Beware the Black Market Rising for IP Addresses

IPv4 depletion is happening faster than expected; a black market could jump the price of an Internet presence.

By Mel Beckman
Mon, May 03, 2010
Page 4

But ARIN and its sister registries have the authority to reclaim space if necessary, because users are only loaned use of IP numbers.

"ARIN has put a lot of energy into anti-fraud procedures," says Jimmerson. "As we run out of this valuable resource, we actively apply these anti-fraud measures that include vetting organizations, scrutinizing justification, as well as providing a mechanism for people to report fraud and misuse, to avoid hoarding and speculation."

Jimmerson points out a twist to the IPv4 exhaustion problem: An IANA global resource policy calls for the remaining five /8s to be immediately distributed to the RIRs as soon as that trigger point is reached, which ARIN believes will likely occur in 2011, although current usage suggests it could happen later this year.

"When that happens, we have a reserved /10 block [4.2 million IP addresses] set aside for organizations that run IPv6 but need one or two IPv4 addresses for protocol transition," Jimmerson says.

Except for this reserve pool, however, Jimmerson expects the last addresses will be issued by registries anywhere from one day to six months after this IANA trigger occurs.

IPv4 black market: Escaping the black Both Jimmerson and Oberman agree that businesses have no time to lose in moving to IPv6. While IPv4 will be needed for the foreseeable future, the sooner the Internet community abandons this legacy protocol, the less impact any potential black market could have on Internet commerce. They predict that many new servers will be IPv6-exclusive, gradually isolating IPv4-only Internet users.

The trail to IPv6 is well blazed. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) added IPv6 to its root name servers back in 2004. Federal agencies largely met a mid-2008 deadline to support IPv6, which first became operational on the Internet that year. All major server and desktop operating systems -- Windows, Unix, Linux, and Mac OS X -- have supported IPv6 for several years, as have major Internet client applications such as Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and others. Most network equipment has IPv6 built-in.

Thus, nothing stands between business and the exodus to IPv6 -- an exodus that has accelerated over the past year or so, according to Jimmerson and ISP reports. Only one question remains: Can we get out in time?

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