What is the layer 8 issue?

The “layer 8 issue” is a funny way to describe user error when dealing with technology. However, these errors can have serious consequences and IT professionals should take them seriously.

The layer 8 issue and the OSI model

The OSI model (Open Systems Interconnection Model) is a layer model which regulates and standardizes network communication. The model was developed in 1984 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and consists of seven layers:

  1. Physical layer: Describes the mechanical, electrical, or functional interface where data transmission occurs.
  2. Data link layer: Ensures a protected connection is established between the transmission medium and the end device.
  3. Network layer: Facilitates data transfer between networks and forwards packets to nodes one by one if needed.
  4. Transport layer: Responsible for avoiding congestion and breaks data down into smaller units to make it easier to send.
  5. Session layer: Organizes the connection and communication between two terminals and opens or closes the transmission.
  6. Presentation layer: Prepares data so it can be used by the application layer.
  7. Application layer: Describes services and applications and connects to lower layers.

Problems can arise at every level. This can lead to errors during transmission or immediately afterwards. However, errors are more commonly found on the user end, as opposed to in the model. IT experts like to jokingly refer to faulty transmission or other complications due to incorrect use as a “layer 8 issue”.

What exactly is the layer 8 issue?

The layer 8 issue describes problems with the software where the user is the problem. Sometimes the term is meant in a polite way, or it is also used as an in-joke to express frustration with the user. However, the layer 8 issue has a very serious background. This is because using it incorrectly can open the door to scams such as social engineering, phishing, smishing, vishing or spear phishing. Criminals can take advantage of human errors to financially damage companies, authorities and private individuals or paralyze important infrastructures.

The layer 8 issue is not part of the OSI model. It technically exists outside the seven layers, but it should still be taken seriously when it comes to computer and network security. It is up to individuals whether they want to describe errors as “human error” or as a “layer 8 issue”.

What can prevent a layer 8 issue?

However, the layer 8 issue is not just for IT experts to worry about. Companies and private users should inform themselves on how to increase their systems’ security. For example, this might include optimal password protection, being cautious when opening unknown emails or handling sensitive data confidentially. Human error can be significantly reduced if devices are kept up to date and users are trained in how to use new technology.


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