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Understanding FTPS

FTPS (also known as FTP Secure and FTP-SSL) is an extension to the commonly used File Transfer Protocol (FTP) that adds support for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) cryptographic protocols.1


Methods of Invoking

Two separate methods were developed to invoke client security for use with FTP clients: Explicit or Implicit. The former method is a legacy compatible implementation where FTPS aware clients can invoke security with an FTPS aware server without breaking overall FTP functionality with non-FTPS aware clients. The later method is incompatible method that requires clients to be FTPS aware. WinSCP supports both methods.


In explicit mode, a FTPS client must “explicitly request” security from a FTPS server and then step-up to a mutually agreed encryption method. If a client does not request security, the FTPS server can either allow the client to continue insecure or refuse/limit the connection.


Negotiation is not allowed with implicit FTPS configurations. A client is immediately expected to challenge the FTPS server with a connection ecrypter using TLS/SSL. If it does not, the server should drop the connection.

In order to maintain compatibility with existing non-TLS/SSL aware FTP clients, implicit FTPS was expected to listen on the IANA Well Known Port 990/TCP for the FTPS control channel and 989/TCP for the FTPS data channel. This allowed administrators to retain legacy compatible services on the original 21/TCP FTP control channel.

SSL Certificates

Much like HTTPS, but unlike SSH, FTPS servers must provide a public key certificate. This certificate must be signed by a certificate authority.


If it is not, WinSCP will generate a warning stating that the certificate is not valid. Whether or not to trust such certificate is your choice. If you are connecting within a company network, you might feel that all the network users are on the same side and spoofing attacks are unlikely, so you might choose to trust the certificate without checking it. If you are connecting across a hostile network (such as the Internet), you should check with your system administrator, perhaps by telephone or in person.

  1. The text is copy of Wikipedia article on FTPS. The text is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.Back

Last modified: by martin