Internet Protocol or IP is the set of numbers which is assigned to every device that connects to the internet. For instance, your computers, smartphones, routers, and now the numerous IoT (internet connected things) such as cars, fridges, TV, etc needs the unique IP address.
The IP address is necessary for all the devices to communicate and locate with each other. Through this IP, the device is identified and also the geographical location of that device is determined, no matter where in the world it is present. There are two types of internet protocols, IPv4 and IPv6. IPv6 is the latest version; however, still, most of the devices use IPv4 protocol.
The IPv4 protocol was developed in 1983 and stands for Internet Protocol version 4. After this version, the IPv6 has been invented, yet it is still the primary source of routing internet traffic between devices. It uses a 32-bit address system through which there is a possibility of 2^32 unique IP combinations.
This means that there are just over 4 billion IP addresses and this seems a lot to many people. However, the immense increase in Internet-connected devices, there is a need for more IPs.
IPv4 could be the combination of any four numbers from 0 to 254. For example, the “192.168.15.113” IP address is IPv4.
On the other hand, IPv6 is the version that provides a greater number of IP combinations as compared to the IPv4. Functionally it doesn’t differ so much with its former version. IPv6 uses the 128-bit addressing system through which a total of 3.4 x 10^28 IP combinations. That’s a lot and it is not near that this range will end.
Unlike IPv4, the IPv6 address uses hexadecimal digits and allow double colon representation too. The example of IPv6 address could be, “1234:5678:9abc:def0:1234:5678:9abc:def0”.
The major difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is the address space and that’s also the sole purpose of IPv6 creation. However, there are some other striking differences between the IPv4 and IPv6 which we will discuss here but most probably you wouldn’t be interested in these.
These are some varying points if both version 4 and version 6 protocols which you a network administrator would definitely get better. However, a regular internet user should also be aware of it.
The IPv6 protocol was introduced as the successor of IPv4 protocol but still, most of the devices don’t support IPv6 protocol and they contain the version 4. This is because the transfer system is slow not just with the internet provider’s end but also due to the data centers and end users.
Cost is the most prominent factor that has restrained the deployment of IPv6 protocol. The cost and time needed for the enhancement of servers, routers, and switches have been working on IPv4 for a long period of time. That’s probably the cause that most companies have a perception to wait until there is a need for upgrading devices.
On the other hand, the ISPs have found an alternative method to slow down the emergence of IPv6. That is, they assign the dynamic IP address to the users which mean that the IP is not permanent and changes every time you connect to the different network connection. However, a device when disconnects, its IP address is given to another device which connects to the internet.
Therefore, the depletion of IPv4 is decelerated with these patterns and still, just 14 percent of the users access Google through IPv6, as reported by Google. Yet, it is also said that the usage of IPv6 largely depends on the location or country. For instance, the statement from Comcast shows that almost 50% of users will be using IPv6.
The IPv6 and IPv4 versions have the same level of security when it comes to the encryption. There was a prior need for IPSec encryption for all the companies using IPv6. However, the requirement was changed into a recommendation when it was concluded that the encrypting process will require more money for the enhanced computer resources.
Therefore, both the protocols are equal in safety as IPSec encryption could also be implemented with IPv4.
Unfortunately, there are some potential risks discussed by the security experts, which are only with IPv6 and not with IPv4. For instance, the internet provider could use tools such as IPv6 tunnel when users are at transitional phase. This tunnel poses more risk and an ISP could use tunnel broker to give IPv6 content access to the users which are on their IPv4 networks. Also, the hacker could use packet injection and reflection attacks to target IPv6 users.
However, it is expected that some tunnel brokers are more efficient in security than other. Also, the transition will take a longer time to complete and until this, these transition methods will remain working.
IPv6’s autoconfiguration feature could also be vulnerable as it allows devices to take up the IP addresses without the need for a server. The MAC address which is different for every device is used to generate an IP address which creates a unique identifier. This identifier could be used by snoopers and third-party trackers to monitor a user and to locate his/her hardware.
Fortunately, there are privacy extensions in Mac OSX, Windows and iOS and they are default enabled too. So, it’s probably not an issue for most individuals.
As mentioned before, the IPv6 tunnels are used as a transition method and this might create a bit extra latency as requests are switched to IPv4 and vice versa. However, it is believed that there isn’t a speed difference in both the protocols.
Most of the VPN providers have just the support for IPv4 and their DNS server couldn’t resolve the request for a website that uses IPv6 protocol. Therefore, if a website sends IPv6 address request then the ISP DNS server will be accessed to get the solution instead of the VPN DNS server which is only capable to process IPv4. This is known as an IPv6 leak and due to it, all your sensitive data could be at risk.
Also, the IP leak exposes your identity and also the browsing activities to the snoopers including ISP, third-party monitoring companies, and surveillance agencies. Fortunately, know some of the VPN providers have introduced a feature of IPv6 leak protection and they especially mention it.
However, it is still recommended for you to perform the IP leak test to avoid an unknown threat and to implement appropriate preventive measures.