A computer network is a series of devices connected together for the purpose of sharing network resources such as connection to the Internet. The term 'Internet' derived from an 'inter' connected set of 'net'-works and so is, in essence, a computer network. Devices on a network are referred to as nodes or hosts and communicate via network protocols to exchange information. Networked computing devices exchange data with each other using a data link. The connection between computers can be made via cabling, radio waves, laser LOS communications or via WiFi.
Linked network computer devices that originate, route and terminate the data are called network nodes. Nodes can include hosts such as personal computers, phones, servers as well as networking hardware. Two such nodes can be said to be networked together when one device is able to exchange information with the other device, whether or not they have a direct connection to each other. Computer networks differ in the transmission medium used to carry their signals, communications protocols to organise network traffic, the network's size, topology and organisational intent. Computer networks support an all kinds of applications and services such as file transfer, email, audio and video signaling and instant messaging applications as well as too many others to mention. In many cases, application-specific communications protocols are layered (i.e. carried as payload) over other more general communications protocols such as all of the different protocols which are supported by the TCP/IP transfer backbone that supports all of the protocols required by the users of the Internet.
A firewall is placed at the perimeter a computer system or network and is designed to block unauthorised access while permitting authorised communications. It is a device or set of devices configured to permit or deny network transmissions based upon a set of rules and other criteria. UTM Gateway devices or appliances scan Internet traffic for virus definitions or and delete or quarantine as defined by their administrators.
Firewalls can be implemented in either hardware or software, or a combination of both. Firewalls are frequently used to prevent unauthorised Internet users from accessing private networks connected to the Internet, especially intranets. All messages entering or leaving the intranet pass through the firewall, which inspects each message and blocks those that do not meet the specified security criteria.
Remote access is the ability to connect and make use of some type of data or information without being closely located to the location of that information. In most situations, remote access refers to the ability to connect with internal networks from a remote location, and make use of the resources that are housed on the network. The process of remote access has become an extremely valuable business tool, especially among business professionals who work at home or travel frequently for work.
In order to engage in remote access to a private network, the user usually needs access to the Internet. Companies establish portals that make it possible for authorised personnel to gain access to the company's servers from any computer around the world, as long as that computer is connected to the Internet. There is usually some type of login credentials required to successfully complete the connection to the server. This makes it possible to monitor who is connecting from a remote location, monitor which resources they work with, and also log how long the connection is maintained by keeping track of the entry and exit times associated with each set of credentials.
The majority of networks providing connectivity inside of and inter-connectivity between offices and business now are Ethernet. Ethernet networking comprises of a family of computer networking technologies commonly used in local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). It was commercially introduced in 1980 and first standardised in 1983 as IEEE 802.3 Ethernet has been refined to support higher bit rates and longer link distances as fibre over ethernet has become more important and data capacity requirements have increased. Over time, Ethernet has largely replaced other wired LAN technologies such as token ring, FDDI and ARCNET.
Devices communicating over Ethernet divide a stream of data into shorter units called frames. Each frame contains source and destination addresses, and error-checking data so that damaged frames can be detected and discarded; most often, higher-layer protocols trigger retransmission of lost frames. This means that Ethernet is a reliable way of communicating over short and long distances which makes it useful for the interconnectivity of networks over wider areas, which is what the Internet is.
Since its commercial release, Ethernet has retained backwards compatibility due to a sensible and well-tested programme of development. Features such as the 48-bit MAC address and Ethernet frame format have influenced other networking protocols. The primary alternative to wired networks is Wi-Fi, a wireless protocol version of Ethernet that allows Ethernet to travel via radio waves.
WiFi is a technology that allows electronic devices to connect to a wireless LAN (WLAN) network, mainly using the 2.4 gigahertz (12 cm) UHF and 5 gigahertz (6 cm) domestic data radio bands. A WLAN is usually password protected with WPA or WPA2, but may be open, which allows any device within its range to access the resources of the WLAN network just as if plugging into a LAN.
Pretty much every domestic network aware device available is now WiFi capable and will usually have built in software to allow quick and easy connection to a domestic WLAN such as WPS. WiFi compatible devices can connect to the Internet via a WLAN network and a wireless access point. Such an access point (or hotspot) has a range of about 20 meters (66 feet) indoors and a greater range outdoors. Hotspot coverage can be as small as a single room with walls that block radio waves, or as large as many square kilometres achieved by using multiple overlapping access points.
The term "WiFi" is generally used in as a synonym for wireless LAN since most modern WLANs are based on the same standards. The "WiFi Certified" trademark can only be used by WiFi products that successfully complete WiFi Alliance interoperability certification testing
WiFi is airborne communication technology and so any intended intruder to that network already has physical access to the network (layer one) unlike Ethernet, where an intruder must first gain physical access before any attack can be mounted. To balance this, WiFi has adopted various encryption technologies since its inception. The early encryption WEP (the unfortunately names Wired Equivalency Protocol) proved easy to break and so was quickly followed. Higher quality protocols (WPA, WPA2) soon came along which gave a palatable feeling of security to WiFi users. The original incarnation of (WPS) WiFi Protected Setup, had a security flaw that allowed attackers to recover the WLAN password and so compromise the network but since then the WiFi Alliance has updated the certification program to ensure all newly certified devices resist attacks.
WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access encryption) is currently considered to be secure, provided a pass-phrase is used that has been randomly generated or is difficult to guess. Another measure to deter unauthorised access is to hide the WLAN name by disabling the SSID broadcast on the WAP (Wireless Access Point) or wireless router. Although effective against the casual intruder, it is generally ineffective as a security measure due to the SSID being broadcast as clear text in response to a client SSID query. Another method is to only allow computers with known MAC addresses to join the network, but determined eavesdroppers may still be able to join the network by discovering and spoofing (impersonating) an authorised address
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