SSH and Telnet are two communication protocols that help users establish connections with remote systems. These communication protocols determine how data is transmitted between different devices on a network, which often needs to be transmitted through various physical and digital environments. The primary goals for network protocols tend to be communication, network management, and security. Let's explore the differences between Telnet and SSH.


Telnet is an older communication protocol that allows users to open a session on a remote device to access specific applications or download files. It relies on a client-server model that allows the user on the client machine to open a command-line on the remote server. The protocol is largely obsolete nowadays and is only used for less important applications like accessing a nostalgic game over a public server that still accepts Telnet connections. While Telnet relied on existing HTTP and FTP connections to establish remote access, it wasn't a secure protocol, and anyone could view a person's username and password that was sent over the Telnet connection. This made it an unsuitable protocol for more critical applications.

Secure SHell (SSH)

SSH is a network protocol that improved upon the limitations Telnet had. One of the biggest drawbacks of Telnet was that its remote sessions weren't secure. SSH instead employed cryptographic techniques that made remote sessions inaccessible to an external viewer attempting to snoop. SSH is the primary protocol used to establish remote access on Linux and macOS systems. It uses the PuTTY client to execute shell commands and access applications on the remote system. Apart from this, clients like Cyberduck (on macOS) provide graphical interfaces to help establish remote sessions.

Telnet SSH
Designed for Unix machines. Designed for Linux initially but can be used on macOS and even Windows with the appropriate client.
Runs on Port 23 specifically for LAN networks. Port 22 is the default port for SSH connections but this can be modified.
The remote connection is not secure. SSH employs symmetric, asymmetric, and hashing encryption technologies to secure remote connections.
Data transfer is done in plain text. Data is encrypted and sent over the network.
Doesn't rely on authentication mechanisms to authenticate the client. Uses public key encryption to authenticate the client.

The biggest difference as to why SSH is better, is plainly down to security reasons. Also, if you're like me and wondering how SSH is different from a VPN, the difference is that SSH allows the client device to connect to a remote session on a specific device. VPNs allow a user to connect to an entire network.

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