MacRoberts IP Technology & Commercial Update 07/06/12
IPv6 - A NEW DAWN FOR THE INTERNET
On 6 June 2012, Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) was officially enabled. This supplements the existing IPv4 system, and will make for the creation of trillions of new IP addresses.
Every internet-enabled device including computers, tablets and smart-phones, needs an IP address in order to connect to the internet. IPv4 only allows for just over four billion unique IP addresses, and therefore, many devices - for example multiple computers in one home - have to share addresses with home routers sorting out the traffic. With existing IPv4 addresses running out, devices would soon not be able to obtain a unique address. With IPv6 there are essentially enough IP addresses for unlimited growth for the foreseeable future - 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456.
Web users should not notice any changes as a result of the new system as, to ensure a smooth transition, both IP systems will work side by side for the foreseeable future. Complete transition will take time and some users may need to upgrade their routers or possibly download updated operating system software to enable IPv6 to operate in parallel with IPv4.
With the new IPv6 system now in place it is predicted by industry experts that by 2016, 18.9 billion internet-enabled devices could be online.
The Security Risk
Moving to IPv6 will, for many organisations, raise important security concerns that must be taken into account when developing their IPv6 operational platform. If you have not adequately prepared your network for IPv6, you may fall victim to cyber attackers who have devised ways to sneak viruses and spyware through network defenses.
Determining whether or not an IPv6 deployment is secure is a different process than for IPv4. Since the address space of IPv6 is so much larger than IPv4, scalability is a significant obstacle to overcome. Moreover, many current security devices and controls for internet systems do not have the same functional parity for IPv6. This means that security teams will not have the same visibility and mitigation capabilities when trying to identify and block IPv6 based attacks.
There are also privacy concerns about IPv6 centred on the use of unique identifiers on IP addresses. Some argue that this will leave a digital fingerprint every time someone enters the web allowing detailed and automated profiling of organisations and individuals.
With the launch of the new system, it is important that organisations understand its features and have adequate visibility and security controls in place before IPv6 is enabled. Without such controls, your organisation could find itself victim to security breaches that may create serious implications - for example under data protection and privacy laws.
If you require further advice on this matter please contact David Flint or Valerie Surgenor on 0141 303 1100.
© MacRoberts 2012
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