NTP stands for Network Time Protocol. This is the protocol that helps synchronize the clocks of devices on a network, such as servers, workstations, routers, and other equipment, using reliable time references.
Different software and applications can be sensitive to time synchronization issues, so it’s important that the time on these devices is correct. But what can happen if the time information on a device is different from Standard Time? This time inaccuracy may not cause so many issues in just one computer, but in the case of systems that interact with others, the results can be disastrous.
Examples of applications impacted by time include:
- Content distribution systems (www, usenet news, etc.): the wrong time on servers can cause loss of information or prevent access to it;
- Encryption: many cryptographic techniques make use of timestamps for events and keys. The intention is to prevent some types of attacks. If the computers involved are not synchronized with each other, authentication and encrypted communication can fail;
- Transactional systems and distributed databases: these systems depend on accurate clock times and often on their synchronization with Standard Time. Examples of such applications include Home Banking, Home Broker, EDI systems, etc. Stock exchanges, for example, have well-defined starting and ending times. The Brazilian IRS usually accepts Income Tax returns until midnight of the due date.
From a network security point of view, it’s also important that the clocks on the computers are synchronized. Investigations related to security incidents become impossible if the servers involved and the various log files disagree in terms of event time stamps.
NTPs guarantee the computer’s clock has the necessary properties so that applications can operate properly.
The NTP.br project, a Brazilian initiative, is a partnership between NIC.br and the National Observatory (ON) and aims to offer a means for equipment to be synchronized with the Brazilian Standard Time, providing, for this purpose, public servers for time synchronization (the NTP can be configured in several operating systems).
In the first scene, a girl looks at her message inbox on the computer. She notices that these messages arrive out of order, instead of the sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, they arrive in the sequence 1, 2, 3, 5, and 4. Above the scene is the phrase “Messages out of order?”.
In the second scene, the phrase changes to “Does your computer show the right time?”, the girl points to the laptop screen which now shows a digital clock with red numbers and seconds. Several clocks appear around the laptop showing different times.
In the third scene, a time server and the laptop with the wrong time is shown. Above it appears the sentence “An NTP provides the right time.” An arrow pointing to the right shows that the data from the time server is received by the laptop. The seconds on the clock, shown on the laptop, are adjusted and the color of the numbers now turns green, indicating that the time is now correct and synchronized.
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