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Security updates needed in light of IPv6

By Max Burkhalter
July 15, 2011
As the IPv6 protocol continues to become more important with more regions running out of IPv4 addresses, transitioning to the new address system is more urgent than ever. However, companies making a transition to IPv6 need to seriously consider the security ramifications of adopting the new protocol.

According to a recent SecurityInfoWatch report, the security needs associated with deploying IPV6 go beyond basic network issuesand can impact every aspect of a facility's infrastructure, including servers, monitoring systems and physical security devices. However, the full implications of IPv6 begin with its impact on networking infrastructure.

The report explains that IPv6 will provide enough addresses and network architecture support direct device-to-device communication. This means that every object connected to the internet could have the potential to communicate quickly and seamlessly. On a network security level, this process has significant implications because many security methods protect the network by making sure devices connecting are using a safe IP address. With IPv6, each device will have a unique IP address, making it harder to monitor networks.

While this issue is key, the broader impact of giving each device its own IP address comes when considering how much such connectivity will impact the pace at which information spreads. The report explains companies need to figure out how to design security systems to communicate in such a way that each device understands the full impact of any even before considering solutions.

To explain this issue, the report cited a recent incident at a manufacturing plant near the United States-Mexico border. A gunfight erupted in the factory's parking lot and a stray bullet entered the HVAC system. An internet-connected monitoring device was able to identify the damage and order an evacuation before anybody was injured.

However, the monitoring system was not set up to notice that the damage occurred because of a gunfight in the parking lot, and workers were almost evacuated to the site of the turmoil. The major challenge when deploying IPv6, the report said, is establishing connected devices so they will be able to communicate quickly with each other to recognize threats. Otherwise, one part of the system may identify a problem that will only be complicated without faster communication, the report said.

These security issues need to be seriously considered when more companies switch to IPv6, which could happen soon. A recent Light Reading report explains that IPv6 has become a critical issue for telecoms and companies highly dependent on the internet.


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