Tunneling

The term "tunneling" probably brings to mind images of digging tunnels underground, perhaps for a subway system, or for you more technically-minded, a fiber optic cable connection. In the virtual world of computers world, however, tunneling refers to a protocol in which one protocol is encapsulated within another.

Tunneling protocols are often used for establishing various types of connections over common protocols, such as HTTP. For example, a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing program may mask data as HTTP to allow the data to be transferred through a firewall. Since most firewalls allow HTTP (port 80) connections, the connection would likely be allowed, since this is the same port that the Web uses. If the program used its own protocol and port number, the connection may be blocked.

Tunneling can also be used to establish secure connections through protocols that are typically not secure. For example, the point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP) establishes a secure connection over a standard PPP connection, and can used to create a virtual private network (or VPN) between two remote locations. PPTP allows a user to "tunnel" to another location with a secure password-protected connection using the standard or PPP protocol.

Updated October 25, 2006

Definitions by TechTerms.com

The definition of Tunneling on this page is an original TechTerms.com definition. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, you can use the green citation links above.

The goal of TechTerms.com is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about the Tunneling definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Want to learn more tech terms? Subscribe to the daily or weekly newsletter and get featured terms and quizzes delivered to your inbox.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.