As the World Cup comes to an end we ask what technology lessons have been learned?

At the end of a month of football and 64 games we now find office conversation returning to work and bandwidth returning to normal.

With the World Cup in the hands of Spain and the men's Wimbledon title in the hands of fellow countryman Rafael Nadal, this has been arguably the most demanding summer ever when it comes to providing bandwidth for employee demands to watch the sporting events.

At the start of the tournament I considered the likelihood of this being the first ‘techno-friendly' World Cup, particularly considering in the 2006 tournament the likes of Twitter and Facebook existed but were barely used and blogging was for the enthusiasts. At the end of this tournament, national press have used the Tweets of pundits and fans for content, while iPhone applications guided fans through the calendar of matches.

From a security perspective, we predicted that malware would be present throughout and we were not let down, with constant detections of suspicious downloads. Symantec's July state of spam and phishing report revealed that the volume of messages with World Cup keywords in the subject line is more than nine times higher during this tournament compared to that of 2006.

It also detected a 'substantial' increase in gaming sites and betting brands that have been ‘spoofed' to capitalise on the popularity of the World Cup. These included fraudulent gaming sites providing fake FIFA offers, while phishing websites spoofed Google's social networking site Orkut to take advantage of the celebration of special occasions.

Steve Owen, director of information security at Interoute, noted that the number of attacks directly targeted at Spain and the Netherlands at the end of Sunday after the final ‘rose in tandem with World Cup fever'.

He said: “From Friday, Spain took the top spot as the most attacked country – becoming the most targeted country in Europe for vulnerability and denial-of-service attacks - registering a massive 65,750 attacks over the 48 hours.  However, Sunday saw the number of attacks directed straight at Spain increase by an impressive 96.2 per cent during the match alone – peaking at 112,288.

“The Netherlands also experienced a 273 per cent increase in the number of attacks during the match, but even this was not enough to claim second place.

“By Monday morning, as World Cup fever started to calm down, the number of attacks fell with it. Attacks on Spain fell by more than 50 per cent, whilst attacks levelled at the Netherlands fell by more than three-quarters.”

Also at the start of the tournament we considered the other factor of this being a ‘techno-friendly' World Cup, with employees taking a chance to watch the games played during the day while at work. Following the annual Wimbledon championship and events such as the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009, IT departments were probably braced for the worst when it came to demands for streaming coverage of the matches.

Ipswitch found that global bandwidth use increased by over a third during the World Cup, with the increase in the UK seeing an actual increase of 43 per cent to 95 per cent. On average in participating World Cup nations bandwidth use hit 81 per cent.

Ennio Carboni, president of Ipswitch's Network Management Division, said: “Network managers have been telling us just how much of an impact the World Cup has had on bandwidth use. Over two million people turned to web-based streaming services from ITV in the UK, taking the corporate network perilously close to falling over.

“We believe in John Chambers of Cisco's vision that video represents the next phase of ubiquitous communication among corproations. While social in nature, the World Cup experience highlights the stresses video has on network infrastructure and the tasks facing network administrators today. Your business depends on your network for successful operation. Users making use of video streaming services can put a considerable strain on companies' networks, resulting in bandwidth chokes and even outages, in addition to exposing them to security threats.”

Andy King, area director UK and northern Europe at LANDesk, claimed at the start of the tournament that this was the time to start seriously considering changing the employee user policy.

Speaking to SC Magazine this week on whether a change on policy was likely to happen, King admitted that he was seeing people putting in place enough bandwidth to get a sight of the type of user and what they were seeing.

Calling this a 'soft request', King said: “We saw organisations where they provide a session, but they will make an example of someone and send them an email asking them about their activity. There is more concern because there are widgets and applications that you can download. I know of someone who is a tennis fan and downloaded a tennis application called 'Slamtracker', I asked was it tested or controlled at all? You need to check with IT first.

“Controls are the same with policy. If you allow an iPhone to be connected into a computer it is just for charging but block everything else out.”

Asked if it is a question of there not being enough bandwidth, King said: “No, as most companies have enough bandwidth to cope, but you do not want to stop work. But in an internet world, you expect the internet to work.

“People are prepared for now but the challenge is of how to prepare for something you do not know about. You do not know what happens next but you can prepare for the worst.”

In a blog post Chris Merritt, director of solution marketing at Lumension, claimed that there were ‘six IT security lessons learned from the World Cup', and likened IT security to playing football in the dark - where the lights only come on when the opposition scores a goal. He said: “The outside world may only see those goals, but we know how hard we worked, and will continue to work, to prevent them. By taking some lessons from seemingly unlikely sources, perhaps we can stretch that interval between lights-on.”

His list of six key points included: expect the unexpected as it is really a matter of when, not if, things go wrong so have a response plan in place, with defined actions and responsibilities and test it before you need it; do not just hope for the best as he still hears about people relying on obfuscation to protect sensitive information, or not taking even the simplest steps to patch the OS and apps on their machines.

He also recommended using technology to put some teeth into your security policy; to play defensively ‘when the opposition is on the attack'; realise that you are up against the whole world, as that is where your adversaries are and they are motivated to get what you have; and finally keep working it as you develop and implement your IT security plan, you need to prioritise and get some quick wins.

The past four weeks have been a learning process for so many people on so many levels, taking this education and using it in regular environments is the next stage.

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