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The Networks

A basic understanding of computer networks is requisite in order to understand the principles of network security. In this section, we'll cover some of the foundations of computer networking, a more in-depth look at TCP/IP and discuss some of the threats that managers and administrators of computer networks need to confront, and then some tools that can be used to reduce the exposure to the risks of network computing.

What is a Network?

A "network'' has been defined as ``any set of interlinking lines resembling a net, a network of roads || an interconnected system, a network of alliances.'' This definition suits our purpose well: a computer network is simply a system of interconnected computers. How they're connected is irrelevant, and as we'll soon see, there are a number of ways to do this.


The ISO/OSI Reference Model

The International Standards Organization (ISO) Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) Reference Model defines seven layers of communications types, and the interfaces among them. Each layer depends on the services provided by the layer below it, all the way down to the physical network hardware, such as the computer's network interface card, and the wires that connect the cards together.

An easy way to look at this is to compare this model with something we use daily: the telephone. In order for you and I to talk when we're out of earshot, we need a device like a telephone. (In the ISO/OSI model, this is at the application layer.) The telephones, of course, are useless unless they have the ability to translate the sound into electronic pulses that can be transferred over wire and back again. (These functions are provided in layers below the application layer.) Finally, we get down to the physical connection: both must be plugged into an outlet that is connected to a switch that's part of the telephone system's network of switches.

If I place a call to you, I pick up the receiver, and dial your number. This number specifies which central office to which to send my request, and then which phone from that central office to ring. Once you answer the phone, we begin talking, and our session has begun. Conceptually, computer networks function exactly the same way.

It isn't important for you to memorize the ISO/OSI Reference Model's layers; but it's useful to know that they exist, and that each layer cannot work without the services provided by the layer below it.

The ISO/OSI Reference Model

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