IPv6 and You

Typically, we think of network IP addresses as a technical topic — not something a security director or security operations manager would be too concerned about. Not so fast…there are several reasons why the envisioned upgrade to the Internet’s main...


Now realize that the rate of technological change and related social change is continually accelerating, meaning that the differences in communications technologies, and in security response, will be completely different again — but in only four years.

This is why the success of World IPv6 Day is not necessarily good news for security practitioners, whose systems capabilities are largely dependent on what the security industry has to offer. The security industry has a history of not fully understanding and not keeping up with changes in computer and networking technology. For corporate security practitioners, this also means that many of your future security systems capabilities will be provided by your IT department — not by security industry vendors.

 

World IPv6 Day Test Results

As a result of World IPv6 Day tests, we now know that the IPv6 Internet can co-exist peacefully with the IPv4 Internet. The use of IPv4 on the Internet will not be negatively affected by the growth of IPv6 use. That means over the next decade, they will work side-by-side as the older IPv4 Internet slowly fades away.

This also means that the rate of IPv6 adoption can proceed without major concerns for negatively impacting IPv4 Internet usage. That is why IPv6 adoption will happen faster, not slower. A faster rate of IPv6 adoption means that the security industry will fall further behind more quickly. The reason for this is that the security industry mainly thinks that the transition away from IPv4 is basically about IP addresses.

 

IPv6 Isn’t Just About Addresses

The move to IPv6 is not just about IP addresses — it is about many things that will ultimately affect how well or how poorly security practitioners address their organization’s risk picture via electronic security systems.

IPv6 is a member of a group of next-generation Internet protocols and standards intended to provide significantly improved network capabilities around security, interoperability, reliability, high performance, scalability and manageability — to name a few. To understand this picture requires considering the meaning of the word “infrastructure” — the unseen “structure below” that makes the visible aspects of systems work.

For example, the goal of the transportation systems engineer is a velvety smooth train ride that occurs right on schedule. The quality of steel of the tracks, the specifications of the rails and earthwork below it, the capabilities of the switching systems and all the rest of the transportation systems infrastructure are not visible to us — but we depend on all of it. Similarly, the goal of computing and networking is reliable intelligent information exchange and communication. The technical details are invisible to us, but we require all of it to let “anything talk to anything” in the ways that we want and need.

Right now, our security systems capabilities are far behind broadly deployed consumer technology. A single text message can jump across dozens of systems to appear on Facebook, Twitter, countless blogs and a thousand or more cell phones all in an instant.

That’s how fast risk picture changes should come to us — not just in one place, but across all the parts of our security operations that need to assess, respond and keep management informed.

The dynamics of a workplace violence incident, a civil unrest disturbance or criminal violence can change dramatically in less than a minute. When a bullet from a firefight in a neighboring parking lot flies through a manufacturing plant wall and into an HVAC duct, bringing contaminating particles that cause the shutdown of a manufacturing line — this was a real incident at the southern U.S.-Mexico border — how do you know NOT to take the usual step of sending that line’s employees out into the parking lot for a break while your engineers figure out what happened?

To take advantage of real-time technology capabilities that exist now means developing a standards-based security systems infrastructure that is highly interoperable with computers, networks and Internet-based systems in a way that is easy to manage, operate and expand. Not to have that level of technology limits our threat detection, response and risk management capabilities.