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What is IPv6 Transitioning Going to Mean to Me?


Part II of What Is IPv6? IPv4 vs IPv6 Connectivity & Why You Need to Hide IP Address

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Email Privacy

In terms of actual functionality, end users that are not interested in what is going on under the hood of their internet connection should notice very little. A number of participating US networks switched to IPv6 for a day in June 2011 with no reported difficulties whatever. Also, the changeover is happening gradually, and for a long time IPv6 websites and ISPs will continue to be backward compatible to IPv4. You will need a new IPv6 wireless router, it is true, but unless you work in the IT sector, that's probably the only hardware change you will be required to make.

Windows XP has finally had its day, however. This much loved operating system will at last die a death due to its lack of support for IPv6 handling. You will be pleased to know that all new major operating systems, mobile included, are already set up to accommodate IPv6 addressing.

One behind-the-scenes change that leads us closer to the important IPv4 vs IPv6 privacy debate is the fact that there will be a much more reduced need for Local Area Networks with 'masquerading', a feature that allows multiple computers behind a network firewall or gateway to hide behind a single IP address. In the past, the one of the main reasons LANs were set up was because of the paucity of available IPv4 addresses – with just a single IP address, a company could serve a whole building full of LAN-connected computers. Such economizing will no longer be necessary – not with a virtually inexhaustible number of IPv6 addresses. Now every computer can have its own IP address…

…Yes – one computer, one IP address. We are getting near to the crux of the IPv4 vs IPv6 privacy debacle.

ISPs will change too. They will most likely return to the use of static IP addresses for their customers. In the early years of the internet, personal internet users would have one IP address serving their computer for weeks, months or even years.

With the rise in smartphones and tablets, however, all ISPs started using dynamic IP addresses – a system whereby they gave you an IP address just for a session, which was taken away from you at the session's end.

This change to dynamic IP addresses was timely, because the old static system meant users were very easily identified online – you could easily tell exactly which computer sent an email for example. Dynamic IPs came about just when privacy threats were starting to become heinous, and helped stem the tide of threats to internet privacy from online advertisers, governments and cyber thieves. Dynamic IPs meant privacy abusers required a secondary source of correlating data alongside your IP address (eg. a cookie) to identify your personal activity online.

If IPs revert to static IPs again for IPv6 addressing, however, we will be leaping back into the lions den at a time when there are A LOT more lions there.

Part III: What is IPv6 Going to Mean to My Internet Privacy?

Written by: 
Robin Welles; internet security team, expats team