Layer 8

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Layer 8 is used to refer to "user" or "political" layer on top of the OSI model of computer networking.[1][2]

The OSI model is a 7-layer abstract model that describes an architecture of data communications for networked computers. The layers build upon each other, allowing for abstraction of specific functions in each one. The top (7th) layer is the Application Layer describing methods and protocols of software applications. It is then held that the user is the 8th layer. Network appliances vendor like Cyberoam claim that Layer 8 allows IT administrators to identify users, control Internet activity of users in the network, set user based policies and generate reports by username.

According to Bruce Schneier and RSA:

  • Layer 8: The individual person.
  • Layer 9: The organization.
  • Layer 10: Government or legal compliance[3]

Since the OSI layer numbers are commonly used to discuss networking topics, a troubleshooter may describe an issue caused by a user to be a layer 8 issue, similar to the PEBKAC acronym, the ID-Ten-T Error and also PICNIC.[4]

Political economic theory[5] holds that the 8th layer is important to understanding the OSI Model. Political policies such as network neutrality, spectrum management, and digital inclusion all shape the technologies comprising layers 1-7 of the OSI Model.

An 8th layer has also been referenced to physical (real-world) controllers containing an external hardware device which interacts with an OSI model network. An example of this is ALI in Profibus.

A network guru T-shirt from the 1980s shows Layer 8 as the "financial" layer, and Layer 9 as the "political" layer.[6]

Similar pseudo-layers in the TCP/IP model[edit]

In the TCP/IP model, the 4-layer model of the Internet, the 5th layer is analogously sometimes described as the political layer (and the 6th as the religious layer). This appears in RFC 2321,[7] which is a humorous April Fools' Day RFC published in 1998.

Other uses[edit]

OSI user layers
  • Linux Gazette carries a regular column called Layer 8 Linux Security.[8]
  • Layers 8, 9, and 10 are sometimes used to represent individuals, organizations, and governments for the user layer of Service Oriented Architectures. See OSI User Layers figure for details.
  • User-in-the-loop is a serious concept including Layer 8 as a system level model.
  • Layer 8 is Windows User Experience measurement software from OctoInsight.
  • A private Big Data Management System, in the satellite communications space (reference withheld), leverages massively parallel cloud resources in extension to the OSI Model. They have conceptualized the addition of two additional layers: an 8th 'market' layer, with relocatable managed services providing application instances, and a 9th 'meta' layer, whereby every distributed system is established through a sharable meta-data repository defining read and write services and data formats. The 'manager' is a cross-layer meta-service accessing the 'meta' layer information, governing the 'market' layer through service life-cycle, and injecting data format definitions into the layer 6 presentation layer feeding serviceable application layer instances. A simple set of JSON encoded meta-types are injected into host 9-layer technology stacks as the ocean of resources ebbs and flows.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gregg, Michael (2007-05-01), "OSI: Securing the Stack, Layer 8 -- Social engineering and security policy", TechTarget 
  2. ^ NCSU Layer 8 Initiative[dead link]
  3. ^ Ian Farquhar, Engineering Security Solutions at Layer 8 and Above, December 7, 2010
  4. ^ News article on the "eighth layer"[dead link]
  5. ^ Mosco, Vincent (1996), The Political Economy of Communication: Rethinking and Renewal, SAGE Publications, Inc, ISBN 0-8039-8560-6 .
  6. ^ ISC 9 layer t-shirt
  7. ^ IETF, RFC 2321, 1998-04-01
  8. ^ Layer 8 Linux Security[dead link]

See OctoInsight press release from Washington Business Journal and the Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2016.