ICMP version 6 (ICMPv6)

ICMPv6 is the companion protocol for IPv6, just as ICMPv4 is the companion protocol for IPv4. ICMPv6 is used by routers and hosts to report problems when processing IPv6 packets. In addition, ICMPv6 is used when auto-configuring addresses. This section discusses messaging for IPv6.

ICMPv6 defined in RFC 4443 is the companion protocol for IPv6 as ICMPv4 is the companion protocol for IPv4. ICMPv6 is used by routers and hosts to report problems when processing IPv6 packets. However, as we will see in chapter The datalink layer and the Local Area Networks, ICMPv6 is also used when auto-configuring addresses.

The traditional utilisation of ICMPv6 is similar to ICMPv4. ICMPv6 messages are carried inside IPv6 packets (the Next Header field for ICMPv6 is 58). Each ICMP message contains an 8 bits header with a type field, a code field and a 16 bits checksum computed over the entire ICMPv6 message. The message body contains a copy of the IPv6 packet in error.

Figure 5.42: ICMP version 6 packet format

ICMPv6 specifies two classes of messages: error messages that indicate a problem in handling a packet and informational messages. Four types of error messages are defined in RFC 4443 :

  • 1 [Destination Unreachable. Such an ICMPv6 message is sent when the destination address of a packet is unreachable. The code field of the ICMP header contains additional information about the type of unreachability. The following codes are specified in RFC 4443]
    • 0: No route to destination. This indicates that the router that sent the ICMPv6 message did not have a route towards the packet’s destination
    • 1: Communication with destination administratively prohibited. This indicates that a firewall has refused to forward the packet towards its destination.
    • 2: Beyond scope of source address. This message can be sent if the source is using link-local addresses to reach a global unicast address outside its subnet.
    • 3: Address unreachable. This message indicates that the packet reached the subnet of the destination, but the host that owns this destination address cannot be reached.
    • 4: Port unreachable. This message indicates that the IPv6 packet was received by the destination, but there was no application listening to the specified port.
  • 2: Packet Too Big. The router that was to send the ICMPv6 message received an IPv6 packet that is larger than the MTU of the outgoing link. The ICMPv6 message contains the MTU of this link in bytes. This allows the sending host to implement Path MTU discovery RFC 1981
  • 3: Time Exceeded. This error message can be sent either by a router or by a host. A router would set code to 0 to report the reception of a packet whose Hop Limit reached 0. A host would set code to 1 to report that it was unable to reassemble received IPv6 fragments.
  • 4: Parameter Problem. This ICMPv6 message is used to report either the reception of an IPv6 packet with an erroneous header field (type 0) or an unknown Next Header or IP option (types 1 and 2). In this case, the message body contains the erroneous IPv6 packet and the first 32 bits of the message body contain a pointer to the error.

Two types of informational ICMPv6 messages are defined in RFC 4443 : echo request and echo reply, which are used to test the reachability of a destination by using ping6(8).

ICMPv6 also allows the discovery of the path between a source and a destination by using traceroute6(8). The output below shows a traceroute between a host at UCLouvain and one of the main IETF servers. Note that this IPv6 path is different than the IPv4 path that was described earlier although the two traceroutes were performed at the same time.

traceroute6 www.ietf.org
traceroute6 to www.ietf.org (2001:1890:1112:1::20) from 2001:6a8:3080:2:217:f2ff:fed6:65c0, 30 ho
1 2001:6a8:3080:2::1 13.821 ms 0.301 ms 0.324 ms
2 2001:6a8:3000:8000::1 0.651 ms 0.51 ms 0.495 ms
3 10ge.cr2.bruvil.belnet.net 3.402 ms 3.34 ms 3.33 ms
4 10ge.cr2.brueve.belnet.net 3.668 ms 10ge.cr2.brueve.belnet.net 3.988 ms 10ge.cr2.brueve.bel
5 belnet.rt1.ams.nl.geant2.net 10.598 ms 7.214 ms 10.082 ms
6 so-7-0-0.rt2.cop.dk.geant2.net 20.19 ms 20.002 ms 20.064 ms
7 kbn-ipv6-b1.ipv6.telia.net 21.078 ms 20.868 ms 20.864 ms
8 s-ipv6-b1-link.ipv6.telia.net 31.312 ms 31.113 ms 31.411 ms
9 s-ipv6-b1-link.ipv6.telia.net 61.986 ms 61.988 ms 61.994 ms
10 2001:1890:61:8909::1 121.716 ms 121.779 ms 121.177 ms
11 2001:1890:61:9117::2 203.709 ms 203.305 ms 203.07 ms
12 mail.ietf.org 204.172 ms 203.755 ms 203.748 ms

Note: Rate limitation of ICMP messages

High-end hardware based routers use special purpose chips on their interfaces to forward IPv6 packets at line rate. These chips are optimized to process correct IP packets. They are not able to create ICMP messages at line rate. When such a chip receives an IP packet that triggers an ICMP message, it interrupts the main CPU of the router and the software running on this CPU processes the packet. This CPU is much slower than the hardware acceleration found on the interfaces [Gill2004]. It would be overloaded if it had to process IP packets at line rate and generate one ICMP message for each received packet. To protect this CPU, high-end routers limit the rate at which the hardware can interrupt the main CPU and thus the rate at which ICMP messages can be generated. This implies that not all erroneous IP packets cause the transmission of an ICMP message. The risk of overloading the main CPU of the router is also the reason why using hop-by-hop IPv6 options, including the router alter option is discouraged 20.

Interactions between IPv6 and the datalink layer

There are several differences between IPv6 and IPv4 when considering their interactions with the datalink layer. In IPv6, the interactions between the network and the datalink layer is performed using ICMPv6.

First ICMPv6 is used to resolve the datalink layer address that corresponds to a given IPv6 address. This part of ICMPv6 is the Neighbour Discovery Protocol (NDP) defined in RFC 4861. NDP is similar to ARP, but there are two important differences. First, NDP messages are exchanged in ICMPv6 messages while ARP messages are sent as datalink layer frames. Second, an ARP request is sent as a broadcast frame while an NDP solicitation message is sent as a multicast ICMPv6 packet that is transported inside a multicast frame. The operation of the NDP protocol is similar to ARP. To obtain an address mapping, a host sends a Neighbour Solicitation message. This message is sent inside an ICMPv6 message that is placed in an IPv6 packet whose source address is the IPv6 address of the requesting host and the destination address is the all-hosts IPv6 multicast address (FF02::1) to which all IPv6 hosts listen. The Neighbour Solicitation contains the requested IPv6 address. The owner of the requested address replies by sending a unicast Neighbour Advertisement message to the requesting host. NDP suffers from similar security issues as the ARP protocol. However, it is possible to secure NDP by using the Cryptographically Generated IPv6 Addresses (CGA) defined in RFC 3972. The Secure Neighbour Discovery Protocol is defined in RFC 3971, but a detailed description of this protocol is outside the scope of this chapter.

IPv6 networks also support the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. The IPv6 extensions to DHCP are defined in RFC 3315. The operation of DHCPv6 is similar to DHCP that was described earlier. In addition to DHCPv6, IPv6 networks support another mechanism to assign IPv6 addresses to hosts. This is the Stateless Address Configuration (SLAC) defined in RFC 4862. When a host boots, it derives its identifier from its datalink layer address 21 and concatenates this 64 bits identifier to the FE80::/64 prefix to obtain its link-local IPv6 address. It then sends a Neighbour Solicitation with its link-local address as a target to verify whether another host is using the same link-local address on this subnet. If it receives a Neighbour Advertisement indicating that the link-local address is used by another host, it generates another 64 bits identifier and sends again a Neighbour Solicitation. If there is no answer, the host considers its link-local address to be valid. This address will be used as the source address for all NDP messages sent on the subnet. To automatically configure its global IPv6 address, the host must know the globally routable IPv6 prefix that is used on the local subnet. IPv6 routers regularly send ICMPv6 Router Advertisement messages that indicate the IPv6 prefix assigned to each subnet. Upon reception of this message, the host can derive its global IPv6 address by concatenating its 64 bits identifier with the received prefix. It concludes the SLAC by sending a Neighbour Solicitation message targeted at its global IPv6 address to ensure that another host is not using the same IPv6 address.

Source: Olivier Bonaventure, https://s3.amazonaws.com/saylordotorg-resources/wwwresources/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Computer-Networking-Principles-Bonaventure-1-30-31-OTC1.pdf
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Last modified: Thursday, November 9, 2023, 4:57 PM