The ident protocol is an Internet protocol that identifies the user of a particular TCP connection. It works as a server daemon on a user's computer where it receives requests to a specified TCP port.
During this query, a client specifies a pair of TCP ports. The server, in turn, then sends a response that identifies the username of the user running the program that uses the specified pair of TCP ports.
One popular daemon application for providing this service is identd.
What are Ident Protocols Used For?
Ident protocols are typically used in Internet Relay Chats (IRC) where a large number of people connect to IRC servers using bouncers. These bouncers either serve multiple users or are hosted on shared servers.
Without ident it would be impossible to ban a single user in a bouncer from a network without banning the entire bouncer.
It's also useful when complaining to the bouncer operator. Ident will enable them to identify the user that is causing trouble. Here, when an IRC server fails to get a response, it falls back on the username given by the user. It then marks the username as not being verified.
Some IRC servers even block clients without an identity response. The reason for this is that it makes it much harder to connect via an open proxy or a system where one account is compromised but does not have root access.
It's important to keep in mind, though, that Ident provides no extra authentication when the user is connecting directly from a personal computer to which they have administrator access and can control the ident demon as well.
Keep in mind, though, that some view ident as being insecure. This is because it lets hackers gain a list of usernames on a computer which can then be used for attacks later. A solution to this is to setup a generic identifier that returns node Id’s instead of usernames.
Also, ident itself does not pose a significant risk to the system which runs it. The proviso, however, is that the software should be updated regularly. The key is that, if the system is reasonably secure, it only poses a minor risk.
Why is Ident Protocols Important?
Ident protocols are important to identify users for purposes of abuse control or general reporting purposes.
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