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SSL Technically Speaking

Think of your computer in layers. A house or building is built in phases, which also can be thought of as layers. The first layer is preparing the land. The next layer is building the foundation to support the house. On top of that, the framework of the house is built, and after that, at the outermost layers, are your plumbing, electrical, walls, and siding. A computer works in layers as well. The bottommost layer is the foundation, which includes the hardware devices such as the motherboard, processor, and memory. The next layer is the operating system, which runs on top of the hardware. Above the operating system is the application layer, which includes the programs and software you use, such as word processors, Web browsers, and e-mail programs.

TCP/IP is the set of protocols that computers use to communicate. Essentially, it's the language that computers use to speak with each other. For a computer to speak TCP/IP, it must have some software that makes it possible. TCP/IP runs at a layer just above or at the operating system layer, and SSL operates at a layer just above TCP/IP. In other words, SSL depends on TCP/IP to run. Just as SSL uses the TCP/IP layer to do its work, the higher layers can also use SSL to do their work. This is why some of the most popular protocols on the Internet can run using SSL, including HTTP, POP3, and SMTP.


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