Thursday Threads: Battles over strong encryption, IPv4 addresses exhausted while IPv6 surges

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Two articles in each of two threads this week:

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If Strong Encryption is Outlawed…

Later this year the [U.K.] government intends to introduce legislation that will ensure that any form of communication, whether it’s an email, text message, or video chat, can always be read by the police or intelligence services if they have a warrant.

Few would disagree with the idea that criminals shouldn’t be allowed to plot in secret. But in reality there are huge technical, legal, and moral problems with what the British government wants to do, setting it on a collision course with both the tech industry and privacy campaigners.

[U.S.] Federal law enforcement officials warned Wednesday that data encryption is making it harder to hunt for pedophiles and terror suspects, telling senators that consumers’ right to privacy is not absolute and must be weighed against public-safety interests.

The testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee marked the latest front in a high-stakes dispute between the Obama administration and some of the world’s most influential tech companies, moving the discussion squarely before Congress.

FBI, Justice Dept. take encryption concerns to Congress, by Eric Tucker, Associated Press via The Washington Post, 8-Jul-2015

When I was in my teens, I saw this written on a bathroom stall: “If freedom is outlawed, only outlaws will be free.” The same idea is being applied to strong encryption. These two articles come from many published in the recent weeks over the regulation and use of encryption technologies. I don’t envy the task of law enforcement in an age where technology makes covert communication easier. I would have thought, though, that at least the U.S. government learned from the Clipper Chip fiasco of the 1990s. Encryption is based on mathematical principles. Mathematical principles are not subject to legislation. You might make it illegal to publish encryption algorithms, but you cannot make it illegal for someone to think about encryption algorithms. And who will have a vested interest in having people think about encryption algorithms? If strong encryption is outlawed…

Allocations of IPv4 Internet Addresses Now Restricted; It’s a Good Thing IPv6 is Finally Here

Remember how, a decade ago, we told you that the Internet was running out of IPv4 addresses? Well, it took a while, but that day is here now: Asia, Europe, and Latin America have been parceling out scraps for a year or more, and now the ARIN wait list is here for the US, Canada, and numerous North Atlantic and Caribbean islands. Only organizations in Africa can still get IPv4 addresses as needed. The good news is that IPv6 seems to be picking up the slack.
ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, has now activated its “IPv4 Unmet Requests Policy.” Until now, organizations in the ARIN region were able to get IPv4 addresses as needed, but yesterday, ARIN was no longer in the position to fulfill qualifying requests. As a result, ISPs that come to ARIN for IPv4 address space have three choices: they can take a smaller block (ARIN currently still has a limited supply of blocks of 512 and 256 addresses), they can go on the wait list in the hopes that a block of the desired size will become available at some point in the future, or they can transfer buy addresses from an organization that has more than it needs.

It is now three years since World IPv6 Launch, and solid growth in global IPv6 adoption continues at a steady pace.

With over 17% of the country’s end-users actively using IPv6, the United States continues to be a dominant force in IPv6 traffic levels and adoption, with the top three U.S. broadband operators and all four of the top U.S. mobile operators actively rolling out IPv6 to their end-users. Other countries including Germany, Belgium, Japan, and Peru continue to have solid IPv6 traffic growth, and network operators in additional countries including Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Estonia, and Greece have started large-scale IPv6 deployments to end-users.

Three years since World IPv6 Launch: strong IPv6 growth continues, by Erik Nygren, The Akamai Blog, 8-Jun-2015

I do remember when IPv6 made it through the IETF processes and became a standard. It was roughly just after the point where it was collectively decided that the 7-layer OSI network model had lost out to TCP/IP. (Okay, that was a bunch of geek — this was all getting hashed out in the mid-1990s.) Needless to say, actual implementation of the next version of the rules by which machines communicate with each other on the internet has been coming for a long time.

Is this something to worry about? Probably not — there are a bunch of really smart people making sure that the internet appears to work tomorrow just like it does today. (If you are technically minded, check out the latter half of the Akamai blog post — it has all sorts of interesting details about bridging IPv6 to IPv4 as we start to contemplate a world where IPv6 dominates.) One warning: if your work deals with “dotted quads” like 192.168.124.53, then you have a whole new addressing scheme to get used to.

(This post was updated on 29-Jan-2016.)