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Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a networking protocol for clock synchronization between computer systems over packet-switched, variable-latency data networks. NTP is one of the oldest Internet protocols in current use.

NTP is intended to synchronize all participating computers to within a few milliseconds of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). It uses a modified version of Marzullo’s algorithm to select accurate time servers and is designed to mitigate the effects of variable network latency. NTP can usually maintain time to within tens of milliseconds over the public Internet, and can achieve better than one millisecond accuracy in local area networks under ideal conditions.

The protocol is usually described in terms of a client-server model, but can as easily be used in peer-to-peer relationships where both peers consider the other to be a potential time source. Implementations can use broadcasting or multicasting, where clients passively listen to time updates after an initial round-trip calibrating exchange. NTP supplies a warning of any impending leap second adjustment, but no information about local time zones or daylight saving time is transmitted.

Several security concerns arose in late 2014. Previously, researchers became aware that NTP servers can be susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks unless packets are cryptographically signed for authentication. The computational overhead involved can make this impractical on busy servers, particularly during denial of service attacks.

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