Ip Address Definition Example Essays
by Corey Nachreiner, CISSP, Director of Security Strategy and Research
Anyone who's used a networked computer probably has a functional understanding of Internet Protocol addresses (referred to as IP for short). An IP is a numeric identifier that represents a computer or device on a network. Your computer's IP is like your home's mailing address.
End-users really don't need to know much more about IPs than that. However, a mailman has to know more about a mailing address than the person sending a letter does. For similar reasons, a network administrator, or anyone configuring WatchGuard’s XTM and Firebox appliances needs to know the technical details behind IP addresses in order to recognize wider possibilities in managing a network.
The Security Fundamentals article, "Internet Protocol for Beginners," describes what IP addresses are, non-technically. In contrast, this article concentrates on describing the mathematics behind an IP address, down to the last binary detail. If you're already familiar with the technical details behind IP addresses, feel free to skip this article. However, if you're curious about how computers see IPs, or if you need a quick brush-up on binary math, read on.
How we see IP addresses
You know that an IP address is numbers that represent a device on a network, as a mailing address represents your home's location. But in order to actually assign and use IP addresses, you must understand the format of these "numerical identifiers" and the rules that pertain to them.
Let's first concentrate on how humans read and write IP addresses. To us, an IP address appears as four decimal numbers separated by periods. For example, you might use 126.96.36.199 as an IP for some device in your network. You probably noticed that the four numbers making up an IP are always between 0 to 255. Have you ever wondered why?
You may also have heard people referring to the four numerical values in an IP address as "octets". Octet is, in fact, the correct term for describing the four individual numbers that make up an IP address. But doesn't it seem odd that a word whose root means "eight" describes a number from 0 to 255? What does "eight" have to do with those values? To understand the answers to these questions, you have to look at an IP address from your computer's viewpoint.
Computers think in binary
Computers see everything in terms of binary. In binary systems, everything is described using two values or states: on or off, true or false, yes or no, 1 or 0. A light switch could be regarded as a binary system, since it is always either on or off.
As complex as they may seem, on a conceptual level computers are nothing more than boxes full of millions of "light switches." Each of the switches in a computer is called a bit, short for binary digit. A computer can turn each bit either on or off. Your computer likes to describe on as 1 and off as 0.
By itself, a single bit is kind of useless, as it can only represent one of two things. Imagine if you could only count using either zero or one. Alone, you could never count past one. On the other hand, if you got a bunch of buddies together who could also count using zero or one and you added all your buddies' ones together, your group of buddies could count as high as they wanted, dependent only on how many friends you had. Computers work in the same way. By arranging bits in groups, the computer is able to describe more complex ideas than just on or off. The most common arrangement of bits in a group is called a byte, which is a group of eight bits.
The act of creating large numbers from groups of binary units or bits is called binary arithmetic. Learning binary arithmetic helps you understand how your computer sees IPs (or any numbers greater than one).
In binary arithmetic, each bit within a group represents a power of two. Specifically, the first bit in a group represents 20 [Editor's note for non-math majors: mathematicians stipulate that any number raised to the power of zero equals 1], the second bit represents 21, the third bit represents 22, and so on. It's easy to understand binary because each successive bit in a group is exactly twice the value of the previous bit.
The following table represents the value for each bit in a byte (remember, a byte is 8 bits). In binary math, the values for the bits ascend from right to left, just as in the decimal system you're accustomed to:
|8th bit||7th bit||6th bit||5th bit||4th bit||3rd bit||2nd bit||1st bit|
|128 (27)||64 (26)||32 (25)||16 (24)||8 (23)||4 (22)||2 (21)||1 (20)|
Now that we know how to calculate the value for each bit in a byte, creating large numbers in binary is simply a matter of turning on certain bits and then adding together the values of those bits. So what does an 8-bit binary number like 01101110 represent? The following table dissects this number. Remember, a computer uses 1 to signify "on" and 0 to signify "off":
|128 (27)||64 (26)||32 (25)||16 (24)||8 (23)||4 (22)||2 (21)||1 (20)|
In the table above, you can see that the bits with the values 64, 32, 8, 4 and 2 are all turned on. As mentioned before, calculating the value of a binary number means totaling all the values for the "on" bits. So for the binary value in the table, 01101110, we add together 64+32+8+4+2 to get the number 110. Binary arithmetic is pretty easy once you know what's going on.
How computers see IP addresses
So now that you understand a bit about binary (pun intended), you can understand the technical definition of an IP address. To your computer, an IP address is a 32-bit number subdivided into four bytes.
Remember the example of an IP above, 188.8.131.52? Using binary arithmetic, we can convert that IP address to its binary equivalent. This is how your computer sees that IP:
Understanding binary also provides you with some of the rules pertaining to IPs. We wondered why the four segments of an IP were called octets. Well, now that you know that each octet is actually a byte, or eight bits, it makes a lot more sense to call it an octet. And remember how the values for each octet in an IP were within the range of 0 to 255, but we didn't know why? Using binary arithmetic, it's easy to calculate the highest number that a byte can represent. If you turn on all the bits in a byte (11111111) and then convert that byte to a decimal number (128 + 64 + 32 + 16 + 8 + 4 + 2 + 1), those bits total 255.
Why do I care?
Now that you understand binary and how computers see IP addresses, you might think, "That's interesting, but what's the point?" End users really don't need to understand the binary representation of an IP. In fact, we purposely write IPs in decimal so that it is easier for humans to understand and remember them. However, network administrators must know technically what's going on in order to implement anything but the simplest network.
In the two-part article "Understanding Subnetting," Rik Farrow describes one of the most important concepts necessary for creating TCP/IP networks, the subnet. As you will see, understanding binary is a fundamental requirement for subnetting. Just as a mailman must understand the postal delivery system in order to make sure every message reaches its destination, you'll find that being able to look at IP addresses the way your computer does will help you do a better job as a network administrator -- and more easily, too.
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What is the Internet?
The definition of the Internet put in one sentence is: A worldwide network of computer networks that use the TCP/IP network protocols to facilitate data transmission and exchange, where anyone with a computer can access the internet through an ISP (Internet Service Provider).
The Internet consists of a three level hierarchy composed of backbone networks (e.g. ARPAnet, NSFNet, MILNET), mid-level networks, and stub networks. These include commercial (.com or .co), university (.ac or .edu) and other research networks (.org, .net) and military (.mil) networks and span many different physical networks around the world with various protocols, chiefly the Internet Protocol.
The Internet is a global network connecting millions of personal, institutional and company computers. The number of computers used by the internet is growing rapidly. The United States is connected with over 100 countries worldwide and linked together to exchange of data, news and opinions. The Internet is decentralized design. This means that there isn't just one computer that stores all of the information from the Internet. There are many independent host servers located throughout the US and the world that store the information made available to the global Internet community.
The Internet is primarily used for these functions:
1. To send and receive e-mail.
2. To transfer files from one computer to another (the files may be text, images, audio, video, etc.).
3. Research to locate information for either government, educational, commercial, etc.
4. To communicate with other computers, either one at a time (Instant message) or many at once (chat rooms or discussion groups).
The internet is a work in progress and will continue to evolve.
What is Internet Regulation?
Internet regulation is basically restricting or controlling access to certain aspects or information. Internet regulation consists of mainly two categories: Censorship of data, and controlling aspects of the Internet.
Most of the Internet regulation is imposed by the Government in an effort to protect the best interest of the general public and is concerned with some form of censorship.
Other forms of Internet regulation is domain registration, IP address control, etc. In domain registration, once a domain is purchased the Webmaster’s address has to be registered at the time of purchase.
A governmental agency can track someone down if they put up information, that the government considers unacceptable.
IP address is you Internet identity when you are connected to the web. It is synonymous to a postal address.
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Regulation Service Provider Computer Networks Internet Protocol Protocols Servers Files Audio Host Institutional
It consists of a 32 bit binary number that is denoted by XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX, and is used in the forwarding of data to your host, when requested.
The giving out or allocation of the IP address is done by an agency by geographical location, and so it is not portable. This means that if you change your location, then your IP address will change with it. It is a way the federal government can track you down if you are involved in illegal activities on the net.
The internet is censored in order to enable adults to protect children from unsuitable material.
An analogous situation is an organization’s management controlling their employees' use of computers at work.
Software on the user's computer is the only practical way to control access with the flexibility required for differing children. A PICS based system will be inexpensive or free for users and does require new laws or government intervention - although funding for ratings services would probably accelerate it.
Censorship of Internet communications can not be practically achieved, it would be far too inflexible to suit the many approaches to "child suitability" which responsible adults have for the various children in their care, and would constrict all Internet Communications to a single "child-safe" level.
The restriction of for example “how to make a bomb” via the Internet is also controversial, however, any good library has lots of explosives information. PICS might be able to stop some of this information flowing via the Internet. However, the amount of information in general is increasing and even with restrictions information of this sort will increase.
Restrictions might enable adults to control their own access to material so they do not stumble across things (advertising, violence, erotica/pornography, religious or political material etc.), which offend them. This enables community standards to be maintained - the standards of the particular community, which the person chooses to be a member of.
-Some people propose to maintain one particular set of "Community Standards" by making it possible to restrict certain material. The proposition that there is one "Community Standard" for all Americans is difficult to sustain (depending on what the proposed standard entails) because there are so many communities
Even if censorship of Internet communications could practically be achieved, it would be far too inflexible to suit the community standards of any country, any particular community or any particular person's position in that community.
The government imposing a single set of restrictions on the communications of all adults, where the aim is to restrict communication of material including that, which can be legally possessed. This is plain, ordinary censorship, whether it concerns erotica, or material, which is critical of governments or religions.
For instance some censorship proponents refer to "obscene" materials, as if a single definition of obscenity exists. Those proposing outright censorship argue that the communication of all citizens should be restricted according to some single "Community Standard" for:
-Their own good.
-The good of society in general. (See Peter Webb's speech and his references to this argument by Lord Devlin.)
-The good of children
-Or some mixture of these three reasons.
Some of the most common methods for information regulation is through ISP’s filtration channels. Many ISP’s AOL, being one of the top, provide a built in method for which parents can restrict access to certain sites containing information that they do not want to see.
There is also software that can be downloaded and installed on personal computers that do the same job of filtering material viewed on the web. The biggest of all is governmental laws that restrict people from viewing certain information on the web.
Especially for the pornographic sites, there is a law that requires password authentication to enter the site. There are numerous laws enforced by the government that basically restricts information. They are all in place because the government feels that it is dangerous for society to have easy access to the information in question.
Government has been the foremost in the restriction of information. There have been numerous committees and agencies set up primarily to perform this task or upholding the laws that have been established for this reason.
Most of the bills that have been introduced in congress regarding Internet regulation have failed. The reason being that it is so closely connected with the first amendment that it will naturally be met with firm opposition.
Everyday Americans are now a click of the "mouse" away from instant worldwide computer communication. The Internet has brought society more than the fruits of faraway knowledge, new business opportunities and round-the-clock entertainment. It has also stirred up thorny legal and ethical questions surrounding crime detection, sexual morals, free speech, copyright protection and socio-economic status. Not surprisingly, radically different ways to meet the challenges of the technological revolution have been proposed.
Some argue for dramatic changes in laws and customs to accommodate the digital era, yet others propose that existing structures be adapted.
Check out these sites for more info:
Internet regulation 'a threat to civil liberties'
We need Internet Regulation
Audience Questions - Internet Regulation
Internet behavior is regulated as explained by Lessig
CSIS Forum Explores Emerging International Pressures
Civil Rights and Internet Regulation
On Internet Regulation