Handshaking (in Networking)

Last Edited



, ,

In this article, we’re exploring the concept of handshaking in networking. Two computers, before communicating, should shake each other’s hands. Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? Relax and join me in the analysis of this very important concept in digital communication. Let’s explore in depth the types of handshaking protocols, describe real examples, and underline the importance of Handshaking in network security. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Handshaking?
  2. Types of Handshaking Protocols
  3. Handshaking in Action: Real-World Examples
  4. The Importance of Handshaking in Network Security
  5. References
Handshaking in networking and digital communication

1. What is Handshaking?

In the simplest terms, handshaking is like a ‘getting-to-know-you’ phase in network communications. It’s a process where two devices on a network have a little chat before they start the actual data transfer. This ‘chat’ is crucial – it’s where they agree on the rules of engagement, like how they’ll send data, how fast, and how they’ll ensure it’s all understood correctly. It’s like agreeing on a common language before starting a conversation. We see handshaking everywhere, from initiating a Wi-Fi connection to a simple mouse click. Stick with me, and you’ll see how this simple concept is fundamental to the seamless digital world we navigate daily.

The term “handshaking” arises from the analogy of two people meeting to conduct business. They first shake hands to greet each other, announcing their name, title, and intentions. They might also “size each other up” to determine the other person’s capacities and capabilities.

Flow Control

Handshaking is also referred to as “flow control” because the process establishes the ground rules for managing the flow of data between the two devices. Some of the parameters that the modems, for example, need to negotiate are:

  • The maximum transmission speed, taking into consideration the speed of both modems and the quality of the transmission
  • The length of the line delay to apply echo cancellation
  • The communication protocol

Modern modems transmit the control signals in full-duplex mode over the RS-232 interface that connects them to the computers.

2. Types of Handshaking Protocols

Welcome to the heart of our handshaking exploration! In this chapter, we’re diving deep into the various handshaking protocols used in networking. Each protocol serves a unique purpose and operates differently, yet they all play a critical role in ensuring smooth and secure communication. Let’s break them down:

2.1. TCP Three-Way Handshake

  • What is it? The TCP three-way handshake is fundamental in establishing a reliable connection over the Internet. Think of it as a protocol’s way of saying, “Hey, can we talk?”, “Sure, let’s talk”, and then, “Great, I’m ready!”
  • How it works: It involves three steps:
    • SYN: The initiating device sends a synchronize (SYN) message to establish a connection.
    • SYN-ACK: The receiving device acknowledges (ACK) the request and sends back its own SYN.
    • ACK: The initiator acknowledges the receiver’s SYN, and boom – the connection is established.
  • Why is it important? This handshake is crucial for ensuring that both parties are ready for data transfer and can handle the incoming data, providing a foundation for reliable and orderly communication.

2.2. SSL Handshake

  • What is it? The SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) handshake is all about security. It’s used to establish a secure connection between a web server and a client, ensuring that all data exchanged is encrypted.
  • How it works: The SSL handshake involves:
    • Identification: The server presents its SSL certificate to the client.
    • Key Exchange: They agree on encryption methods and exchange cryptographic keys.
    • Finalization: Once everything checks out, the secure encrypted connection is established.
  • Why is it important? In an era where data security is paramount, the SSL handshake is a guardian. It ensures that sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers are encrypted and safe from prying eyes.

2.3. Wireless Handshaking

  • What is it? Wireless handshaking occurs in Wi-Fi networks and is crucial for establishing and maintaining wireless connections.
  • How it works: It typically involves:
    • Authentication: The device requests access to the wireless network.
    • Association: Once authenticated, the device is associated with the network, allowing data transfer.
  • Why is it important? With wireless networks dominating our world, this handshaking ensures that devices can connect seamlessly to Wi-Fi networks while also providing a level of security through authentication.

Each of these handshaking protocols plays a vital role in the modern digital landscape. From setting up a secure website visit to simply connecting to your home Wi-Fi, these protocols work tirelessly behind the scenes, ensuring that our digital interactions are smooth, reliable, and secure. Understanding them is key to appreciating the complex dance of communication that underpins our connected world.

3. Handshaking in Action: Real-World Examples

Let’s bring the concept of handshaking to life with some everyday examples you’re likely familiar with:

  1. Setting Up a Secure Web Connection: Ever noticed ‘https://’ in your web browser? That’s SSL/TLS handshaking in action! When you visit a secure website, your browser and the server perform an SSL handshake to establish a secure, encrypted connection. It’s like a secret pact between your browser and the website, ensuring that your data stays private.
  2. Starting a File Transfer: When you transfer a file over a network, especially using protocols like FTP, a form of handshaking occurs. The server and your computer agree on the transfer mode and initiate the process. It’s like agreeing on the best way to pass a package without dropping it.
  3. Connecting to Wi-Fi: Each time you connect your device to a Wi-Fi network, a wireless handshake ensures you are authorized to join and allocates the necessary resources for your device. It’s like getting a passkey to an exclusive club, ensuring only members get in.

4. The Importance of Handshaking in Network Security

Handshaking is much more than just a polite introduction in the digital world. It’s a cornerstone of network security. Here’s why:

  • Authentication: Handshaking protocols often involve authentication, ensuring that the parties involved are who they claim to be. It’s like a digital ID check.
  • Establishing Secure Channels: Protocols like SSL/TLS use handshaking to set up encrypted communication channels, protecting data from eavesdroppers.
  • Data Integrity: Handshaking helps in verifying that the data sent is the same as the data received, keeping the data corruption and tampering at bay.

In essence, handshaking in networking is akin to a security checkpoint, ensuring safe and secure communication in an increasingly connected world.

5. References

  1. Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach” by James Kurose and Keith Ross.
  2. Network Security Essentials” by William Stallings.
  3. RFC 5246 – The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol.
  4. RFC 2616 – Hypertext Transfer Protocol — HTTP/1.1.
  5. Data and Computer Communications” by William Stallings.