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What are different characteristics of FTP protocol?

FTP or the File Transfer Protocol is the name that comes to our mind when we talk about a protocol that is used for exchanging the files between computers over a network. It lets people transfer files among hosts over a network based up on TCP that is nothing but the internet.

Characteristics of File Transfer Protocol

1. Client server architecture: This is the very basis of FTP. It makes use of separate data and control connections between the clients and the server.

2. Clear – text sign in protocol: This is a mechanism used by the FTP for authenticating its users and requires a user ID and password.

3. Security: This protocol is very much secured with technologies such as SSL/ TLS and SFTP (SSH file transfer protocol). These technologies are used for encrypting the user info and contents in order to provide a safe transmission.

4. Command line application: Most of the FTP client applications were of this type before operating systems having GUIs started to be developed. A number of productivity applications have FTP incorporated in to them like web page editors.

5. Data representations: FTP offers 4 types of data representations for transferring data:
a) ASCII mode: This representation is for text. It converts the data in to 8 – bit ASCII before transmitting it over. The data is converted again in to the receiving host’s character form. This representation does not seem to be working well for the files that contain data in any form other than plain text.
b) Binary mode or image mode: The files are transferred as byte for byte and it is stored by the receiving host as received. Almost all the implementations of FTP recommend this mode.
c) EBCDIC mode: This mode is for plain text files sharing between hosts that use the character set of EBCDIC. This is somewhat similar to the ASCII mode.
d) Local mode: Using this mode two computers that have been set up in identical ways, can send data in a format that is proprietary i.e., that does not requires to be converted in to ASCII.

6. Data transfer modes: FTP provides 3 modes:
a) Stream mode: Transmission of data takes place in the form of a continuous stream. So FTP is relieved of the processing task. All the processing is done by TCP. Data is divided in to records, thus eliminating the need for EOF indicators.
b) Block mode: The data is divided in to several blocks and then is passed over to TCP.
c) Compressed mode: A single algorithm is used for compressing the data.

7. Login: A normal user ID and password scheme is used by FTP for login purpose.

8. Anonymous FTP: Anonymous FTP access is also provided on the host that provides the FTP services. In this, users use an anonymous account to login and use e – mail in place of password. No verification is carried out for the data that is supplied in this case.

9. NATs and Firewalls: Data is transferred by FTP only when the server connects again to the client and this proves to be a problem for the firewalls and NATS. Another problem is posed by the IP address as well as port number that represents the IP address and port of the internet host.

10. Web browser support: Files that are hosted on the FTP servers can be accessed by all the major browsers even if they might lack FTPS support. Firefox provides the ‘fireFTP’ extension that can be used to run a full featured FTP client in Firefox.

11. Security: Security for FTP is not so well defined and this is the reason why it faces many issues regarding security. It is vulnerable to attacks such as:
– Bounce attacks
– Brute force attacks
– Packet capture
– Spoof attacks
– Port stealing

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