IPsec for IPv6: Is it more secure than IPv4

Most frequently, the security vulnerabilities in a network protocol stem from flaws in implementation. These flaws are later patched, and over time the discovery and patching of vulnerabilities strengthens the security of the network protocol. Because IPv4 protocols have benefitted from this process much longer than IPv6 protocols, there are more robust in their security.

IPv6 vs IPv4 Security

Thinking in terms of network attacks, how is IPv6 more secure? While not having NAT is going to turn into more efficient routing, I am curious about security. I understand that there are a lot of built-in security features into IPv6, but do you really want each device with it’s own public IP address? While NAT and PAT are really a band-aid technology, hiding a particular device’s IP address is an excellent security feature. Especially with DDoS attacks, I think that it is going to be much easier to attack a particular device if you have it’s own public IP address. However, I feel like almost all public network attacks will already have an advantage. Are there any inherent protections against this? Just thinking about this as I get in my last few study sessions before taking my Net+ exam. Might be a silly question, but I am curious if anyone else as thought about this and how it will impact your assets.

IPsec for IPv6: Is it more secure than IPv4?

IP security, or IPsec, is a collection of standards for the security of transmitted sensitive information over unprotected networks. At the network level, IPsec protects and authenticates data packets being sent between IPsec devices. IPsec has several optional security features, the use of which can be dictated by local security policies:

  • Data confidentiality -sender can encrypt packets before send
  • Data integrity – receiver can authenticate packets to ensure data hasn’t been tampered with
  • Data origin authentication – receiver can confirm the source of any packets received
  • Antireplay -receiver can detect and reject any replayed data packets

IPsec for IPv6 is implemented with Authentication Header and Encapsulating Security Payload. Authentication Header (AH) verifies the source to protect IP header integrity. Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) “provides confidentiality, authentication of the source, connectionless integrity of the inner packet, antireplay, and limited traffic flow confidentiality.”

IPsec has two different modes of operation: Transport mode and Tunnel mode.

  • Transport mode (host to host) uses the IPv6 header of the original packet, then the AH or ESP header, and then the payload
  • Tunnel mode (gateway to gateway or gateway to host) uses a new IPv6 header that includes the AH or ESP header, the original IP header, and the payload

IPv6 Encryption

While end-to-end encryption was retroactively added to IPv4, it was built into IPv6. Encryption and integrity-checking, currently used by VPNs, is standard in IPv6 for all devices and systems.

IPv6 is also more secure for name resolution. The Secure Neighbor Discovery (SEND) protocol enables cryptographic confirmation of a host’s identity upon connection, making naming-based attacks more difficult. This is not a replacement for verification at the application or service level but offers additional security.

Is IPv6 more secure than IPv4?

The short answer is no. However, this question can mean two different things, and therefore requires a more nuanced answer. This question can mean:

  • Whether the specific IPv6 protocols are more secure than their IPv4 equals
  • Whether deployments of IPv6 are more secure than their IPv4 equals

When comparing IPv4 and IPv6 at the protocol level, the complexity of IPv6 could present a higher number of points for attacks. However, it is more practical to compare IPv4 and IPv6 deployments in terms of security. For that, it is important to consider how long protocol specifications and implementations have existed.

Most frequently, the security vulnerabilities in a network protocol stem from flaws in implementation. These flaws are later patched, and over time the discovery and patching of vulnerabilities strengthens the security of the network protocol. Because IPv4 protocols have benefitted from this process much longer than IPv6 protocols, there are more robust in their security.

Sometimes, these vulnerabilities stem from flaws in the protocol specifications. In this case, IPv4 protocol specifications once again benefit from having been around longer, as the IPv6 protocol specifications are newer and have not yet received the same level of scrutiny.

IPv4 vs IPv6 Security: Know the Difference

The IP (Internet Protocol), created in the late 70s is the communication protocol used on the internet, and on the private networks that we see today in companies or even in homes.

It aims to enable the interconnection of two or more devices on the network.

The internet works through protocols such as IPv4 and IPv6, which are numerical combinations that establish connections between devices.

The subject of the moment, the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols still cause doubts for those who use the internet. In this article, we’ll briefly explain what they are & how the two differ in terms of security.

IPv4 and IPv6 in a Nutshell

The IP protocol has an addressing scheme similar to phone numbers. Just like any phone in the world, it is unique (considering the area code and country code), each device connected to the internet has a unique number, which is called an IP address.

What exactly is IPv4 Protocol?

The IPv4 protocol was the first version of the IP protocol, launched at the beginning of the internet.

It is one of the main protocols based on network interconnection methods and was the first version used in the launch of ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet.

Currently, IPv4 still routes most of the world’s traffic, despite the increasing implementation of the IPv6 protocol. It has addresses in the 32-bit standard and, because it is quite old, presents numerous problems, mainly in regards to its expansion capacity.

In fact, with this configuration, the IPv4 protocol allows the creation of up to 4.3 billion different addresses. This brought us to the current crisis, with the increasing expansion of the internet and the connected devices, this number is not enough.

Therefore, it is now quite difficult to find available IPv4 addresses and therefore all new devices are connecting to the network use the IPv6 protocol.

What exactly is IPv6 Protocol?

With the growing and an already expected shortage of IPv4 addresses, IPv6 is being used more and more and in a short time, it will be used in large proportions worldwide.

This is because, unlike its predecessor, it uses addresses in the standard 128 bits & allows to create 340 undecillion unique addresses. That is more than enough to sustain all worldwide traffic for quite a while.

Along with new addresses, IPv6 also offers a range of benefits for security, integrity, and performance.

It represents a major security advance since its number of addresses is so large that it makes it impossible, for example, to use IP scanning techniques in networks to find possible computers with security vulnerabilities.

IPv4 vs IPv6: Comparison of their Security Measures

In IPv6, there was also a concern to correct the security limitations existing in IPv4. One of the main mechanisms created for this is IPSec (IP Security), which provides data packet encryption features, in order to guarantee three aspects of these: integrity, confidentiality, and authenticity.

In fact, IPSec can also be used in IPv4, but not in NAT-based communication. There is no need for the latter in IPv6, so the use of IPSec occurs without limitations.

To perform its function, IPSec essentially uses an extension header called authentication header for authentication purposes, another called Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) to guarantee confidentiality, and the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) protocol for encryption.

It is worth noting that the IPv6 protocol, by itself, already represents a major security advance, since its number of addresses is huge.

For example, it makes it impossible to use IP scanning techniques in networks to find possible computers with security vulnerabilities.

It is important to note, however, that the fact that IPv6 offers more protection than IPv4 does not mean that reducing security concerns will not cause problems.

An access control system, firewall, antivirus, and other resources must continue to be applied.