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Difference Between FTP and Secure FTP

FTP vs Secure FTP

The File Transfer Protocol or FTP is one of the more popular protocols because it facilitates the transfer of files to and from a local computer and a remote computer. It has a variety of purposes, one of which is to upload web pages to a website. The biggest downside to FTP is that it is not secure. Meaning anyone with the know-how will be able to snoop and intercept the traffic. Thus, there is a need to secure the FTP traffic. This is where Secure FTP comes in. Obviously, the main difference between FTP and Secure FTP is that the latter is secure while the former is not.

Basically, the most significant difference between FTP and Secure FTP is the encryption of information. In FTP, all the information is sent in a clear-text format; even the usernames and passwords that are needed to authenticate a user’s identity. Anyone snooping in can get those details and impersonate the real owner to download or upload files. Encryption is a complex process that replaces the actual information with something that cannot be easily read, yet still maintaining the actual content. This is achieved via different algorithms that have specific rules. Encryption makes it very difficult for other people to know what is being transmitted. Thus, making the connection secure.

Because FTP was not made secure in the first place, there were a number of attempts to improve on it or create a new standard. All these variants may be referred to as Secure FTP, so you should make sure what protocol is actually being used. A few notable Secure FTP implementations include: FTPS, an extension to the original FTP protocol; FTP over SSH, which still uses the original FTP protocol but uses an encrypted SSH channel; SFTP, a totally different protocol from SSH that achieves the same thing.

The actual implementations may not be the same, but you still get the same results. The traffic becomes encrypted and is no longer that vulnerable to snooping. With everyone on the internet nowadays, you should make sure to protect yourself and the data that you are sending or receiving. There’s just no place where you should use the basic FTP protocol anymore.

Summary:

  1. FTP is not secure while Secure FTP is
  2. Secure FTP traffic is encrypted while FTP traffic is in clear text
  3. FTP is a single protocol while there are a number of protocols known as Secure FTP


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2 Comments

  1. Good points made here. Setting up an SFTP process isn’t as simple for most folks as FTP because some additional setup needs to be done to create security keys that provide the encryption and de-encryption id’s required for the file receiver. There are easy to use software solutions that help set up these security settings as well as manage the various flavors of secure file transfer options. Google it. ;-)

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