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Definition: A bit is the smallest unit of data transfer on a computer network. Bits represent the two binary values "on" or "off." Bits are often stored on computers as the digital numbers '1' and '0', but in networking, bits can also be "encoded" by electrical signals and pulses of light.

In computer networking, some network protocols send and receive data in the form of bit sequences. These are called bit-oriented protocols. Examples of bit-oriented protocols include PPP.

Though sometimes written in decimal or byte form, network addresses like IP addresses and MAC addresses are ultimately represented as bits in network communications.

Finally, special digital numbers called "keys" are often used to encrypt data on computer networks. The length of these keys is expressed in terms of number of bits. The greater the number of bits, the relatively more effective that key is in protecting data. In wireless network security, for example, 40-bit WEP keys proved to be relatively insecure but the 128-bit or larger WEP keys used today are much more effective.

Also Known As: binary digit
Bit - Related Terms

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