Penetration testing course: 0x02.3.1 Network hardware



Broadly speaking, there are two types of transmission technology that are in widespread use: broadcast links and point-to-point links.

Point-to-point links connect individual pairs of machines. To go from the source to the destination on a network made up of point-to-point links, short messages, called packets in certain contexts, may have to first visit one or more intermediate machines. Often multiple routes, of different lengths, are possible, so finding good ones is important in point-to-point networks. Point-to-point transmission with exactly one sender and exactly one receiver is sometimes called unicasting.

In contrast, on a broadcast network, the communication channel is shared by all the machines on the network; packets sent by any machine are received by all the others. An address field within each packet specifies the intended recipient. Upon receiving a packet, a machine checks the address field. If the packet is in- tended for the receiving machine, that machine processes the packet; if the packet is intended for some other machine, it is just ignored.

A wireless network is a common example of a broadcast link, with communication shared over a coverage region that depends on the wireless channel and the transmitting machine. As an analogy, consider someone standing in a meeting room and shouting ‘‘Watson, come here. I want you.’’ Although the packet may actually be received (heard) by many people, only Watson will respond; the others just ignore it.

Broadcast systems usually also allow the possibility of addressing a packet to all destinations by using a special code in the address field. When a packet with this code is transmitted, it is received and processed by every machine on the net- work. This mode of operation is called broadcasting. Some broadcast systems also support transmission to a subset of the machines, which known as multicasting.

An alternative criterion for classifying networks is by scale. Distance is important as a classification metric because different technologies are used at different scales.

We can classify multiple processor systems by their rough physical size. At the top are the personal area networks, networks that are meant for one person. Beyond these come longer-range networks. These can be divided into local, metropolitan, and wide area networks, each with increasing scale. Finally, the connection of two or more networks is called an internetwork. The worldwide Internet is certainly the best-known (but not the only) example of an internetwork.

Personal Area Networks

personal area network

personal area network

PANs (Personal Area Networks) let devices communicate over the range of a person. A common example is a wireless network that connects a computer with its peripherals. Almost every computer has an attached monitor, keyboard, mouse, and printer. Without using wireless, this connection must be done with cables. So many new users have a hard time finding the right cables and plugging them into the right little holes (even though they are usually color coded) that most computer vendors offer the option of sending a technician to the user’s home to do it. To help these users, some companies got together to design a short-range wireless network called Bluetooth to connect these components without wires. The idea is that if your devices have Bluetooth, then you need no cables. You just put them down, turn them on, and they work together. For many people, this ease of operation is a big plus.

In the simplest form, Bluetooth networks use the master-slave paradigm. The system unit (the PC) is normally the master, talking to the mouse, keyboard, etc., as slaves. The master tells the slaves what addresses to use, when they can broadcast, how long they can transmit, what frequencies they can use, and so on.

Bluetooth can be used in other settings, too. It is often used to connect a headset to a mobile phone without cords and it can allow your digital music player to connect to your car merely being brought within range. A completely different kind of PAN is formed when an embedded medical device such as a pacemaker, insulin pump, or hearing aid talks to a user-operated remote control. PANs can also be built with other technologies that communicate over short ranges, such as RFID on smartcards and library books.

Local Area Networks

local area network

local area network

The next step up is the LAN (Local Area Network). A LAN is a privately owned network that operates within and nearby a single building like a home, of- fice or factory. LANs are widely used to connect personal computers and consu- mer electronics to let them share resources (e.g., printers) and exchange informa- tion. When LANs are used by companies, they are called enterprise networks.

Wireless LANs are very popular these days, especially in homes, older office buildings, cafeterias, and other places where it is too much trouble to install cables. In these systems, every computer has a radio modem and an antenna that it uses to communicate with other computers. In most cases, each computer talks to a device in the ceiling as shown in Fig. 1-8(a). This device, called an AP (Access Point), wireless router, or base station, relays packets between the wireless computers and also between them and the Internet. Being the AP is like being the popular kid as school because everyone wants to talk to you. However, if other computers are close enough, they can communicate directly with one another in a peer-to-peer configuration.

There is a standard for wireless LANs called IEEE 802.11, popularly known as WiFi, which has become very widespread. It runs at speeds anywhere from 11 to hundreds of Mbps.

Wired LANs use a range of different transmission technologies. Most of them use copper wires, but some use optical fiber. LANs are restricted in size, which means that the worst-case transmission time is bounded and known in ad- vance. Knowing these bounds helps with the task of designing network protocols. Typically, wired LANs run at speeds of 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps, have low delay (microseconds or nanoseconds), and make very few errors. Newer LANs can op- erate at up to 10 Gbps. Compared to wireless networks, wired LANs exceed them in all dimensions of performance. It is just easier to send signals over a wire or through a fiber than through the air.

The topology of many wired LANs is built from point-to-point links. IEEE 802.3, popularly called Ethernet, is, by far, the most common type of wired LAN. In switched Ethernet each computer speaks the Ethernet protocol and connects to a box called a switch with a point-to-point link. Hence the name. A switch has multiple ports, each of which can connect to one computer. The job of the switch is to relay packets between computers that are attached to it, using the address in each packet to determine which computer to send it to.

To build larger LANs, switches can be plugged into each other using their ports. What happens if you plug them together in a loop? Will the network still work? Luckily, the designers thought of this case. It is the job of the protocol to sort out what paths packets should travel to safely reach the intended computer.

It is also possible to divide one large physical LAN into two smaller logical LANs. You might wonder why this would be useful. Sometimes, the layout of the network equipment does not match the organization’s structure. For example, the engineering and finance departments of a company might have computers on the same physical LAN because they are in the same wing of the building but it might be easier to manage the system if engineering and finance logically each had its own network Virtual LAN or VLAN. In this design each port is tagged with a ‘‘color,’’ say green for engineering and red for finance. The switch then forwards packets so that computers attached to the green ports are separated from the com- puters attached to the red ports. Broadcast packets sent on a red port, for example, will not be received on a green port, just as though there were two different LANs.

sample LAN topology with VLANs

sample LAN topology with VLANs

There are other wired LAN topologies too. In fact, switched Ethernet is a modern version of the original Ethernet design that broadcast all the packets over a single linear cable. At most one machine could successfully transmit at a time, and a distributed arbitration mechanism was used to resolve conflicts. It used a simple algorithm: computers could transmit whenever the cable was idle. If two or more packets collided, each computer just waited a random time and tried later. We will call that version classic Ethernet for clarity.

Both wireless and wired broadcast networks can be divided into static and dynamic designs, depending on how the channel is allocated. A typical static al- location would be to divide time into discrete intervals and use a round-robin al- gorithm, allowing each machine to broadcast only when its time slot comes up. Static allocation wastes channel capacity when a machine has nothing to say dur- ing its allocated slot, so most systems attempt to allocate the channel dynamically (i.e., on demand).

Dynamic allocation methods for a common channel are either centralized or decentralized. In the centralized channel allocation method, there is a single entity, for example, the base station in cellular networks, which determines who goes next. It might do this by accepting multiple packets and prioritizing them accord- ing to some internal algorithm. In the decentralized channel allocation method, there is no central entity; each machine must decide for itself whether to transmit.

It is worth spending a little more time discussing LANs in the home. In the future, it is likely that every appliance in the home will be capable of communicating with every other appliance, and all of them will be accessible over the In- ternet. This development is likely to be one of those visionary concepts that nobody asked for (like TV remote controls or mobile phones), but once they arrived nobody can imagine how they lived without them.

Many devices are already capable of being networked. These include com- puters, entertainment devices such as TVs and DVDs, phones and other consumer electronics such as cameras, appliances like clock radios, and infrastructure like utility meters and thermostats. This trend will only continue. For instance, the average home probably has a dozen clocks (e.g., in appliances), all of which could adjust to daylight savings time automatically if the clocks were on the Internet. Remote monitoring of the home is a likely winner, as many grown children would be willing to spend some money to help their aging parents live safely in their own homes.

While we could think of the home network as just another LAN, it is more likely to have different properties than other networks. First, the networked de- vices have to be very easy to install. Wireless routers are the most returned con- sumer electronic item. People buy one because they want a wireless network at home, find that it does not work ‘‘out of the box,’’ and then return it rather than listen to elevator music while on hold on the technical helpline.

Second, the network and devices have to be foolproof in operation. Air conditioners used to have one knob with four settings: OFF, LOW, MEDIUM, and HIGH. Now they have 30-page manuals. Once they are networked, expect the chapter on security alone to be 30 pages. This is a problem because only com- puter users are accustomed to putting up with products that do not work; the car-, television-, and refrigerator-buying public is far less tolerant. They expect products to work 100% without the need to hire a geek.

Third, low price is essential for success. People will not pay a $50 premium for an Internet thermostat because few people regard monitoring their home tem- perature from work that important. For $5 extra, though, it might sell.

Fourth, it must be possible to start out with one or two devices and expand the reach of the network gradually. This means no format wars. Telling consumers to buy peripherals with IEEE 1394 (FireWire) interfaces and a few years later retracting that and saying USB 2.0 is the interface-of-the-month and then switch- ing that to 802.11g—oops, no, make that 802.11n—I mean 802.16 (different wire- less networks)—is going to make consumers very skittish. The network interface will have to remain stable for decades, like the television broadcasting standards.

Fifth, security and reliability will be very important. Losing a few files to an email virus is one thing; having a burglar disarm your security system from his mobile computer and then plunder your house is something quite different.

An interesting question is whether home networks will be wired or wireless. Convenience and cost favors wireless networking because there are no wires to fit, or worse, retrofit. Security favors wired networking because the radio waves that wireless networks use are quite good at going through walls. Not everyone is overjoyed at the thought of having the neighbors piggybacking on their Internet connection and reading their email.

A third option that may be appealing is to reuse the networks that are already in the home. The obvious candidate is the electric wires that are installed throughout the house. Power-line networks let devices that plug into outlets broadcast information throughout the house. You have to plug in the TV anyway, and this way it can get Internet connectivity at the same time. The difficulty is how to carry both power and data signals at the same time. Part of the answer is that they use different frequency bands.

powerline link

powerline link

In short, home LANs offer many opportunities and challenges. Most of the latter relate to the need for the networks to be easy to manage, dependable, and secure, especially in the hands of nontechnical users, as well as low cost.

Metropolitan Area Networks

metropolitan area network

metropolitan area network

A MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) covers a city. The best-known examples of MANs are the cable television networks available in many cities. These systems grew from earlier community antenna systems used in areas with poor over-the-air television reception. In those early systems, a large antenna was placed on top of a nearby hill and a signal was then piped to the subscribers’ houses.

At first, these were locally designed, ad hoc systems. Then companies began jumping into the business, getting contracts from local governments to wire up entire cities. The next step was television programming and even entire channels designed for cable only. Often these channels were highly specialized, such as all news, all sports, all cooking, all gardening, and so on. But from their inception until the late 1990s, they were intended for television reception only.

When the Internet began attracting a mass audience, the cable TV network operators began to realize that with some changes to the system, they could provide two-way Internet service in unused parts of the spectrum. At that point, the cable TV system began to morph from simply a way to distribute television to a metropolitan area network.

Cable television is not the only MAN, though. Recent developments in high- speed wireless Internet access have resulted in another MAN, which has been standardized as IEEE 802.16 and is popularly known as WiMAX.

Wide Area Networks

wide area network

wide area network

A WAN (Wide Area Network) spans a large geographical area, often a country or continent. We will begin our discussion with wired WANs, using the example of a company with branch offices in different cities. Each of these offices contains computers intended for running user (i.e., application) programs. We will follow traditional usage and call these machines hosts. The rest of the network that connects these hosts is then called the communication subnet, or just subnet for short. The job of the subnet is to carry messages from host to host, just as the telephone system carries words (really just sounds) from speaker to listener.

In most WANs, the subnet consists of two distinct components: transmission lines and switching elements. Transmission lines move bits between machines. They can be made of copper wire, optical fiber, or even radio links. Most companies do not have transmission lines lying about, so instead they lease the lines from a telecommunications company. Switching elements, or just switches, are specialized computers that connect two or more transmission lines. When data arrive on an incoming line, the switching element must choose an outgoing line on which to forward them. These switching computers have been called by various names in the past; the name router is now most commonly used.

A short comment about the term ‘‘subnet’’ is in order here. Originally, its only meaning was the collection of routers and communication lines that moved packets from the source host to the destination host. Readers should be aware that it has acquired a second, more recent meaning in conjunction with network addressing.

The WAN as we have described it looks similar to a large wired LAN, but there are some important differences that go beyond long wires. Usually in a WAN, the hosts and subnet are owned and operated by different people. In our example, the employees might be responsible for their own computers, while the company’s IT department is in charge of the rest of the network. We will see clearer boundaries in the coming examples, in which the network provider or telephone company operates the subnet. Separation of the pure communication aspects of the network (the subnet) from the application aspects (the hosts) greatly simplifies the overall network design.

A second difference is that the routers will usually connect different kinds of networking technology. The networks inside the offices may be switched Ether- net, for example, while the long-distance transmission lines may be SONET links. Some device needs to join them. The astute reader will notice that this goes beyond our definition of a network. This means that many WANs will in fact be internetworks, or composite networks that are made up of more than one network. We will have more to say about internet- works in the next section.

A final difference is in what is connected to the subnet. This could be individual computers, as was the case for connecting to LANs, or it could be entire LANs. This is how larger networks are built from smaller ones. As far as the sub- net is concerned, it does the same job.

We are now in a position to look at two other varieties of WANs. First, rather than lease dedicated transmission lines, a company might connect its offices to the Internet. This allows connections to be made between the offices as virtual links that use the underlying capacity of the Internet. This arrangement is called a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Compared to the dedicated arrangement, a VPN has the usual advantage of virtualization, which is that it provides flexible reuse of a resource (Internet connectivity). Consider how easy it is to add a fourth office to see this. A VPN also has the usual disadvantage of virtualization, which is a lack of control over the underlying resources. With a dedicated line, the capacity is clear. With a VPN your mileage may vary with your Internet service.

The second variation is that the subnet may be run by a different company. The subnet operator is known as a network service provider and the offices are its customers. This structure is shown in Fig. 1-12. The subnet operator will con- nect to other customers too, as long as they can pay and it can provide service. Since it would be a disappointing network service if the customers could only send packets to each other, the subnet operator will also connect to other networks that are part of the Internet. Such a subnet operator is called an ISP (Internet Service Provider) and the subnet is an ISP network. Its customers who connect to the ISP receive Internet service.

In most WANs, the network contains many transmission lines, each connecting a pair of routers. If two routers that do not share a transmission line wish to communicate, they must do this indirectly, via other routers. There may be many paths in the network that connect these two routers. How the network makes the decision as to which path to use is called the routing algorithm. Many such algorithms exist. How each router makes the decision as to where to send a packet next is called the forwarding algorithm. Many of them exist too.

Other kinds of WANs make heavy use of wireless technologies. In satellite systems, each computer on the ground has an antenna through which it can send data to and receive data from to a satellite in orbit. All computers can hear the output from the satellite, and in some cases they can also hear the upward transmissions of their fellow computers to the satellite as well. Satellite networks are inherently broadcast and are most useful when the broadcast property is important.

The cellular telephone network is another example of a WAN that uses wireless technology. This system has already gone through three generations and a fourth one is on the horizon. The first generation was analog and for voice only. The second generation was digital and for voice only. The third generation is dig- ital and is for both voice and data. Each cellular base station covers a distance much larger than a wireless LAN, with a range measured in kilometers rather than tens of meters. The base stations are connected to each other by a backbone net- work that is usually wired. The data rates of cellular networks are often on the order of 1 Mbps, much smaller than a wireless LAN that can range up to on the order of 100 Mbps.




Many networks exist in the world, often with different hardware and software. People connected to one network often want to communicate with people attached to a different one. The fulfillment of this desire requires that different, and frequently incompatible, networks be connected. A collection of interconnected networks is called an internetwork or internet. These terms will be used in a generic sense, in contrast to the worldwide Internet (which is one specific internet), which we will always capitalize. The Internet uses ISP networks to connect enterprise networks, home networks, and many other networks.

Subnets, networks, and internetworks are often confused. The term ‘‘subnet’’ makes the most sense in the context of a wide area network, where it refers to the collection of routers and communication lines owned by the network operator. As an analogy, the telephone system consists of telephone switching offices connect- ed to one another by high-speed lines, and to houses and businesses by low-speed lines. These lines and equipment, owned and managed by the telephone com- pany, form the subnet of the telephone system. The telephones themselves (the hosts in this analogy) are not part of the subnet.

A network is formed by the combination of a subnet and its hosts. However, the word ‘‘network’’ is often used in a loose sense as well. A subnet might be described as a network, as in the case of the ‘‘ISP network’’. An internetwork might also be described as a network, as in the case of the WAN. We will follow similar practice, and if we are distinguishing a network from other arrangements, we will stick with our original definition of a collection of computers interconnected by a single technology.

Let us say more about what constitutes an internetwork. We know that an internet is formed when distinct networks are interconnected. In our view, connect- ing a LAN and a WAN or connecting two LANs is the usual way to form an internetwork, but there is little agreement in the industry over terminology in this area. There are two rules of thumb that are useful. First, if different organizations have paid to construct different parts of the network and each maintains its part, we have an internetwork rather than a single network. Second, if the underlying technology is different in different parts (e.g., broadcast versus point-to-point and wired versus wireless), we probably have an internetwork.

To go deeper, we need to talk about how two different networks can be connected. The general name for a machine that makes a connection between two or more networks and provides the necessary translation, both in terms of hardware and software, is a gateway. Gateways are distinguished by the layer at which they operate in the protocol hierarchy.
Since the benefit of forming an internet is to connect computers across networks, we do not want to use too low-level a gateway or we will be unable to make connections between different kinds of networks. We do not want to use too high-level a gateway either, or the connection will only work for particular ap- plications. The level in the middle that is ‘‘just right’’ is often called the network layer, and a router is a gateway that switches packets at the network layer. We can now spot an internet by finding a network that has routers.

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Author: Fabio Baroni   Date: 2016-04-28 02:07:22

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