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The TCP/IP model is a framework used to visualize how data is organized and transmitted across a network. This model helps network engineers and network security analysts conceptualize processes on the network and communicate where disruptions or security threats occur.

The TCP/IP model has four layers: network access layer, internet layer, transport layer, and application layer. When troubleshooting issues on the network, security professionals can analyze and deduce which layer or layers an attack occurred based on what processes were involved in an incident.

tcp ip model

Network access layer

The network access layer, sometimes called the data link layer, organizes sending and receiving data frames within a single network. This layer corresponds to the physical hardware involved in network transmission. Hubs, modems, cables, and wiring are all considered part of this layer. The address resolution protocol (ARP) is part of the network access layer. ARP assists IP with directing data packets on the same physical network by mapping IP addresses to MAC addresses on the same physical network.

Internet layer

The internet layer, sometimes referred to as the network layer, is responsible for ensuring the delivery to the destination host, which potentially resides on a different network. The internet layer determines which protocol is responsible for delivering the data packets. Here are some of the common protocols that operate at the internet layer:

  • Internet Protocol (IP). IP sends the data packets to the correct destination and relies on Transmission Control Protocol/User Datagram Protocol (TCP/UDP) to deliver them to corresponding service. IP packets allow communication between two networks. They are routed from the sending network to the receiving network. It retransmits any data that is lost or corrupt.
  • Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP). ICMP shares error information and status updates of data packets. This is useful for detecting and troubleshooting network errors. ICMP reports information about packets that were dropped or disappeared in transit, issues with network connectivity, and packets redirected to other routers.

Transport layer

The transport layer is responsible for reliably delivering data between two systems or networks. TCP and UDP are the two transport protocols that occur at this layer.

Transmission Control Protocol

TCP ensures that data is reliably transmitted to the destination service. TCP contains the port number of the intended destination service, which resides in the TCP header of an TCP/IP packet.

User Datagram Protocol

UDP is used by applications that are not concerned with reliability of the transmission. Data sent over UDP is not tracked as extensively as data sent using TCP. Because UDP does not establish network connections, it is used mostly for performance sensitive applications that operate in real time, such as video streaming.

Application layer

The application layer in the TCP/IP model is similar to the application, presentation, and session layers of the OSI model. The application layer is responsible for making network requests or responding to requests. This layer defines which internet services and applications any user can access. Some common protocols used on this layer are:

  • Hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP)

  • Simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP)

  • Secure shell (SSH)

  • File transfer protocol (FTP)

  • Domain name system (DNS)

Application layer protocols rely on underlying layers to transfer the data across the network.

TCP/IP model versus OSI model

tcp ip model versus osi model

The OSI visually organizes network protocols into different layers. Network professionals often use this model to communicate with each other about potential sources of problems or security threats when they occur.

The TCP/IP model combines multiple layers of the OSI model. There are many similarities between the two models. Both models define standards for networking and divide the network communication process into different layers. The TCP/IP model is a simplified version of the OSI model.

OSI model layer

Some organizations rely heavily on the TCP/IP model, while others prefer to use the OSI model. As a security analyst, it’s important to be familiar with both models. Both the TCP/IP and OSI models are useful for understanding how networks work.

Layer 7: Application layer

The application layer includes processes that directly involve the everyday user. This layer includes all of the networking protocols that software applications use to connect a user to the internet. This characteristic is the identifying feature of the application layer—user connection to the network via applications and requests.

An example of a type of communication that happens at the application layer is using a web browser. The internet browser uses HTTP or HTTPS to send and receive information from the website server. The email application uses simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) to send and receive email information. Also, web browsers use the domain name system (DNS) protocol to translate website domain names into IP addresses which identify the web server that hosts the information for the website.

Layer 6: Presentation layer

Functions at the presentation layer involve data translation and encryption for the network. This layer adds to and replaces data with formats that can be understood by applications (layer 7) on both sending and receiving systems. Formats at the user end may be different from those of the receiving system. Processes at the presentation layer require the use of a standardized format.

Some formatting functions that occur at layer 6 include encryption, compression, and confirmation that the character code set can be interpreted on the receiving system. One example of encryption that takes place at this layer is SSL, which encrypts data between web servers and browsers as part of websites with HTTPS.

Layer 5: Session layer

A session describes when a connection is established between two devices. An open session allows the devices to communicate with each other. Session layer protocols occur to keep the session open while data is being transferred and terminate the session once the transmission is complete.

The session layer is also responsible for activities such as authentication, reconnection, and setting checkpoints during a data transfer. If a session is interrupted, checkpoints ensure that the transmission picks up at the last session checkpoint when the connection resumes. Sessions include a request and response between applications. Functions in the session layer respond to requests for service from processes in the presentation layer (layer 6) and send requests for services to the transport layer (layer 4).

Layer 4: Transport layer

The transport layer is responsible for delivering data between devices. This layer also handles the speed of data transfer, flow of the transfer, and breaking data down into smaller segments to make them easier to transport. Segmentation is the process of dividing up a large data transmission into smaller pieces that can be processed by the receiving system. These segments need to be reassembled at their destination so they can be processed at the session layer (layer 5). The speed and rate of the transmission also has to match the connection speed of the destination system. TCP and UDP are transport layer protocols.

Layer 3: Network layer

The network layer oversees receiving the frames from the data link layer (layer 2) and delivers them to the intended destination. The intended destination can be found based on the address that resides in the frame of the data packets. Data packets allow communication between two networks. These packets include IP addresses that tell routers where to send them. They are routed from the sending network to the receiving network.

Layer 2: Data link layer

The data link layer organizes sending and receiving data packets within a single network. The data link layer is home to switches on the local network and network interface cards on local devices.

Protocols like network control protocol (NCP), high-level data link control (HDLC), and synchronous data link control protocol (SDLC) are used at the data link layer.

Layer 1: Physical layer

As the name suggests, the physical layer corresponds to the physical hardware involved in network transmission. Hubs, modems, and the cables and wiring that connect them are all considered part of the physical layer. To travel across an ethernet or coaxial cable, a data packet needs to be translated into a stream of 0s and 1s. The stream of 0s and 1s are sent across the physical wiring and cables, received, and then passed on to higher levels of the OSI model.

Source: Google Cybersecurity Certificate