Internet experts and regulators have over the years warned that IPv4 was inadequate with its limited pool of addresses. IPv6, its successor, however, had the solution and feature required for the modern-day demand of the internet. It provided more connections, greater security, and broader integrity. It also could provide support to web-capable devices. IPv6 came in 1998, and in 2016 it marked the year when it could reach 10% of the total deployment.
IETF or the Internet Engineering Task Force developed the IPv6 to replace the IPv4. The primary feature of IPv6 was to increase the IP addresses to 128 bits, up from 32 bits. It allowed them more growth and relief from the shrinking network addresses available.
Given that out of the five Regional Internet Registries, four were out of the IPv4 space, and there is a secondary market for IPv4 network addresses but a cost higher than it would cost to use IPv6 instead.
Switching to IPv6 meant both financial costs and the requirement of effort and workforce. If the transition to the new protocol was done incorrectly, there was a risk of leaving gaping holes in the network security.
Therefore, planning is required because if one accidentally runs both IPv4 and IPv6, it could nullify the security that one sets up around the protocol. Consequently, security solutions must provide complete compatibility with the new IPv6 infrastructure.
The drawbacks of IPv4
When IPv4 got launched in 1981, it could provide four billion addresses that seemed more than enough considering the limited number of computers in those days. After four decades, the number of devices that connects to the internet is mind-boggling as it includes desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, television, games console, and even fridges and cars.
Even four billion network addresses available today are not looking enough to cater to the growing demands.
The advantages of IPv6
By using the 128- bit addresses, the IPv6 offers a much larger address pool. It can provide 340 undecillions compared to 4.3 billion available in the 32-bit addresses by IPv4.
The newly extended address pool allows scalability and introduces extra security features by making host scanning and identification difficult for hackers. So, with additional IP addresses, IPv6 also offers a range of benefits that includes performance, security, and integrity.
Security Benefits of IPv6
Encryption technology was present in Ipv4 as an optional feature and was optional, not universally used. The integrity-checking and encryption used in the VPNs today is a standard component available in IPv6 used for all the connections and supported by compatible systems and devices.
The increased adoption of IPv6 has made it difficult for hackers to attack the weak points in any network significantly more difficult. IPv6 also supports secure name resolution. The SEND or Secure Neighbour Discovery protocol allows it to confirm the host's identity during connection time by using cryptographic confirmation. It ensures that the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) poisoning and types of name-based attacks are complicated. Though it is not a replacement for service or application layer verification, it still improves trust during connections. In IPv4, it was easy for hackers to redirect traffic between legitimate hosts and then manipulate their conversation or observe it. IPv6 makes this redirection extremely hard now.
The extra security depends entirely upon the proper design and its implementation. It makes more effort needed to implement the complex though the flexible infrastructure of IPv6. Nevertheless, if it gets configured properly, then it is seen that IPv6 networking is more secure than IPv4.
Drawbacks with Ipv6
It is observed that the IPv6-based command and control capabilities have been affected by malware. So, if one's server enables IPv6 by default but the corresponding firewall does not, which is possible in many cases, there are more chances of malicious attacks.
Proper configuration and deployment is critical issues. There is no point in implementing IPv6 the same way as Ipv4, as it is guaranteed to cause problems. IT administrators need to learn new methods in networking, right from simple monitoring of security logs to network troubleshooting and configuring firewalls.
There is scope for mistakes and confusion as one switch from IPv4 to Ipv6. One cannot just do an instant switch to Ipv6. There must be partial adoption, like using tunnelling technologies to transport Ipv6 over Ipv4. This workaround is another likely source of security gaps resulting from misconfigurations and confusion. The large-scale adoption of IPv6 has made it challenging for cybercriminals to analyse how to penetrate the built-in security.
Help from Service providers
Many security products need to upgrade and adapt to new networking patterns. It includes transport mediums for updates, look-ups, reporting, and management of the objective of continuous scanning and protection features.
As new vulnerabilities, and unknown threat vectors, evolve, service providers must be ready to face the challenges.
They must provide complete support for IPv6 and stay alert for the new dangers that IPv6 may bring.
Finally, what to do?
All businesses should consider the adoption of IPv6 if they have not done so far. When switching over to the new protocol, it is essential to confirm that the entire networking infrastructure is up to date and compatible. One should not hurry to implement IPv6 if not fully ready. Many platforms come with a default IPv6. However, it should not be switched on until properly configured and compatible. For example, many firewalls focus exclusively on IPv4 and do not filter IPv6 traffic, thus leaving the systems exposed. Also, one needs to ensure that desktop security includes data loss prevention and web security.
The question is of “when,” not “if,” when it comes to IPv6 configuration. Many services like Facebook, Google uses IPv6, among other several large ISPs. Web service providers and telecommunications are actively migrating with mobile operators, pushing for more comprehensive IPv6 implementation to support high-speed networks.