The IT sector has been put on alert as major security and network issues have been raised by the impending start of the FIFA World Cup. This year the tournament is to be more widely available via live streaming online than ever before, and analysts have said this could have an impact on office networks as employees attempt to watch games at the office, while security threats have been highlighted as an increased risk.
Although the majority of the matches are scheduled out of working hours in the Middle East, some of the earlier group games will be played while football fans are at work.
Nigel Hawthorn, Blue Coat Systems EMEA marketing vice president says: “Usually individuals are blissfully unaware of the performance implications that continuous live streaming has on the company’s internet gateway or the Wide Area Network (WAN) link that connects their branch office location to a corporate data centre or centralised internet access point.
“The added load of multiple instances of a live match stream could swamp the WAN links to branch offices, making business-critical applications and communication exceedingly slow or stop completely,” Hawthorn adds.
World Cup network protection
The obvious and most effective way to ensure a network doesn’t suffer during the World Cup is to ban the websites offering live streaming services. However, there are other ways of preventing a problem within a business due to the World Cup. “A second option would be to block the protocols used for streaming, however this may include all Real, Microsoft and Flash streams – and in doing so, block internal streams, streaming news and standard parts of web sites, interfering with work-related web information,” explains Hawthorn.
The solution which is being recommended by the Blue Coat Systems is to improve network infrastructure in order to reduce stream data, optimise stream usage and allow users to time shift matches during normal breaks in the working day. The first step to achieving this is to use bandwidth management devices at the internet egress point and set them to define one stream provider and give it high priority. This means other streams are made a low priority or blocked altogether.
“Secondly, appliances can be installed within the organisation’s network to split the streams – meaning that one stream request can be sent to multiple users simultaneously. This greatly reduces the upstream bandwidth required,” says Hawthorne. WAN optimisation appliances which support streaming data can also be deployed between offices in order to cache and optimise the protocols between them, while many of the stream splitting appliances can also cache the streams, allowing users to watch the matches later.
World Cup spam to increase by 27%
However, network threats are not the only worry to IT professionals at the time of the World Cup. As with all major events the opportunities to increase spam and virus threats increase. IT security firm Symantec has revealed that spam centred on the FIFA World Cup has risen by around 27%. Comments Symantec’s Samir Patil: “Not surprisingly, 419-scam messages stand out as major contributors and with kick-off literally around the corner, we expect all spam volumes related to the World Cup to grow.”
“We found a definite month-to-month rising trend, as shown in the graph below. Compared to the World Cup spam volume in April, the data up to May 25th shows an increase of approximately 27%,” Patil adds.
Symantec has also issued a warning to fans heading to South Africa with mobile phones that losing them during the tournament could put them at great risk of falling prey to cybercriminals. “Today’s smart phones are vulnerable to malicious activity such as phishing, scam websites and even drive-by downloads where malicious codes such as Trojans can infect the device,” reveals Candid Wuest of Symantec.