BUSINESSES in Scotland are risking cutting themselves off from the online world by failing to upgrade to the latest version of internet addressing technology, an expert has warned.
Neil Anderson, security director at networking consultancy Farrpoint, called on government to intervene before the last of the internet protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses are gone.
These unique numbers are assigned to every device and web server connected to the internet, directing traffic to ensure users get to the correct place when they go looking for a website.
Speaking yesterday at the IPv6 Future Enabler conference in Edinburgh, Anderson said the Westminster government should hasten the implementation of this newest protocol, much as it did when regulating car manufacturers.
“Car-makers were not going to build more efficient cars unless the government had stepped in and forced them to do it, and it is the same with IPv6,” he said.
The UK currently ranks 38th in world in adopting IPv6. Companies running on IPv4 networks can’t connect with IPv6 users, meaning the potential loss of customers in places such as Belgium and the United States, where uptake of the new protocol is among the highest.
IPv4 can allocate four billion addresses, but with 2.4 billion people using an average of five devices, the number of addresses now needed could be as many as eight million. IPv6 has enough space to assign an address to every atom on the planet.
“Where it is not getting better, in my view, is Scotland and the wider UK,” Anderson said.
“Hacks” and other temporary patches that have been used since the 1990s to keep IPv4 going are beginning to reach their limits, he added.
For users, this could be the reason for the slow uploading of a Google map, or the failure of a newsfeed to load on Facebook.
“Most firms will not switch to IPv6 until it becomes necessary, principally due to cost,” he added. “However, we need to ensure the internet is fit for purpose as it’s an absolutely essential service.”
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