that ties together the departmental networks constitutes the network backbone. When designing a network backbone, network performance and network congestion are critical factors to take into account. Normally, the backbone network's capacity is greater than that of the individual networks connected to it.
Another example of a backbone network is the Internet backbone, which is a massive, global system of fiber-optic cable and optical networking that carry the bulk of data between wide area networks WANs, metro, regional, national and transoceanic networks.
A Metropolitan area network MAN is a large computer network that usually spans a city or a large campus.
A wide area network WAN is a computer network that covers a large geographic area such as a city, country, or spans even intercontinental distances. A WAN uses a communications channel that combines many types of media such as telephone lines, cables, and air waves. A WAN often makes use of transmission facilities provided by common carriers, such as telephone companies. WAN technologies generally function at the lower three layers of the OSI reference model: the physical layer, the data link layer, and the network layer.
An enterprise private network is a network that a single organization builds to interconnect its office locations e.g., production sites, head offices, remote offices, shops so they can share computer resources.
A virtual private network VPN is an overlay network in which some of the links between nodes are carried by open connections or virtual circuits in some larger network e.g., the Internet instead of by physical wires. The data link layer protocols of the virtual network are said to be tunneled through the larger network when this is the case. One common application is secure communications through the public Internet, but a VPN need not have explicit security features, such as authentication or content encryption. VPNs, for example, can be used to separate the traffic of different user communities over an underlying network with strong security features.
VPN may have best-effort performance, or may have a defined service level agreement SLA between the VPN customer and the VPN service provider. Generally, a VPN has a topology more complex than point-to-point.
A global area network GAN is a network used for supporting mobile across an arbitrary number of wireless LANs, satellite coverage areas, etc. The key challenge in mobile communications is handing off user communications from one local coverage area to the next. In IEEE Project 802, this involves a succession of terrestrial wireless LANs.
Networks are typically managed by the organizations that own them. Private enterprise networks may use a combination of intranets and extranets. They may also provide network access to the Internet, which has no single owner and permits virtually unlimited global connectivity.
An intranet is a set of networks that are under the control of a single administrative entity. The intranet uses the IP protocol and IP-based tools such as web browsers and file transfer applications. The administrative entity limits use of the intranet to its authorized users. Most commonly, an intranet is the internal LAN of an organization. A large intranet typically has at least one web server to provide users with organizational information. An intranet is also anything behind the router on a local area network.
An extranet is a network that is also under the administrative control of a single organization, but supports a limited connection to a specific external network. For example, an organization may provide access to some aspects of its intranet to share data with its business partners or customers. These other entities are not necessarily trusted from a security standpoint. Network connection to an extranet is often, but not always, implemented via WAN technology.
An internetwork is the connection of multiple computer networks via a common routing technology using routers.
The Internet is the largest example of an internetwork. It is a global system of interconnected governmental, academic, corporate, public, and private computer networks. It is based on the networking technologies of the Internet Protocol Suite. It is the successor of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network ARPANET developed by DARPA of the United States Department of Defense. The Internet utilizes copper communications and the optical networking backbone to enable the World Wide Web WWW, the Internet of Things, video transfer and a broad range of information services.
Participants in the Internet use a diverse array of methods of several hundred documented, and often standardized, protocols compatible with the Internet Protocol Suite and an addressing system IP addresses administered by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and address registries. Service providers and large enterprises exchange information about the reachability of their address spaces through the Border Gateway Protocol BGP, forming a redundant worldwide mesh of transmission paths.
A darknet is an overlay network, typically running on the Internet, that is only accessible through specialized software. A darknet is an anonymizing network where connections are made only between trusted peers — sometimes called "friends" F2F — using non-standard protocols and ports.
Darknets are distinct from other distributed peer-to-peer networks as sharing is anonymous that is, IP addresses are not publicly shared, and therefore users can communicate with little fear of governmental or corporate interference.
Routing is the process of selecting network paths to carry network traffic. Routing is performed for many kinds of networks, including circuit switching networks and packet switched networks.
In packet-switched networks, routing directs packet forwarding the transit of logically addressed network packets from their source toward their ultimate destination through intermediate nodes. Intermediate nodes are typically network hardware devices such as routers, bridges, gateways, firewalls, or switches. General-purpose computers can also forward packets and perform routing, though they are not specialized hardware and may suffer from limited performance. The routing process usually directs forwarding on the basis of routing tables, which maintain a record of the routes to various network destinations. Thus, constructing routing tables, which are held in the router's memory, is very important for efficient routing.
There are usually multiple routes that can be taken, and to choose between them, different elements can be considered to decide which routes get installed into the routing table, such as sorted by priority:
Most routing algorithms use only one network path at a time. Multipath routing techniques enable the use of multiple alternative paths.
Routing, in a more narrow sense of the term, is often contrasted with bridging in its assumption that network addresses are structured and that similar addresses imply proximity within the network. Structured addresses allow a single routing table entry to represent the route to a group of devices. In large networks, structured addressing routing, in the narrow sense outperforms unstructured addressing bridging. Routing has become the dominant form of addressing on the Internet. Bridging is still widely used within localized environments.
Network services are applications hosted by servers on a computer network, to provide some functionality for members or users of the network, or to help the network itself to operate.
The World Wide Web, E-mail, printing and network file sharing are examples of well-known network services. Network services such as DNS Domain Name System give names for IP and MAC addresses people remember names like “nm.lan” better than numbers like “126.96.36.199”, and DHCP to ensure that the equipment on the network has a valid IP address.
Services are usually based on a service protocol that defines the format and sequencing of messages between clients and servers of that network service.
Bandwidth in bit/s may refer to consumed bandwidth, corresponding to achieved throughput or goodput, i.e., the average rate of successful data transfer through a communication path. The throughput is affected by technologies such as bandwidth shaping, bandwidth management, bandwidth throttling, bandwidth cap, bandwidth allocation for example bandwidth allocation protocol and dynamic bandwidth allocation, etc. A bit stream's bandwidth is proportional to the average consumed signal bandwidth in hertz the average spectral bandwidth of the analog signal representing the bit stream during a studied time interval.
Any data sent across a network requires time to travel from source to destination. Depending on the application, the one-way delay or the round-trip time can have a significant impact on performance.
Depending on the installation requirements, network performance is usually measured by the quality of service of a telecommunications product. The parameters that affect this typically can include throughput, jitter, bit error rate and latency.
The following list gives examples of network performance measures for a circuit-switched network and one type of packet-switched network, viz. ATM:
There are many ways to measure the performance of a network, as each network is different in nature and design. Performance can also be modelled instead of measured. For example, state transition diagrams are often used to model queuing performance in a circuit-switched network. The network planner uses these diagrams to analyze how the network performs in each state, ensuring that the network is optimally designed.
Network congestion occurs when a link or node is subjected to a greater data load than it is rated for, resulting in a deterioration of its quality of service. Typical effects include queueing delay, packet loss or the blocking of new connections. A consequence of these latter two is that incremental increases in offered load lead either to only a small increase in network throughput, or to a reduction in network throughput.
Network protocols that use aggressive retransmissions to compensate for packet loss tend to keep systems in a state of network congestion—even after the initial load is reduced to a level that would not normally induce network congestion. Thus, networks using these protocols can exhibit two stable states under the same level of load. The stable state with low throughput is known as congestive collapse.
Modern networks use congestion control, congestion avoidance and traffic control techniques to try to avoid congestion collapse. These include: exponential backoff in protocols such as 802.11's CSMA/CA and the original Ethernet, window reduction in TCP, and fair queueing in devices such as routers. Another method to avoid the negative effects of network congestion is implementing priority schemes, so that some packets are transmitted with higher priority than others. Priority schemes do not solve network congestion by themselves, but they help to alleviate the effects of congestion for some services. An example of this is 802.1p. A third method to avoid network congestion is the explicit allocation of network resources to specific flows. One example of this is the use of Contention-Free Transmission Opportunities CFTXOPs in the ITU-T G.hn standard, which provides high-speed up to 1 Gbit/s Local area networking over existing home wires power lines, phone lines and coaxial cables.
For the Internet, RFC 2914 addresses the subject of congestion control in detail.
Network resilience is "the ability to provide and maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of faults and challenges to normal operation.”
Network security consists of provisions and policies adopted by the network administrator to prevent and monitor unauthorized access, misuse, modification, or denial of the computer network and its network-accessible resources. Network security is the authorization of access to data in a network, which is controlled by the network administrator. Users are assigned an ID and password that allows them access to information and programs within their authority. Network security is used on a variety of computer networks, both public and private, to secure daily transactions and communications among businesses, government agencies and individuals.
Network surveillance is the monitoring of data being transferred over computer networks such as the Internet. The monitoring is often done surreptitiously and may be done by or at the behest of governments, by corporations, criminal organizations, or individuals. It may or may not be legal and may or may not require authorization from a court or other independent agency.
Computer and network surveillance programs are widespread today, and almost all Internet traffic is or could potentially be monitored for clues to illegal activity.
Surveillance is very useful to governments and law enforcement to maintain social control, recognize and monitor threats, and prevent/investigate criminal activity. With the advent of programs such as the Total Information Awareness program, technologies such as high-speed surveillance computers and biometrics software, and laws such as the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, governments now possess an unprecedented ability to monitor the activities of citizens.
However, many civil rights and privacy groups—such as Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union—have expressed concern that increasing surveillance of citizens may lead to a mass surveillance society, with limited political and personal freedoms. Fears such as this have led to numerous lawsuits such as Hepting v. AT&T. The hacktivist group Anonymous has hacked into government websites in protest of what it considers "draconian surveillance".
End-to-end encryption E2EE is a digital communications paradigm of uninterrupted protection of data traveling between two communicating parties. It involves the originating party encrypting data so only the intended recipient can decrypt it, with no dependency on third parties. End-to-end encryption prevents intermediaries, such as Internet providers or application service providers, from discovering or tampering with communications. End-to-end encryption generally protects both confidentiality and integrity.
Examples of end-to-end encryption include HTTPS for web traffic, PGP for email, OTR for instant messaging, ZRTP for telephony, and TETRA for radio.
Typical server-based communications systems do not include end-to-end encryption. These systems can only guarantee protection of communications between clients and servers, not between the communicating parties themselves. Examples of non-E2EE systems are Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, Facebook, and Dropbox. Some such systems, for example LavaBit and SecretInk, have even described themselves as offering "end-to-end" encryption when they do not. Some systems that normally offer end-to-end encryption have turned out to contain a back door that subverts negotiation of the encryption key between the communicating parties, for example Skype or Hushmail.
The end-to-end encryption paradigm does not directly address risks at the communications endpoints themselves, such as the technical exploitation of clients, poor quality random number generators, or key escrow. E2EE also does not address traffic analysis, which relates to things such as the identities of the endpoints and the times and quantities of messages that are sent.
The introduction and rapid growth of e-commerce on the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s made it obvious that some form of authentication and encryption was needed. Netscape took the first shot at a new standard. At the time, the dominant web browser was Netscape Navigator. Netscape created a standard called secure socket layer SSL. SSL requires a server with a certificate. When a client requests access to an SSL-secured server, the server sends a copy of the certificate to the client. The SSL client checks this certificate all web browsers come with an exhaustive list of CA root certificates preloaded, and if the certificate checks out, the server is authenticated and the client negotiates a symmetric-key cipher for use in the session. The session is now in a very secure encrypted tunnel between the SSL server and the SSL client.
Users and network administrators typically have different views of their networks. Users can share printers and some servers from a workgroup, which usually means they are in the same geographic location and are on the same LAN, whereas a Network Administrator is responsible to keep that network up and running. A community of interest has less of a connection of being in a local area, and should be thought of as a set of arbitrarily located users who share a set of servers, and possibly also communicate via peer-to-peer technologies.
Network administrators can see networks from both physical and logical perspectives. The physical perspective involves geographic locations, physical cabling, and the network elements e.g., routers, bridges and application layer gateways that interconnect via the transmission media. Logical networks, called, in the TCP/IP architecture, subnets, map onto one or more transmission media. For example, a common practice in a campus of buildings is to make a set of LAN cables in each building appear to be a common subnet, using virtual LAN VLAN technology.
Both users and administrators are aware, to varying extents, of the trust and scope characteristics of a network. Again using TCP/IP architectural terminology, an intranet is a community of interest under private administration usually by an enterprise, and is only accessible by authorized users e.g. employees. Intranets do not have to be connected to the Internet, but generally have a limited connection. An extranet is an extension of an intranet that allows secure communications to users outside of the intranet e.g. business partners, customers.
Unofficially, the Internet is the set of users, enterprises, and content providers that are interconnected by Internet Service Providers ISP. From an engineering viewpoint, the Internet is the set of subnets, and aggregates of subnets, that share the registered IP address space and exchange information about the reachability of those IP addresses using the Border Gateway Protocol. Typically, the human-readable names of servers are translated to IP addresses, transparently to users, via the directory function of the Domain Name System DNS.
Over the Internet, there can be business-to-business B2B, business-to-consumer B2C and consumer-to-consumer C2C communications. When money or sensitive information is exchanged, the communications are apt to be protected by some form of communications security mechanism. Intranets and extranets can be securely superimposed onto the Internet, without any access by general Internet users and administrators, using secure Virtual Private Network VPN technology.