How Informed Are You About the Internet & How it Works?

Internet Infrastructure Exposed

The Internet was originally developed in the 1960’s by the United States Government along with private entities to build distributed computer networks. By the 1980’s there was worldwide participation and widespread commercial funding which led to the merger of many networks. In turn, the enormous popularity of the internet was brought on by these commercial interests. Today, approximately one quarter of the world’s population uses the internet in some way.

Do You Understand How the Internet Works?

There is no central body that governs the internet and no one owns it. It is a global connection of networks and each one sets its own standards. The name “Inter – Net” reflects the interconnectedness of the networks.

Even though there is no owner, there is a governing body called “The Internet Society” that establishes policies and procedures regarding internet use.

All computers that have internet access are part of one of these networks and are able to connect to it through an Internet Service Provider or ISP. You become part of the ISP’s network and they, in turn, connect to a larger network.

A Point of Presence (POP) allows local users to access a company’s regional network through a local phone line or dedicated phone line. These regional networks are connected to a larger network. These larger, or higher level networks, are connected to each other by Network Access Points. (NAPs)

Networks communicate with each other through routers. These routers allow information to travel through several networks a fraction of a second. They also instantly determine where to send the information it doesn’t go where it isn’t needed.

Every computer has its own IP, or Internet Protocol, address. This protocol allows computers to communicate over the internet. IP addresses are placed in classes that can be assigned to a business or agency based on its size or need. An IP address is identified in numbers. These numbers are separated into sections called the Net and Host. The Net identifies the network that the computer is on while the Host identifies the computer itself.

As the internet grew, communication with IP addresses became problematic so a Domain Name System (DNS) was put in place. The DNS attaches a name like “” to an IP address to make communication faster and easier.

The domain name, in turn, becomes part of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL). This is the how you find a website in your browser. The domain in the URL becomes and also become part of the email address, such as,

Every machine on the Internet can be classified as a server or a client. A server provides services to other machines such as email, FTP or web browsing. A client utilizes these services.

What is a “Sniffer” and how Does It Work?

A Sniffer is simply a piece of software that allows a user to grab all of the traffic flowing in and out of a network. They are often used be system administrators, network engineers, and law enforcement professional as well as hackers.

Computers are constantly communicating with each other during normal usage. Most computers are on Local Area Networks (LANs) and share connections with other computers. Because of this, the data from one computer may be seen by other computers in the network. Unless a computer is instructed to do otherwise, this data is ignored.

Sniffer software simply tells a computer to pay attention to traffic going to other computers. It then decodes the relevant information.

As mentioned above, Sniffers can be used for both good and dishonest purposes. A Sniffer can be customized by a hacker to capture specific things like login in data, passwords and the text of messages. It causes no disruption so someone victimized by a hacker may never know their data was compromised.

To deter against a hacker, a Network Administrator should ensure that every computer and server is secured. Other methods include anti-sniffing software than should be run regularly, and switched networks that only deliver specific packets of information to specific addresses.

The best way to deter a hacker is to use encryption. This only allows information to be viewed by its intended receiver.

What Personal Information Is Exposed Online From Your Browsing?

Privacy is an extremely important issue online and you want to be sure that only certain information is exposed while you’re browsing. Any website you visit can get certain information from your browser and should be limited to the following:

  • The IP address for the host that requested to view the given website
  • The web browser type and operating system
  • The website from which you were linked, or referred, to a given page
  • The access time, login name (if authenticated) and cookies (a piece of data that tracks usage)

While you can’t be totally anonymous surfing the web, you can use privacy software that can make it harder to find you. However, these come at a price and can slow down your computer considerably and you don’t want to use it on your office PC because it could get you fired.

I hope this article helped you to understand the infrastructure of the internet. I’d like to hear from you. What things have you found helpful in maintaining privacy while using the web?