In telecommunications and information technology (IT) security fields, handshaking refers to an automatic negotiating procedure that vigorously and dynamically establishes restrictions, necessities, and boundaries of a communication channel set between two entities (user to user, network to network, program to program, device to device, any combination of the four examples, and so forth) before normal transmission over the channel starts. It comes after the physical formation of the channel and comes before typical information broadcast. It's more often than not a procedure that occurs whenever a computer is about to interact with a foreign device (say, a nearby server within a coffee shop's WiFi hotspot or modems connecting to the Internet) to setup rules and regulation for transmission and communication.
Handshaking can be done to decide which parameters are appropriate to systems and equipment at both ends of the transmission channel, including but not limited to hardware features, protocol features, interrupt procedure, parity, coding alphabet, information transfer rate, and so forth. Whenever a computer interacts with another machine such as a network server, printer, or modem, it requires a handshake in order to make the establishment of a connection possible—no exceptions. Handshakes enable people to connect relatively different, varied, and non-homogenous equipment or systems over a transmission channel without setting parameters manually or requiring the need for human (preferably tech-savvy technicians) intervention.
With that said, it's quite common for hackers to attempt using the handshake itself as a means to intercept, infiltrate, and otherwise steal a connection. In fact, one of the most exploitable and arguably useless security protocols ever created—WEP—was commonly abused this way. Thankfully, thanks to the sheer complexity of the WPA2 or Wired Protected Access 2, exploiting handshakes is easier said than done. Even though it requires handshakes to operate just like any other network protocol, it is the most cutting-edge encryption protocol to beat at this time.
Nevertheless, there are a myriad of methods available to crack open the present WPA2 standard that specifically targets the WPA2 handshake. After all, the handshake is the point where your computer is most vulnerable to hacker attacks and cracks even if it is done with WPA2 encryption. It's also the very thing you want to capture if you're a hacker who wants to infiltrate a WPA2-encrypted connection. Granted, basic password and key creation guidelines is all it takes to stop WPA2 from getting cracked, handshake or no handshake (for example, making the password as long as possible or using alphanumeric password characters).
The fact of the matter is that whenever you're attempting a connection between your computer and a network server, handshakes will happen in order for it to work, so that's the very first thing hackers will target and the first thing security experts will try to protect from getting exploited. More to the point, capturing the full-authentication handshake from the access point is the backdoor you need to gain entry into the WiFi network of your choice and leech off some free Internet access.
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