IPv4 or IPv6?
IPv4 or IPv6, that’s the question?
The IP Addresses or Internet Protocol addresses are the things that let your computers or gadgets and devices communicate with each other through the internet. Without our IP addresses, no one would know who is talking what, or who is trying to get in touch to whom. To the not so techies, there are actually two types of IP addresses – the IPv4 and the IPv6. Although both are very important and essential, they have significant differences that set them apart. Keep reading to fully understand about the two IPs.
What is an Internet Protocol (IP)?
Before jumping into the differences between an IPv4 and an IPv6, let us first define what an IP is. This is a numerical label that is assigned to a specific gadget, computer or device that is connected to a computer network that utilizes the IP protocol for communication.
An IP address serves as an identifier for a particular device or computer on a specific network. It is also known as an IP number or the Internet address.
IP address spells out the technical format or configuration of the addressing and packets scheme. A lot of these networks combine the IP with a Transmission Control Protocol or TCP. It also let developing a virtual connection between a destination and a source.
Now that you have an idea what an IP address is, let us define and differentiate an IPv4 and an IPv6.
What is the definition of IPv4?
IPv4 is defined as Internet Protocol version 4. This IP version is widely used to identify devices on a specific network employing an addressing system. This underlying technology makes it possible for users to connect to devices and computers to the web. Every time a device or gadget accesses the net, it is given a unique, numerical IP like this one: 18.104.22.168. To be able to send data from a device to another gadget using the internet, a data packet must be transferred across the network having the IP addresses of both devices and gadgets. Moreover, the IPv4 is the widely used IP version and was the first version of IP deployed for production in the ARPANET in 1983. The IPv4 utilizes a 32-bit address scheme in order to store 2^32 addresses, and that is more than 4 billion addresses. The IPv4 is considered as the primary internet protocol and transports about 94% of the internet traffic.
What is the definition of IPv6?
Obviously, the IPv6 is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol. It is the next generation IP address standard and is said to have been developed in order to replace the earlier version – the IPv4. IPv4 is still widely used by many internet services up to this day. This new version was designed and developed in the early 1994 and was deployed in order to fulfill the need for more internet addresses. As we all know, Every computer, mobile or smart phone, home automation component, IoT sensor and any other gadgets and devices connected to the Internet has to have a numerical IP address in order to communicate with the other devices. And every day these demand grow exponentially, prompting developers to resolve this issue, thus the development of the IPv6. With 12-bit address space, the IPv6 or also known as the IPng (Internet Protocol next generation) is capable of handling 340 undecillion unique address space.
What are the key features of these Two Internet Protocols?
IPv4 have the following features:
- It is a connectionless protocol
- It allows the creation of a simple virtual communication layer over diversified computers or devices.
- The IPv4 requires less memory.
- Ease of remembering addresses
- Currently have supported protocol by millions of computers and gadgets.
- Offers video libraries and conferences
On the other hand, IPv6 have these to offer.
- Hierarchical addressing and routing infra. Simplified and more efficient routing.
- Stateful and Stateless configuration
- Support for QoS or the Quality of Service
- True quality service of QoS also known as “Flow Labelling.”
- The IPv6 is an ideal protocol for neighboring node interaction
- Simpler header format
- No more private address collisions and also no more Network Address Translation
Before we get into the differences between IPv4 and IPv6, let us first go into the brief history of the Internet protocol. An Internet Address is a string of numbers that is allocated to a gadget or device in order to indentify it on the net. Just like the street number of your home or the street name of your office, an IP similar and is an address. And while mails and letters are sent to the address of your house, an IP address is utilized to send packets of data that you have requested.
The IPv4 was developed in the early 80s and is composed of four numbers, ranging from 0 to 255. These are then separated by periods. For example: 22.214.171.124 might represent an IP address of a certain company. There is more to IP address and it pays if you can fully understand the fundamentals of TCP/IP too, but these are the basics.
Each website has their own IP address, but we do not typically use them anymore. Unlike in the earlier stage of the internet, users has to know the website’s IP address in order to search and navigate to it. Then came the DNS or the Domain Name Service. The DNS allows user to search the name instead of numbers, and instead of typing the IP address, you can simply type in the name example: instead of typing the above mentioned IP address, the user can key in www.nameofcompany.com , and this allows us to navigate the web easily and conveniently. Moreover, it is far easier to remember names as compare to the company’s IP address.
Are we running out of IPv4 Addresses?
This IP has a limit of about 4.3 billion addresses, well, theoretically. And back in 1980 that figure was more than enough. Fast forward, the internet grew very rapidly and went global, and before we knew it, we are running out of available addresses, thanks to the growth of internet plus the number of smartphones and the Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferating today.
If you think that it is only recent that we are running out of IPv4, well, it is not. We have been experiencing a shortage of addresses since the 1990s. And although a lot of engineers are trying to find ways to solve the problem, it was not long before that a more permanent and concrete solution became the ultimate goal and objective.
Currently, the IPv4 coexist on the net with the IPv6, although later on, everything will be using the latter version. Replacing those gadgets and devices with IPv4 would entail prohibitive cost and can even cause massive disruption, thus, IPv6 is being rolled out slowly while the older version is about to retire permanently.
Is IPv6 the future of the World Wide Web?
The IPv6 or the Internet Protocol Version 6 was introduced during the late 1990s as a hopeful replacement of the fast depleting IPv4. The engineers who developed the internet realized quickly that the limitation of the older IP version and its eventual shortage is fast approaching that previously thought of.
The new version utilizes the 128-bit addresses, which allows 340 undecillion addresses or that is 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456, well at least in theory. IPv6 addresses are represented in eight groups of four hexadecimal digits, the groups are then separated by colons. An example for this may look like this: “2002:0de6:0001:0042:0100:8c2e:0370:7234,” although there are methods to abbreviate this full notation.
Aside from increasing the supply of IP address blocks, this new IP version also aim to address the many shortcomings of the older version which includes security breach.
IPv4 versus IPv6
The arrival of the new version, the IPv6, had also ushered new and more functionality aside from providing more IP addresses. An example would be the multicast addressing which is supported by the IPv6. This allows bandwidth-intensive packet flows i.e. multimedia streams, to be sent simultaneously to several destinations, reducing network bandwidth. However, some skeptics are still asking, is IPv6 better than the older version?
IPv6 is equipped with various functionalities and one of them is the autoconfiguration. This new feature lets a device generate an IPv6 address as soon as the power is turned on and it puts itself on the network.
The gadget or the device starts by searching for an IPv6 router, and if one if available, it can generate a local address and a globally routable address, allowing access to the wider internet. In IPv4 networks, the process of adding gadgets, computers or devices are being manually done.
IPv6 also lets the device stay connected to several networks simultaneously. This feature is mainly due to its interoperability and configuration capabilities which allows or enables the hardware to automatically assign multiple IP address to the exact device.
Speed Test: IPv6 vs IPv4
When it comes to speed, which is faster? IPv4 or is it IPv6? An independent security blog ran a series tests to determine which of the two Internet protocol versions is faster. The blog found out that in direct connection, both IPs are capable of providing the same speed, although the older version occasionally won during the test.
In theory though, the newer version has to be a bit faster than the older one since cycles do not have to be wasted on NAT translation. However the larger packs on IPv6 may have caused it to ran a bit slower than the IPv4 in some cases. What really makes a significant difference at this point is that the IPv4 networks are mature and has to be highly optimized, more so than the IPv6 networks. This, with time and tuning, the newer version will eventually win this speed contest.
Security Comparison: IPv6 vs IPv4
When the engineers developed the IPv6 to replace the IPv4, one thing was certainly thought of –security. It was built and designed with more security features. IP Security or the IPSec is a series of IETF security protocols for security, authentication and also data integrity, and this is fully integrated into the new IP version. For those asking, yes, IPSec can also be integrated fully into the older version. This however has to be the role of the ISPs to implement it and sadly, not all companies are complying.
The new version was developed for end-to-end encryption, so in theory, the widespread adoption of the new version will make man-in-the-middle attacks extremely hard and difficult.
Moreover, IPv6 also support more secure name resolution, the SEND which is short for Secure Neighbor Discovery protocol. This adds security extension to the Neighbor Discovery Protocol or NDP which handles discovery of other network nodes on a local network. By default, the NDP is not totally safe and secure, thus making it prone and susceptible to attacks and other malicious interferences. SEND provides security to the NDP with the help of a cryptographic method that is independent of the IPSec.
The IPv6 provides two security headers that can be utilized either separately or together: the Authentication Header or AH and the Encapsulating Security Payload or the ESP, and this feature is possible thanks in part to the native IPSec. The AH provides data-origin authentication and at the same time, protection against replay attacks, while the other header deliver connectionless integrity, data-origin authentication, protection against replay attacks, and also limited traffic flow confidentiality. It also provides privacy and confidentiality via encryption of the payload. The older version is also capable of this kind of protection if the IPSec is implemented on the network.
Over the years, the IPv4 has been updated significantly, making the difference between the two IPs not totally extraordinary. The same IPSec in IPv6 is also available right now for the older version; although it would really depend on the network providers and end users to embrace and utilize it – thus a properly configured IPv4 network can be as secured as an IPv6 network.
More Benefits from IPv6
IPv6 allows for binding a public signature key, which is half of the asymmetric encryption system, the other half being the private key, to an IPv6 address. The resulting Cryptographically Generated Address or the CGA lets the user show “proof of ownership” for a particular IPv6 address and validate their identity. It is a bit impossible to furnish or modify this functionality to the older version with the current 32-bit address space constraint.
The new protocol also allows end-to-end connectivity at the IP layer by getting rid of the need for NAT or the Network Address Translation. The NAT is one of the workarounds developed in order to conserve the IPV4 addresses. This transition allows the entry of new and valuable services. Peer-to-peer networks are easier to develop and maintain, and services like the VoIP and QoS or the Quality of Service become more robust or bigger.
Also the newer IP version brings the capability to belong to multiple networks simultaneously, with a unique address on each network, and the ability to combine several enterprise networks without readdressing them.
Ultimately: Is the newer version better than its predecessor? Well, in some cases, it is although not it may be the case, always. And if you are asking yourself if you want to migrate to IPv6, read on before doing anything.
Disabling IPv6 on Windows, Mac or Linux
Currently there are only a few VPN services that support the IPv6. And because of this, IPv6 traffic on your physical NIC may leak valuable info about your online activity or your hardware MAC address. And because of this reason, if your ISP does support this version but you are utilizing a VPN like SecureLine VPN, then you need to disable it on your system and here’s how.
The very first thing that you need to do is to know if your ISP supports this new version. Comcast typically support IPv6 and makes a lot of noise about this. A lot of Internet Service Providers or the ISP especially the very popular ones, like the Spectrum. This VPN does not support it.
If the IPv6 connectivity test indicates “Not Supported” then you have nothing to worry about and your IPv6 address is not prone to leak to hackers. And the ISP like Spectrum falls under this category. However, if the IPv6 connectivity says, “Supported,” then you may have to disable the IPv6 in your OS.
Here’s a quick view on how to disable IPv6 in Mac.
There are some Mac users who do not want this network support in their machines and want it disabled. This may be advantageous to users who wants to avoid certain networking conflicts. Or they want to increase the level of security especially when they are prone to cyber attacks or in an environment that poses high threats. And since this new version is a bit vulnerable to man-in the middle and various network attacks, disabling them might be desirable.
And although a lot of Mac users do not really use IPv6 directly, disabling it is not without issues, hence it has to be done by experts.
Disable it in Mac OS X via Terminal. Launch Terminal and then type the following:
Turning off IPv6 support for ethernet:
networksetup -setv6off Ethernet
Disabling IPv6 for wireless:
networksetup -setv6off Wi-Fi
You can also combine the two commands into a single string to disable both wireless and ethernet, all you have to do is just use the following syntax:
networksetup -setv6off Ethernet && networksetup -setv6off Wi-Fi
Just make sure that you enter the string into a single line to give the command correctly.
Of course, you can re-enable this and reverse the changes if you want IPv6 for your wi-fi & Ethernet in your Mac OS X. Again it is always best to discuss this with users who know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it.
If you are a window or Linux user, you can always talk to an expert or to someone who is adept on how to disable the IPv6 on your system. This is to avoid any issues later on with your system.
With the issue of IPv4 running out, why don’t we just switch to the newer version?
In time we will or we have to. However Legacy technologies like the IPv4 need time to die off naturally, besides the switch or the migration to a new version is never easy or is never too fast as its supporters would like.
There will be a migration to the new version eventually, but it would take decades to achieve this. The Internet Society reported that there are about two dozen countries where IPv6 totals more than 15% of the overall IP traffic, and 49 that have topped the 5% threshold. So migration from the older version to the IPv6 is moving very slowly.
Protecting your IP address from Hackers, Cyber Attacks and Other Malicious Threats
We need to protect our IP address from hackers, cyber criminals and other malicious threats, and these are the reasons:
An exposed IP address would show your location, it will also show your online activities and other valuable information. Furthermore, with your location showing, you are prone to various security and privacy issues like:
Packet sniffing: Hackers can see and observe your IP traffic in order to know the important information or data that you have on your online banking, credit card and the likes.
Surveillance: Your ISP, snoops and even government agency can look into your web traffic and what you have been doing online. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who uses it to whom.
Geo-Blocking: Websites can know your location and can either ban or let you access their site based on your location. This discrimination is purely based on where you are located, and blocking the content against you is nothing new. They can even increase the price if you are in a certain location.
Some secure VPNs can hide your IP address and anonymizes your online activity making it safe for you online. There are applications and software that can help provide security for your IP. They can shield you from online invasion and give your privacy when you are online.
In today’s world where everything seems to be moving too fast and too quickly, and almost everything runs with computer and internet, the old IP will surely be depleted, and the new version will replace it sooner or later.
In summary, here are the key difference between the IPv4 and the IPv6.
- IPv4 is 32-Bit IP address compare to the IPv6 which uses the 128-Bit IP address.
- IPv4 is a numeric addressing method while the IPv6 on the other hand is an alphanumeric addressing method.
- IPv4 binary bits are separated by period, while the IPv6 binary bits are separated by colons, as mentioned above.
- IPv4 offers 12 header fields and the IPv6 offers 8 header fields.
- IPv4 supports broadcast while the newer version does not support broadcast.
- IPv4 has checksum fields as compared to the IPv6 which does not have checksum fields.
- When we compare IPv4 and IPv6, IPv4 supports Variable Length Subnet Mask or VLSM whereas the IPv6 does not support this.
- IPv4 employs the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) for it to map to MAC address whereas IPv6 uses the Neighbor Discovery Protocol or the NDP in order to map MAC address.