How does the Internet Work?
Today I am going to be teaching you all about the basics of networking and where all your Internet Traffic goes after leaving your computer. First off no your traffic doesn’t go into your router and a Magic fairy doesn’t carry it to the Website you are visiting. Your Internet Traffic actually goes through several different Servers owned by several different ISP’s before it ever reaches the Servers that hold the website you are looking up. Your Internet Traffic can easily go through 12 different servers on the way to it’s destination. That is twelve spots where it could be intercepted, logged and sold. This also leaves several spots for Hackers to to steal your Information if it goes through a server controlled by the Hacker. Some Websites claim to have solved this with the HTTPS web protocol but even that is flawed. A lot of Websites are dragging their feet migrating over to this Protocol and Hackers are able to scrape the encryption off of your Internet Traffic using this protocol. This is why Internet Privacy is so important and why using a VPN is the first step. By using a VPN your Internet Traffic is encrypted as it travels to your VPN Providers Servers. This makes your Internet Traffic unreadable so that if Hackers Intercept it they can’t use it. In order to show you where your Internet Traffic is exposed I will start at the Source how your computer handles your Internet Traffic.
Your computer has two Identifying factors when it comes to networking your IP Adress and your MAC Address. Both of these are used to establish and maintain a connection. Your Ip Address is like your computers name and for two computers to talk to one another they have to know the others name. The tricky thing about IP Addresses is that nobody else on the Network can have that IP Address. On a typical home network setup this isn’t a problem because you control everything that your computer connects to. However on a scale as large as the Internet where you don’t know where that Information is going it becomes a much riskier situation. Your MAC Address is like your computers SSN or DL Number it is what your computer uses to identify it’s self on the Network and as well is needed to establish a connection. The biggest difference between a MAC Address and an IP Address is a MAC Address is embedded in your computers network Interface Card (NIC) and it can’t be changed. Some NIC’s allow for Spoofing, but you would have to be using a Linux or Mac to use the program to do so. Now where the risk is involved in not protecting this information is that your IP Address can be tracked directly back to the location that you connected from and you MAC Address can be traced directly back to your computer.
Ports are like routes out of your computer. Your Internet Traffic is divided up and sent down the appropriate route out of your computer. their are thousands of these ports all assigned a certain protocol in order to accomplish a certain task. For instance if you are looking up a webpage you will use port 80 for HTTP traffic or web traffic. If you are sending an email you will use port 587 for SMTP Traffic. HTTP and SMTP are what’s called protocols this informs your computer and every other computer that handles your Internet Traffic how to properly handle it. Some of the most important types of protocols are TCP and UDP, and I will be talking about them next.
TCP and UDP are the Protocols that your Computer uses to communicate with other computers. Think of this as the way they are going to communicate with one another. The TCP Protocol allows for error checking while the two computers are talking to one another. The UDP Protocol doesn’t allow for error checking while the computers are talking to one another. To further explain this people often like to use the metaphor of a train traveling, but I am going to completely ignore that because I don’t believe it properly and accurately explains it. Think of your computer and the Server it is talking to as two people talking to one another. If these computers are using the UDP Protocol to communicate with one another than it would be like the first person(you) starts talking to the second(the Server) and they keep talking without pausing or stopping until they have finished saying what they are saying. If these computers are using the TCP Protocol it is like the first person say something and the second person confirms that they heard what the first person said. The importance of knowing this allows you to specify what protocol a program on your computer should use for the best connection to the Internet. For instance if you are streaming a video or playing a game you would want to use UDP because it is a much faster Protocol than TCP since it doesn’t error check and if one computer misses a part of what the Server said it doesn’t matter because that moment where that information was needed has already passed. Where if you are visiting a web site or transferring files you would want to use TCP because you don’t want to lose any part of that website or file that you need. This is everything that your computer needs in order to establish a connection with a Network and start the transfer of information. next I will explain what happens when your Internet Traffic leaves your Computer.
The first stop on your Internet Traffic’s path to it’s destination is the Router. The Router is what connects all of your devices on your home Network to the Internet. The Router handles all of the Internet Traffic on it’s network and send Traffic to it’s proper destination. When you connect to a Router the Router will connect to your computer Via it’s MAC Address and once a connection is established it will provide your computer an IP Address so that they can talk back and forth. The biggest problem with Routers is it is a bottle neck for Hackers to collect and manipulate anyone’s Internet Traffic that is connected to that Router. By doing this they can then steal passwords, usernames, Email Addresses, Credit Card Information, etc. basically any information that you send to any website or server while connected to that router and the only permission they need to do so is to be connected to that Network. This is where encryption becomes an important security measure, so that way if the Hacker does Intercept you Internet Traffic he can’t do anything with it because he can’t read it.
Now that your Internet Traffic has reached it’s destination it is ready to be sent to the Internet. In order to do this when your ISP installed the Router in your house they assigned it an IP Address in order to communicate with your ISP’s Servers. When ever anyone says anything about IP Addresses on the Internet this is the IP Address that they are talking about. This is the IP Address that is used to Identify you on the Internet. Now your Internet Traffic is ready to be sent to your ISP’s servers.
Once on your ISP’s Servers you Internet Traffic will be sent in to different directions. Your ISP’s Servers divide you Internet Traffic into two different categories Internet Traffic and DNS Requests. this is an important thing to remember because your DNS requests are a huge target when it comes to Hackers or other Malicious Persons at stealing information, installing viruses and finding you approximate location. This is another reason that VPN’s play such a big part in protecting your computer. because all DNS request are encrypted and sent to the VPN Providers DNS Servers. I have a whole article related to this What is DNS and How Does it Work
Now that your Internet Traffic has been separated from your DNS Requests it is ready to be sent on it’s route. from here your Internet Traffic will be given a route to it’s destination using a protocol called BGP. The purpose of this protocol is to determine the fastest path to any given destination and send your Internet Traffic on that route. The Problem is that this protocol has a flaw in it that allows it to be tricked into sending information to a malicious person. We have had this problem since the Internet was created and we have known about it since 2008. This is a scare thought and their is nothing you can do to defend against this kind of an attack. VPN’s will provide some protection from this kind of attack but only of your Internet Traffic is captured on it’s way to the VPN Server because once it reaches the VPN Server it is decrypted and sent to the appropriate destination. This is a problem that is being worked on but is a major task because in order to protect against these kinds of attacks would mean updating ever Server for every ISP.
Now your Internet Traffic is on it’s route to the Server that you are trying to access. Here it will bounce around from any where between five to twenty servers before it reaches the Server you are talking to. Once your Internet Traffic reaches the end of it’s route it will end up on the Server of the website you are trying to connect to. Once the servers approves that you can access that website it will then send the Website back to you the same way your Internet Traffic came. While your computer is connected to a Server that server can grab all kinds of information about your computer including your MAC Address, Your Local IP Address, What Operating System your computer uses, what browser you are using, your ISP and what DNS Server you are using. All of this information can then be used to identify you on the Internet. This happens every time you visit a website play a game or do anything on the Internet. Leaving you wide open to several different attacks along the way. This is why Internet Privacy plays such a big role in the Internet Security Suite because it protects against against all of these attacks and prevents most of them.
Explains what DNS is and how it is used to connect you to the Internet
Explains how your DNS Requests can be used against you and how to protect against it.
Explains how WiFi Networks can be used to attack you and steal your Information and how to protect against it.
Explains how to protect your Internet Traffic and your Privacy in today’s world
Explains how your Information can be stolen on it’s route to the connecting Server.