Common Internet File System (CIFS)

CIFS (Common Internet File System) is a file-sharing protocol which enables local devices to access remote files and print services. The protocol is an unsecured dialect of SMB (Server Message Block), a communication protocol originally developed by IBM, with later versions developed by Microsoft.

How CIFS Works

The CIFS protocol operates through a client-server model:

The CIFS client-server model works as follows: 

1. The client sends a request to the server.

2. The server completes the request.

3. The server responds to the client.

CIFS Client-Server Model

CIFS Functionality

Microsoft has outlined the main features of CIFS:

  • Transport independence
  • Flexible connectivity
  • Feature negotiation
  • Resource access
  • Security contexts
  • File access
  • Extended subprotocols
  • Named pipe interprocess communication
  • File and record locking, and safe caching:
  • File, directory, and volume attributes
  • File and directory change notification 
  • Batched commands
  • Distributed File System (DFS) support
  • Remote Procedure Call (RPC) transport
  • Message verification
  • Unicode file name support

Key takeaways

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    The CIFS protocol is used for accessing file sharing and print services as if they were located locally.
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    CIFS is an unsecured implementation of SMB and Microsoft recommends its users disable it.
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    CIFS is now obsolete and users are advised to upgrade to the latest SMB dialect — 3.1.1.
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