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Monday, August 3, 2009

Overview Of The Application Layer

Computer networks are inherently insecure. To keep information secret, it must be encrypted. Encryption protocols fall into two general classes: secret key (e.g. DES, IDEA), and public key (e.g. RSA). Using these protocols is straight-forward; the hard part is key management.
In addition to providing secrecy, cryptographic protocols can also provide authentication. Finally, cryptography can also be used to allow messages to be signed in such a way that the sender cannot repudiate them after they have been sent. Naming in the Internet uses a distributed database system, DNS. Domain Name Server(DNS) holds records with IP addresses, mail exchanges, and other information. By querying a DNS server, a process can map an Internet domain name onto the IP address used to communicate with that domain.
As networks grow larger, they become harder to manage. For this reason, special network management systems and protocols have been devised, the most popular of which is SNMP. This protocol allows managers to communicate with agents inside devices to read out their status and issue commands to them.
Four major network applications are electronic mail, USENET news, the World Wide Web, and multimedia. Most email systems use the mail system defined in RFCs 821 and 822. Messages sent in this system use system ASCII headers to define message properties. These messages are sent using SMTP. Two systems for securing email exist, PGP and PEM.
USENET news consists of thousands of newsgroups on all manner of topics. People can join newsgroups locally, and can then post messages all over the world using the NNTP protocol, which has some resemblance to SMTP.
The World Wide Web is a system for linking up hypertext documents. Each document is a page written in HTML, possible with hyperlinks to other documents. A browser can display a document by establishing a TCP connection to its server, asking for the document, and then closing the connection. When a hyperlink is selected by the user, that document can also be fetched in the same way. In this manner, documents all over the world are linked together in a giant web.
Multimedia is the rising star in the networking firmament. It allows audio and video to be digitized and transported electronically for display. Most multimedia projects use the MPEG standards and transmit the data over ATM connections.

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