Starting a new BCOP – “How to run and protect an email server on IPv6”

After the recent series of technical Best Current Operational Practices (BCOP) documents that we initiated and co-authored, it’s time for new one. This time on how to run an incoming email server on IPv6 and survive!

Back in 2010 we started the IPv6 series of BCOP documents, starting with the popular RIPE-501 that was superseded by the even more popular RIPE-554 that discusses how to specify IPv6 functionality and compliance when ordering ICT equipment. This document emerged from listening to the Internet community that is deploying IPv6, and figuring out the common problems in order to come up with recommendations on how to solve them.

The next most common issue that we heard about, was that helpdesks of network operators would melt down if they deployed IPv6 to their end customers as they don’t know anything about IPv6. So we built an online tool and wrote some helpdesk procedures on how to troubleshoot IPv6 issues when users call them – resulting in another useful document that was published as RIPE-631.

After addressing this, we then repeatedly heard questions about what size of IPv6 prefixes should be given to end-users and should it be assigned statically or dynamically. We therefore put together a team of experienced co-authors from the Internet community (as with all BCOP documents) and after a year of hard work including incorporating all the comments and suggestions, we achieved community consensus and published this as RIPE-690 on 16 October 2017.

It’s worth noting that the same process of getting wide consensus from the Internet community was used (and will be used) for all BCOP documents.

Whilst still working on the RIPE-690 draft, we continued to listen to the Internet community to figure out where they’re still having issues with IPv6 deployment. And what we were hearing was that ways need to be figured out how to run incoming email servers on IPv6 as there are no IP reputation (black listing) mechanisms to protect from spam coming in from the Internet.

So we thought this was relevant enough to again ask for experienced volunteers from the Internet community to start documenting some best current operational practices in this area. We therefore signed up Sander Steffann, Jordi Palet Martinez, Nasser Heidari, Aaron Hughes and myself (Jan Žorž) as initial authors, and are also working in cooperation with the M3AAWG community and the Latin America & Caribbean BCOP Task Force through their co-chairs Ariel Weher and Luis Balbinot.

The call for volunteers is always open, so if you are an experienced system or network operator who’s running your email server on IPv6 and is successfully detecting and blocking spam along with other email attacks, please send an email to zorz@isoc.org to volunteer to contribute to this new BCOP document. It’ll be a lot of work before we’ll reach consensus, but this just means that the advice that we provide will be effective and useful for operational setups.

We’re just starting to put together this BCOP document, and we’re planning to publicly share it as some as there’s something substantive to review.

It’s time for another BCOP, please join us!

Jan Žorž

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Internet Society

IBM Watson Personal Assistant – answering your ‘how to’s

‘How do I control the lights?’ is my first, rage-infused question when staying in almost any hotel room. Closely followed by ‘how do I shut off the air conditioning?’ As yet, both questions have gone unanswered. Walls, alas, cannot talk, so I am left to fiddle with the plastic key thing that for some reason also operates the room’s electricity, put on an extra layer or six, and grope around in the dark.

My ineptitude in the realm of all things practical isn’t confined to hotel rooms. I’d also like to be able to schedule car maintenance as and when the bleeping thing on the dashboard lets me know something’s up. Or find out what the weather’s going to do later. Or get directions to the nearest pharmacy. I also can’t work my Dad’s TV, because there are six remote controls that do all manner of fancy things and no labels identifying the button functions.

Maybe I need a PA.

The brave new world of digital PAs

Recognizing that most people need a helping hand now and again and aren’t necessarily equipped to understand complex bits of digital kit, the connected world has brought us voice-activated personal assistants. Siri, Alexa, Cortana – all are equipped with the ability to understand speech, answer questions and respond to simple commands.

Marvellous. However. Voice-driven assistants such as these aren’t truly personal, in that they don’t proactively adapt their service to suit one specific user. As a user of things, I’m much like Miranda Priestly of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ fame. Demanding. Inconsistent. Impatient. I want a digital PA in the league of Andrea Sachs – one that gets to know me, anticipates my whims, and solves problems before I even know they exist.

A truly personal assistant

This level of truly personalized assistance is what IBM’s Watson Personal Assistant (WPA for short) aims to provide. The WPA, which was unveiled in June, learns about its users through interacting with them and creates a cognitive profile that it updates as it discovers more.

It also understands context, meaning that it can offer sensible answers to potentially vague questions. For example, if I’m a guest in a hotel and ask: ‘When’s breakfast?’ it can delve into its knowledge of the hotel’s working systems and tell me it’s available between 7 and 10. Anticipating the reasoning behind the question based on its contextual understanding, it won’t tell me that breakfast is the morning meal one consumes prior to lunch.

The Watson Personal Assistant in context

Of course, it’s not only customers that have needs. Businesses have them too. If you’re a hotel manager (for instance) you’ll have your own ‘how to’ list: ‘How do I offer my customers personalized concierge services?’ ‘How can I learn more about my customers?’ ‘What do my customers really want?’

Here too, the WPA’s got your back. Uniquely, this is the only solution that allows enterprise clients to keep and control the data collected by the WPA in the course of its daily functioning. It also integrates with existing back-end systems (so that it adapts to your way of doing things) and can be embedded into multiple products, devices or services.

Here comes the WPA 0.6

Since its unveiling in June, WPA has been going through a series of updates to refine its performance. Version 0.6 landed last week, and is currently flexing its muscles in the hotel and automotive spheres, so you might come across one when you stay at a major hotel chain, or even in your next car.

Discover more

To learn more about how the Watson Personal Assistant can help answer your ‘how to’s, head on over to our website for an overview, use case examples and demonstrations.

 

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