Mobile Security Lessons IT Can Learn from FIFA's World Cup

Posted on June 17, 2014

Football' not the American-style game played with a pointed ball by men in helmets and pads, but the global game played with a round ball by men in shorts -- is suddenly a hot topic in U.S. IT circles.

The FIFA World Cup is here. 32 teams, 66 games, 99 hours of competition spread over 27 days, and a global audience of tens of millions flooding network bandwidth for live streaming video of every second of it. How much Internet traffic? Over 4.3 exabytes, according to an estimate from Cisco.

To put that in perspective, it's more than the total traffic of 94 million smart phones or 5.5 billion people watching YouTube videos at once. The first question IT has to consider this month is whether or not company networks are ready for the challenge of employees streaming World Cup action.

A small business with a bandwidth limit of 5Mbps will be overwhelmed if just nine people log-in to stream video at 600kbps (the speed ESPN is using for the World Cup). At 10 Mbps, the top limit is 17 users. To find out the number of simultaneous video streams needed to ruin your network's speed, take the total available bandwidth in Mbps, multiply by 1024, and divide the result by 600.

Can your network handle the World Cup traffic likely in your office? If not, you may be faced with more than just soccer fans disgruntled by downtime during a game, but also lost business and sales.

Planning ahead for World Cup bandwidth needs has become par for the course in many countries, but until the U.S. won its match against Ghana this week, only a few U.S. businesses took steps to educate employees on the impact streaming has on the network, create rules that limit online activity to browsing (not streaming) or creating a communal space for watching matches instead of allowing individual users to watch matches on their own devices.

With the U.S. in the series for more than a single game, bandwidth needs are just one of the concerns American IT needs to address quickly to avoid the business equivalent of a costly red card penalty that endangers company data and brings work to a halt.

Security Concerns

Major sports events are big business for hackers and cyber-attacks. As things heat up on the pitch, fans browse the web for updates and live streaming video. It takes just 22 hours to exploit a news event for malware distribution if hackers have no advance warning and they have had four years to plan their World cup attacks. So It's critical to protect your business with current anti-malware technology such as gateways that detect and filter out malware in real-time.

The World Cup is also a good time to remind employees about company Internet usage policy, verify that all devices connecting to the company network have current security updates installed, and consider blocking suspect websites. It's an even better time to remind them of the dangers posed by unsecured mobile apps and search engine searches that send them off to dangerous sites that promise free World Cup video but deliver malware instead. with names that are close to the URL they wanted.

Lost Wage Costs

According to the Labor Department, the average US office professional earns an hourly wage of $24.31. So if 20 employees watch a World Cup match during office hours, that's $486.20 per hour in lost wages.

That's one reason why software that limits bandwidth usage, or blocks streaming video, is suddenly a top seller. Fully 34% of IT managers told web monitoring company GFI that they were monitoring or limiting bandwidth usage during the World Cup.

That's why it's critical to enforce the rules and to create only rules that are enforceable. FIFA tried to ban players from taking off their shirts to celebrate goals, setting off a creative backlash that had players wearing superhero costumes under their uniforms, or adding anti-FIFA slogans to their undershirts.

IT has pretty much already learned this lesson -- it's how BYOD came to be. But there are still some things -- like mobile printing -- that IT often overlooks, leaving the "players" to come up with their own creative solutions. If your company doesn't yet have a secure mobile printing solution, check out the proven solutions from Breezy.

The Mobile Device Paradox

This year, mobile devices are creating a paradox of their own. IT departments know that planning ahead is the key to avoiding problems. Brazil, this year's host country, started planning for the 2014 FIFA World Cup more than eight years before the event. In business, IT doesn't have that kind of time -- but reacting to situations at the last minute is costly and complicated, and the results are seldom as good as a well-planned and executed deployment.

But even two years ago the number of mobile devices connecting to company resources was only a fraction of the number accessing them today and employees who are barred from watching World Cup matches on company desktops may feel no guilt at all by using their own smartphone or tablet to do the same.

Communicate With Everyone

FIFA runs hotlines, training sessions for local police, training sessions for fan clubs and travel agencies, and publishes a constant string of updates via social media and the Web to keep people up to date and aware of the organizations plans and any changes, threats, or problems that arise. The Wall Street Journal's World Cup blog says that when IT is proactive about warning users about security threats, and takes the time to regularly train workers about network security, compliance with company policies rises dramatically.

The Journal also reports that over 70 billion tweets have been posted since Sunday about the World Cup, making this a good time to review company policies on social media usage as well as streaming video and bandwidth usage.

The next Team USA match is on a Sunday evening when it should have little impact on business users (5 p.m. on Sunday, June 22 against Portugal), but the one after that is set to take place during business hours (USA vs. Germany at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 26). It isn't always easy to figure out which employees are World Cup fans, so communicating policies and procedures company-wide is critical to avoid problems.

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