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FBI, DEA Warn IPv6 May Jeopardize Criminal Investigations
Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada, such as the FBI, DEA and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are warning that a historic switch to the next-generation Internet protocol, IPv6, may jeopardize investigations by making it more difficult to trace who’s using which electronic IP address.
An FBI spokesperson said the bureau is concerned about IPv6 because, “An issue may also arise around the amount of registration information that is maintained by providers and the amount of historical logging that exists. Today there are complete registries of what IPv4 addresses are ‘owned’ by an operator. Depending on how the IPv6 system is rolled out, that registry may or may not be sufficient for law enforcement to identify what device is accessing the Internet.”
The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN (News - Alert)) and other regional registries maintain public Whois databases for IP addresses and try to ensure that Internet providers keep their segments of the Whois database updated. It hands out IPv4 addresses blocks every few months. With IPv6, ARIN will be handing out much larger Internet address blocks only every 10 to 15 years, making it harder to convince Internet providers to keep their Whois entries up-to-date, therefore making the process to trace an address much longer.
Investigations such as kidnappings, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Mytob worm have involved tracing previous-generation IPv4 addresses back to an Internet provider’s customer. It needs the same level of traceability for IPv6.
This is in response to what the FBI calls the “Going Dark” problem; that surveillance capabilities may diminish as technology advances. Officials have told industry representatives that IPv6 traceability is necessary to identify people suspected of crimes and a new law may be necessary if the private sector doesn’t do so voluntarily.
With the transition to IPv6 only a few weeks in, Internet providers are still drafting IPv6 transition policies.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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