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Telnet is an application layer protocol used on the Internet or local area networks to provide a bidirectional interactive text-oriented communication facility using a virtual terminal connection. User data is interspersed in-band with Telnet control information in an 8-bit byte oriented data connection over the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

because of serious security concerns when using Telnet over an open network such as the Internet, its use for this purpose has waned significantly in favor of SSH.

The term telnet is also used to refer to the software that implements the client part of the protocol. Telnet client applications are available for virtually all computer platforms.

Experts in computer security, such as SANS Institute, recommend that the use of Telnet for remote logins should be discontinued under all normal circumstances. Telnet, by default, does not encrypt any data sent over the connection (including passwords), and so it is often feasible to eavesdrop on the communications and use the password later for malicious purposes; anybody who has access to a router, switch, hub or gateway located on the network between the two hosts where Telnet is being used can intercept the packets passing by and obtain login, password and whatever else is typed with a packet analyzer. Several vulnerabilities have been discovered over the years in commonly used Telnet daemons.