IPv6 doesn’t just allow more addresses. It’s a whole lot more. Automatic configuration is built into IPv6. In IPv4, a service called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) or a system called zero configuration networking (ZeroConf) must be used to give a computer an IP address via DHCP or help if figure one out itself via ZeroConf. Because there are so many addresses available, each device can have its own number–no more need for NAT, either!
Folks used to rely on NAT for security. Computers which use a gateway to connect to the Internet are effectively hidden from the Internet because the gateway is one way: traffic can only be initiated inside the gateway, unless the gateway has been configured to allow inbound traffic to a specific computer. Additionally, game manufacturers should be jumping for joy, since NAT has long been the bane of their existence. It’s difficult to circumvent and slows down games because of the overhead of translating public IP addresses to private IP addresses used inside the gateway.
Really, folks “need just the firewall” portion of a router/gateway, said Curran. All consumer routers do NAT and have a firewall which blocks inbound or outbound connections–the kind of connections which malicious crackers and their viruses might use to infect your computer and use it as a zombie in a botnet.
Additionally, IPv6 implements inherently something called IPsec:
Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a protocol suite for securing Internet Protocol (IP) communications by authenticating and encrypting each IP packet of a data stream. IPsec also includes protocols for establishing mutual authentication between agents at the beginning of the session and negotiation of cryptographic keys to be used during the session. IPsec can be used to protect data flows between a pair of hosts (e.g. computer users or servers), between a pair of security gateways (e.g. routers or firewalls), or between a security gateway and a host.
In the IPv4 world, this is an add-on. In IPv6, it’s included and active by default. This would greatly increase the security of communications on the Internet.
Check out ARIN’s web site on IPv4 vs IPv6 for more on why IPv6 adoption in all devices is critical.
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Colin Dean has been a writer for ThinkComputers since 2006.