Feeds

Virtual Africa is the logical target for IP address colonists

The last great global IPv4 stash is up held by the region that might need them the most

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Regrettable incidents like Microsoft's address reassignment are a reminder that IPv4 address exhaustion is becoming so acute it's impacting real operations.

In Microsoft's case, as El Reg reported last week, Redmond occasionally cashes in the jar full of unloved IP addresses it brought back from abroad to find some it can use for virtual machines running on Azure.

Some of the addresses pressed into service appear to have been issued by the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), which last week admitted it has run out of new IPv4 addresses to assign.

Microsoft's behaviour and LACNIC's plight moved one reader to email us and suggest Redmond may have been in breach of LACNIC's policies, citing this (PDF) document as backing for his argument.

The reader is right in spirit, because the document offers these guidelines for the use of IP addresses handed out by LACNIC:

The numbering resources under the stewardship of LACNIC must be distributed among organizations legally constituted within its service region and mainly serving networks and services operating in this region. External clients connected directly to main infrastructure located in the region are allowed.

Microsoft and others who would use IP addresses handed out by one region in another have plenty of leeway under that policy, and under others. Prominent Australian Internet scientist Geoff Huston told El Reg that while there have been efforts to create a “geographical NIC policy”, “I am unaware that any formal policy of geographic limitation of the use of addresses was ever passed.”

Geography is more a convenience, Huston said, so that people would be “able to obtain addresses in a registry … close to your own timezone and speaking your language.”

In his own zone of expertise, APNIC, Huston says “routing policies are up to ISPs”. APNIC's policies relate “to the process of address allocation, not to the way in which addresses are announced and routed on the Internet”.

Although most NICs have policies that try to restrict an explicit trade in IPv4 addresses, such a trade exists – and this raises an interesting possibility in Vulture South's mind.

Huston's site, Potaroo.net, maintains a long-standing set of tools tracking the state of IPv4, and here we find that there is just one spot where addresses remain in their millions: Africa.

Africa has, in fact, the only NIC with more than one /8 left – it has more than three. That puts its reserve above 50 million addresses.

The chief reason for this is the relatively low development of fixed Internet infrastructure in the continent. In many countries, mobile access is far more common – and Vulture South suspects that mobile 'net users sit behind carrier-grade NAT, because that's (relatively) easy to deploy as part of the gateway between mobile users and the fixed Internet.

Whatever the reason, it would be no surprise if Africa were already being seen as a resource to be mined – not for ore or petroleum, but for IP addresses.

With no specific enforcement of geographical routing announcement, and relatively weak enforcement of no-sell policies everywhere, the Microsoft Azure incident will probably have netblock owners in Africa wondering if they could fund their IPv6 upgrade plans by letting some addresses fly off into the cloud. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins
Who will save the systems from the men and women who save the systems from you?
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Ofcom snatches 700MHz off digital telly, hands it to mobile data providers
Hungry mobe'n'slab-waving Blighty swallows spectrum
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.