Internet Protocol Essay

The Internet Protocol (IP) is the principal communications protocol in the Internet protocol suite for relaying packets across network boundaries. Its routing function enables internetworking, and essentially establishes the Internet.

IP has the task of delivering packets from the source host to the destination host solely based on the IP addresses in the packet headers. For this purpose, IP defines packet structures that encapsulate the data to be delivered. It also defines addressing methods that are used to label the datagram with source and destination information.

Historically, IP was the connectionless datagram service in the original Transmission Control Program introduced by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn in 1974; the other being the connection-oriented Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). The Internet protocol suite is therefore often referred to as TCP/IP.

The first major version of IP, Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4), is the dominant protocol of the Internet. Its successor is Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6).


The Internet Protocol is responsible for addressing hosts, encapsulating data into datagrams (including fragmentation and reassembly) and routing datagrams from a source host to a destination host across one or more IP networks.[1] For these purposes, the Internet Protocol defines the format of packets and provides an addressing system.

Each datagram has two components: a header and a payload. The IP header includes source IP address, destination IP address, and other metadata needed to route and deliver the datagram. The payload is the data that is transported. This method of nesting the data payload in a packet with a header is called encapsulation.

IP addressing entails the assignment of IP addresses and associated parameters to host interfaces. The address space is divided into subnetworks, involving the designation of network prefixes. IP routing is performed by all hosts, as well as routers, whose main function is to transport packets across network boundaries. Routers communicate with one another via specially designed routing protocols, either interior gateway protocols or exterior gateway protocols, as needed for the topology of the network.

Version history[edit]

In May 1974, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) published a paper entitled "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication".[2] The paper's authors, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, described an internetworking protocol for sharing resources using packet switching among network nodes. A central control component of this model was the "Transmission Control Program" that incorporated both connection-oriented links and datagram services between hosts. The monolithic Transmission Control Program was later divided into a modular architecture consisting of the Transmission Control Protocol and User Datagram Protocol at the transport layer and the Internet Protocol at the network layer. The model became known as the Department of Defense (DoD) Internet Model and Internet protocol suite, and informally as TCP/IP.

IP versions 0 to 3 were experimental versions, used between 1977 and 1979. The following Internet Experiment Note (IEN) documents describe versions of the Internet Protocol prior to the modern version of IPv4:

  • IEN 2 (Comments on Internet Protocol and TCP), dated August 1977 describes the need to separate the TCP and Internet Protocol functionalities (which were previously combined.) It proposes the first version of the IP header, using 0 for the version field.
  • IEN 26 (A Proposed New Internet Header Format), dated February 1978 describes a version of the IP header that uses a 1-bit version field.
  • IEN 28 (Draft Internetwork Protocol Description Version 2), dated February 1978 describes IPv2.
  • IEN 41 (Internetwork Protocol Specification Version 4), dated June 1978 describes the first protocol to be called IPv4. The IP header is different from the modern IPv4 header.
  • IEN 44 (Latest Header Formats), dated June 1978 describes another version of IPv4, also with a header different from the modern IPv4 header.
  • IEN 54 (Internetwork Protocol Specification Version 4), dated September 1978 is the first description of IPv4 using the header that would be standardized in RFC 760.

The dominant internetworking protocol in the Internet Layer in use today is IPv4; the number 4 is the protocol version number carried in every IP datagram. IPv4 is described in RFC 791 (1981).

Version 5 was used by the Internet Stream Protocol, an experimental streaming protocol.

The successor to IPv4 is IPv6. IPv6 was a result of several years of experimentation and dialog during which various protocol models were proposed, such as TP/IX (RFC 1475), PIP (RFC 1621) and TUBA (TCP and UDP with Bigger Addresses, RFC 1347). Its most prominent difference from version 4 is the size of the addresses. While IPv4 uses 32 bits for addressing, yielding c. 4.3 billion (7009430000000000000♠4.3×109) addresses, IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses providing ca. 340 undecillion, or 7038340000000000000♠3.4×1038 addresses. Although adoption of IPv6 has been slow, as of June 2008[update], all United States government systems have demonstrated basic infrastructure support for IPv6.[3]

The assignment of the new protocol as IPv6 was uncertain until due diligence revealed that IPv6 had not yet been used previously.[4] Other protocol proposals named IPv9 and IPv8 briefly surfaced, but had no affiliation with any international standards body, and have had no support.[5] However, on April 1, 1994, the IETF published an April Fools' Day joke about IPv9.[6]


The design of the Internet protocol suite adheres to the end-to-end principle, a concept adapted from the CYCLADES project. Under the end-to-end principle, the network infrastructure is considered inherently unreliable at any single network element or transmission medium and is dynamic in terms of availability of links and nodes. No central monitoring or performance measurement facility exists that tracks or maintains the state of the network. For the benefit of reducing network complexity, the intelligence in the network is purposely located in the end nodes.

As a consequence of this design, the Internet Protocol only provides best-effort delivery and its service is characterized as unreliable. In network architectural language, it is a connectionless protocol, in contrast to connection-oriented communication. Various error conditions may occur, such as data corruption, packet loss and duplication. Because routing is dynamic, meaning every packet is treated independently, and because the network maintains no state based on the path of prior packets, different packets may be routed to the same destination via different paths, resulting in out-of-order delivery to the receiver.

All error conditions in the network must be detected and compensated by the participating end nodes. The upper layer protocols of the Internet protocol suite are responsible for resolving reliability issues. For example, a host may buffer network data to ensure correct ordering before the data is delivered to an application.

IPv4 provides safeguards to ensure that the IP packet header is error-free. A routing node calculates a checksum for a packet. If the checksum is bad, the routing node discards the packet. Although the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) allows such notification, the routing node is not required to notify either end node of these errors. By contrast, in order to increase performance, and since current link layer technology is assumed to provide sufficient error detection,[7] the IPv6 header has no checksum to protect it.[8]

Link capacity and capability[edit]

The dynamic nature of the Internet and the diversity of its components provide no guarantee that any particular path is actually capable of, or suitable for, performing the data transmission requested. One of the technical constraints is the size of data packets allowed on a given link. Facilities exist to examine the maximum transmission unit (MTU) size of the local link and Path MTU Discovery can be used for the entire intended path to the destination.

The IPv4 internetworking layer has the ability to automatically fragment the original datagram into smaller units for transmission. In this case, IP provides re-ordering of fragments delivered out of order.[9] An IPv6 network does not perform fragmentation or reassembly, and as per the end-to-end principle, requires end stations and higher-layer protocols to avoid exceeding the network's MTU.[10]

The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is an example of a protocol that adjusts its segment size to be smaller than the MTU. The User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and ICMP disregard MTU size, thereby forcing IP to fragment oversized datagrams.[11]


During the design phase of the ARPANET and the early Internet, the security aspects and needs of a public, international network could not be adequately anticipated. Consequently, many Internet protocols exhibited vulnerabilities highlighted by network attacks and later security assessments. In 2008, a thorough security assessment and proposed mitigation of problems was published.[12] The IETF has been pursuing further studies.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Charles M. Kozierok, The TCP/IP Guide 
  2. ^Vinton G. Cerf, Robert E. Kahn, "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication", IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol. 22, No. 5, May 1974 pp. 637–648
  3. ^CIO council adds to IPv6 transition primerArchived 2006-07-01 at the Wayback Machine.,
  4. ^Mulligan, Geoff. "It was almost IPv7". O'Reilly. O'Reilly Media. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  5. ^Leyden, John (6 July 2004). "China disowns IPv9 hype". The Register. Retrieved 4 May 2014. 
  6. ^RFC 1606: A Historical Perspective On The Usage Of IP Version 9. April 1, 1994.
  7. ^RFC 1726 section 6.2
  8. ^RFC 2460
  9. ^Siyan, Karanjit. Inside TCP/IP, New Riders Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-56205-714-6
  10. ^Bill Cerveny (2011-07-25). "IPv6 Fragmentation". Arbor Networks. Retrieved 2016-09-10. 
  11. ^Parker, Don (2 November 2010). "Basic Journey of a Packet". Symantec. Retrieved 4 May 2014. 
  12. ^Fernando Gont (July 2008), Security Assessment of the Internet Protocol(PDF), CPNI, archived from the original(PDF) on 2010-02-11 
  13. ^F. Gont (July 2011). Security Assessment of the Internet Protocol version 4. doi:10.17487/RFC6274. RFC 6274. 

External links[edit]

Sample encapsulation of application data from UDP to a Link protocol frame

Banners and Internet Protocols

You may already be vulnerable

It used to be that when you connected to one of Counterpane's mailers, it responded with a standard SMTP banner that read something like the following:

220 ESMTP Sendmail 8.8.88. 7.5; Mon, 7 May 2001 21:13:35 0600 (MDT

Because this information includes a Sendmail version number, some people sent us mail that read (loosely interpreted): "Heh, heh, heh. Bruce's company runs a stupid Sendmail!"

Until recently, our IT staffs standard response was to smile and say, "Yes, that certainly is what the banner says," leaving the original respondent to wonder why we didn't care. (There are a bunch of reasons we don't care, and explaining them would take both the amusement and security out of it all.)

However, we were getting a bit tired of the whole thing. Companies run penetration tests against us on a regular basis, and more often than not they complained that every one of our publicly available SMTP servers had the same stupid version of Sendmail on it.

Then, we got the results of a vulnerability scanner run against our Sentry, a network monitoring device our company provides. The scanner complained that:

The Sentry's SMTP service produced a banner,

SMTP banners usually contain version information.

Hence, there was a potential security vulnerability. The banner in question was:

220 natasha ESMTP Sentry

As you can see, this banner does not contain any version information. The scanner blindly alerts every time an SMTP server returns a banner. This is the equivalent of those envelopes that say "You May Already Have Won!" in big red letters on the outside. You might have a vulnerability. Probably not; but you never know, you're telling people something and they might be able to get information out of it.

Unfortunately, RFC 821 requires an SMTP server to return a banner. The original RFC calls for a banner that starts with "220" and the official name of the machine; the rest of the banner is up to the user. It's traditional for servers that support ESMTP to mention this in their banner. Now, many RFCs are more honored in the breach than in the observance, but in pure practical terms, if your SMTP server doesn't say something that starts with 220, it won't work- no banner, no mail.

What this means is that it is impossible to avoid setting off the vulnerability scanner. It is, however, possible to avoid giving out useful information. There are lots of approaches to this:

The strong, silent type that our second example almost achieves (220 hostname ESMTP).

The deceptive type, which our first example achieves (giving out a banner that implies vulnerabilities you don't have-- for maximum amusement value, pick one from ancient times).

The confusing type, where you give out a different banner every time (some hosts do really funny versions of this).

However, none of these approaches solve the basic problem of getting people to stop complaining, and the complainers are a bigger problem for us than the attackers.

Attackers will figure out what SMTP server is running, regardless of its banner. They can simply try all the vulnerabilities. Therefore, you get rid of attackers by getting rid of vulnerabilities. Since a lot of attackers are just running scripts, you can reduce the annoyance value by running a banner that doesn't match the script, but almost any approach will achieve that.

The human beings who complain, however, are unwilling to beat on your SMTP server to figure out what it is. Deceptive banners fool them reliably, wasting precious time dealing with them. Empty banners don't get rid of them reliably. Consequently, we have moved to the amusing defense and our new banners read:

220 This ESMTP banner intentionally left blank.

Scanners will still go off, but pretty much anybody can tell that this doesn't contain useful information.

Of course, this isn't RFC compliant, unless you name your host "This." We would worry about this more if we hadn't already been running a single host under multiple IP addresses, each with a different name attached, each with exactly the same banner- hostname and all. Nothing ever complained that the name in the banner didn't match the hostname. No penetration test ever even noticed that all these supposedly different machines were the same- even when they complained about the informative banner that told them that. We figure "This" will do us just as well as a name. (You could put the hostname after the 220 if you feel compliant, or use a mail system that cares.)

This is all amusing and reduces complaint letters, but it doesn't do a thing for scanners. And it isn't just SMTP that the scanners complain about. They complain about SSH (it has a banner too, which is equally required) and about our mail server accepting EXPN (it doesn't return an error; it doesn't return any information, either, but you have to look at the output to tell that). They often complain that the Sentry accepts EXPN, even though it doesn't respond to the command. All in all, the scanner output is all too much like mail-the important bills are in danger of being buried by the junk mail.

Categories: Computer and Information Security

Tags: Dr. Dobb's Journal


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