All The Basics About File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

2020-10-20
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Summary: Have you ever heard of File Transfer Protocol or FTP? Here are all the basics you need to know about the File Transfer Protocol.

What Is FTP?

FTP, abbreviated for the File Transfer Protocol, is a standard network protocol or a set of rules. Computers use FTP to transfer files between clients and servers over the computer network.

  • FTP is a method of downloading, uploading, and transferring files from one location to another between the Internet and your computer system.
  • Many File Transfer Protocol clients are free to download, although most websites already have FTP built-in. So it is not necessary to download separate software.
  • FTP is a fundamental tool for building and maintaining websites, enabling computers to transfer files back and forth on the Internet.

How Does FTP Work?

FTP connection requires two parties to establish and communicate on the network between client and server. Users need to obtain permission by offering credentials to the FTP server. Some public FTP servers may not need credentials to access their files, common in a so-called anonymous FTP.

FTP relies on two distinct communications channels when establishing an FTP connection. The first is the command channel, which controls the session, and initiates instructions and responses. The second is the data channel, where data distribution occurs.

To obtain or transfer files, authorized users use protocol requests to create changes in the server. In return, the server grants that access. This session is called active connection mode.

Distribution in active mode may meet a problem if the firewall is protecting the user’s computer. Firewalls typically do not allow any unauthorized sessions from external parties.

If this problem occurs, passive mode is used. In this mode, the user establishes both data channels and data. This mode then requires the server to listen instead of creating a connection back to the user.

How To Use FTP?

There are three ways to establish an FTP connection.

  1. A straightforward approach is to use a command-line FTP. Developers still use it to transfer files using FTP today.
  2. The second approach is to use a web browser to communicate with the FTP server. Web browsers are more convenient when users want access to large directories in the server. However, it is often slower and less reliable than using a dedicated FTP program.
  3. Using FTP clients is the third and most common practice to use FTP today, especially for Web developers.

The Security Of FTP

FTP is not designed as a security protocol, and there are many security vulnerabilities. In May 1999, the authors of RFC 2577 listed the following weaknesses:

  • Brute-force attack
  • DoS or DDoS
  • FTP bounce attack
  • Packet capture
  • Port stealing
  • Spoofing attack
  • Username enumeration

FTP doesn’t encrypt its traffic. All transfers are displayed, and anyone who can perform packet capture (sniffing) on the network can read user names, passwords, commands, and data.

This issue is common for many Internet protocol specifications, such as SMTP, Telnet, POP, and IMAP. These specifications were designed before the creation of encryption mechanisms such as TLS or SSL.

Common Solutions To This Issue Include:

Use a secure tunnel, such as a virtual private network (VPN) or Secure Shell (SSH).

Use a more secure protocol to handle the job, such as Secure Copy Protocol or SSH File Transfer Protocol.

Use secure versions of the unsafe protocols, such as TelnetS instead of Telnet and FTPS instead of FTP.

Conclusion

With FTP, You can send and get files from the FTP server. If you are a web developer, you need to use FTP with the FTP client to approach the websites you manage. Besides, it is easier to create and delete directories and read large numbers of files on the server.

In short, we hope this page will give you a better understanding of the File Transfer Protocol.

 

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