IPv6: Ready or Not



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Post Tue May 08, 2007 10:03 am

IPv6: Ready or Not

There are very few things you can bank on in this world. It's even harder to set a career or educational path based on new technology that may or may not catch on with the masses. This is not the case for IPv6.

Imagine a job interview where someone asks about getting them in compliance with the US Government IPv6 Mandate in a little over a year (June 2008). What will your answer be?

Let this be your wake-up call. If you haven't already... learn IPv6 now. With the security implications to the globe, if you have this knowledge under your belt sooner rather than later, it can do nothing but catapult your career.

Don't say I didn't warn you!

Check out this article by eWeek's Lisa Vaas.

By Lisa Vaas
May 4, 2007

Way to go, vendors of low-end routers and intrusion detection and prevention systems—you're a stumbling block on Bechtel's path to the next-generation Internet.

"We're doing [both IPv4 and the next-generation IPv6 networks], and we anticipate doing both for a number of years," said Fred Wettling, a Bechtel Fellow who manages technology standards and is sponsoring the enterprise IPv6 challenge within Bechtel. "This creates a challenge from the security standpoint of making sure the security mechanisms will do tracking [and] protection on both v4 and v6 concurrently."

The problem, he said, is that "some people making security products are not quite there yet," with "there" meaning product support of native IPv6 connectivity. "That's kind of frustrating."

Why does Bechtel want IPv6? Imagine the company rapidly deploying employees to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which the construction outfit in fact did. With the vast IP addressing space IPv6 has ushered in—its main draw—and its ability to turn every notebook, cell phone or other IP-enabled gadget into a server on the peer-to-peer network that IPv6's endpoint-to-endpoint architecture enables, post-Katrina recovery would have been markedly different. For example, trailers could have been connected to each other dynamically once the IP cloud was established, with no work required from Bechtel's IT people.

It's not pie in the sky. IPv6 is here, now. Europe and Asia are roughly tied in the total number of IPv6 addresses they have per capita, said Wettling, based in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and a member of the North American IPv6 Task Force and executive director of the IPv6 Business Council. Also, the U.S. government's Office of Management and Budget has mandated that the federal government—including agencies and contractors—transition by June 2008.

Perhaps most notably for North American enterprises that haven't yet dabbled in IPv6, Microsoft is serving up the technology in Windows Vista and "Longhorn," with a protocol to tunnel IPv6 traffic over IPv4—a transition technology to compensate for security and network perimeter device vendors' lag time in supporting the new protocol.

IPv6 is now here, and so are its security issues. It is a nightmare scenario for any security officer, according to multiple sources, including Charles Lee, chief technology officer for Verizon Federal—the group within Verizon Business dedicated to serving federal government customers.

"I think that the tipping point has been reached," said Lee in Washington. "What I point to as the killer app is VOIP [voice over IP]. There are huge market forces around untethered voice service: PDA-enabled cell phones and so on. Untethered assets are a real market force. In order for those applications to behave well and work in a broad environment, they need v6 capability. V6 is here. The cell phone folks have already set up address allocations: Nokia reserved 500,000 addresses for itself, [and the] chips have been introduced [that] will enable the next generation of services."

In other words, consumers are either using it now or will use it in the next 12 to 18 months, Lee said. What that will look like to your network is this, he said: "You can do P2P so much easier. Instead of me having to directly access some central repository, I may be able to send information from my cell phone to yours, bypassing any other tracking or storage device in the middle of the network, and thereby have complete security in the course of moving this information."

Yes, IPv6 brings security—or obfuscation, as the case may be—to moving information. One notable feature of IPv6 is that it puts encryption into the hands of the user. Were an IPv6 user to illicitly collect data, he or she could pass it off, without network perimeter security checks able to look inside its encrypted contents, to another peer on IPv6—an accomplice who could be anywhere. "And you've just laid out the nightmare scenario for any security officer," Lee said.

The industry already is facing those challenges, Lee said. "It's not uncommon for security people to be very concerned with data integrity and keeping proprietary data under lock and key, and often we miss the fact that the guy who just walked in has a camera in his cell phone," he said.

The security challenges P2P presents exist today, but they'll be more obvious when IPv6 walks through your enterprise's door, Lee said, because "new generations of capabilities will be sitting on people's hips."

Tunneling is another security implication. Symantec in November first brought up the security implications of Microsoft's Vista and the upcoming Longhorn server using the Teredo protocol for tunneling IPv6 over IPv4 networks. Again, the potential security implications of Teredo concern the inability of perimeter devices to see inside packets. IDSes (intrusion detection systems) are generally good at inspecting TCP and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) traffic, which are the traditional protocols that transport Web and e-mail requests. If attacks on a system are tunneled, however, they'll be invisible to IDSes.

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Post Tue May 08, 2007 2:43 pm

Re: IPv6: Ready or Not

Van Hauser from THC gave a good talk about IPv6 hacking at a con awhile back.

i'm too lazy to go find the link but the cool thing i took from it is that device discovery methods are going to have to change now, because its going to be impossible to scan a large block of IPv6 addresses. 

i'm sure someone smarter than myself will figure something out.  would be a cool project though.  DNS will probably be the key to finding these devices, so hopefully we'll at least have a few more DNS remotes come out before this whole BoF thing is over with :-)

still looking forward to 0wning my first toaster or fridge...

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