Encrypted web traffic quadruples in Europe

The number of internet users encrypting their online communications has doubled in North America, and quadrupled in Latin America and Europe.

Encrypted - but fully executable - program code now possible
Encrypted - but fully executable - program code now possible

Canadian broadband management company Sandvine recently published its “Global Internet Phenomena Report” for the first half of the year, and while it largely concentrated on US moves from cable company TV distribution to internet TV streaming and the growing popularity of messaging apps like Whatsapp and Snapchat, one of the most interesting details was arguably hidden in the copy.

For the report, when compared with last year, reveals that the use of encrypted internet traffic had risen considerably over 2013.

The change was noticeable in Europe where the percentage of encrypted Internet traffic during peak hours rose from 1.47 percent to 6.10 percent over 12 months. This rise was bigger than in North America – where encrypted web traffic grew from 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent – and only marginally lower than the growth recorded in Latin America (1.8 percent to 10.4 percent).

The study indicates that this increase isn't confined to desktops, with similar patterns being seen on mobile networks.

These figures come on the back of former CIA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks on the activities of the NSA and GCHQ – with the revelations since spawning increased usage for VPN services and other anonymisers such as the Tor network. Furthermore, Google and other web service providers have turned on SSL by default and this is a key contributing factor for the growth in encryption according to Check Point UK MD Keith Bird.

"The increase is significant, although as the report says, a key contributor could be that Google and other popular web services started to use SSL by default for user communications in the wake of the revelations,” Bird told SCMagazineUK.com.

“It´s certainly made organisations and individuals more aware of protecting their communications - but how much of this is automated, and how much is users' choice, is hard to say."

Phil Cracknell, head of security and privacy services at Company 85, agreed but said that the rise was most likely a combination of factors, including a greater awareness of privacy in the aftermath of Snowden's leaks.

“Undoubtedly the recent Snowden and NSA stories have contributed to this rise, but also the increasing number of secure products (using encryption where they previously didn't), secure connections to cloud (public/private) which previously would have been enterprise connections, will have helped this percentage rise,” Cracknell told SC via emai