The IPv6 protocol suite was designed to accommodate the present and future growth of the Internet, by providing a much larger address space than that of its IPv4 counterpart, and is expected to be the successor of the original IPv4 protocol suite. It has already been deployed in a number of production environments, and many organizations have already scheduled or planned its deployment in the next few years.

There are a number of factors that make the IPv6 protocol suite interesting from a security standpoint. Firstly, being a new technology, technical personnel has much less confidence with the IPv6 protocols than with their IPv4 counterpart, and thus it is more likely that the security implications of the protocols be overlooked when they are deployed. Secondly, IPv6 implementations are much less mature than their IPv4 counterparts, and thus it is very likely that a number of vulnerabilities will be discovered in them before their robustness can be compared to that of the existing IPv4 implementations. Thirdly, there is much less implementation experience with the IPv6 protocols than with their IPv4 counterpart, and “best current practices” for their implementation are not available. Fourthly, security products such as firewalls and NIDS’s (Network Intrusion Detection Systems) usually have less support for the IPv6 protocols than for their IPv4 counterparts.

While a number of papers have been published on the security aspects of the IPv6 protocol suite, they usually provide general discussion on the security implications of IPv6, but do not delve into much detail regarding the security implications of each of the mechanisms, header fields, and options of all the involved protocols.

During the last few years, the UK CPNI (Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure) carried out a comprehensive security assessment of the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) and related technologies (such as transition/co-existence mechanisms). The result of the aforementioned project is a series of documents that provide advice both to programmers implementing the IPv6 protocol suite and to network engineers and security administrators deploying or operating the protocols.

Fernando Gont discussed the results of the aforementioned project at the DeepSec 2011 conference, highlighting the most important aspects of IPv6 security, providing advice on how to deploy the IPv6 protocols securely, and explaining a number of vulnerabilities that were found in IPv6 implementations (together with possible strategies to mitigate them). Additionally, he will demonstrate the use of some attack/assessment tools developed as part of this project (yet unreleased).

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