In the first blog of this series, I discussed some of the insights into Internet growth from our 2017 network data. In this blog, we look at another pervasive trend from 2017 – security.
Tipping point for security
As people and businesses become increasingly reliant on different Internet-enabled applications, it is reassuring to see that there is greater focus in keeping the Internet secure. For the first time in 2017, traffic using the SSL security protocol (usually rendered as HTTPS, which is HTTP traffic with a Secure Socket Layer) accounted for more traffic on our network than the unencrypted protocol HTTP, with 34.9% is HTTP traffic and 39.7% is SSL traffic.
The HTTP protocol, developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his team at CERN in the late 1980s, defines how messages are formatted and transmitted and is the foundation of the World Wide Web. Over the years, especially as users have shared more and more personal information over the Internet, hacking and cybercrime have increased in parallel. And, when messages are sent over HTTP, third parties on the same network are sometimes able to read the message. HTTPS traffic, however, is encrypted, and now the de-facto protocol for the Web.
The rise of HTTPS can be explained by growing security consciousness amongst both Internet users and service providers. Even simple Google searches are now encrypted, and the decision by Internet giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Netflix means that the days of HTTP are numbered.
I therefore expect there to be little or no HTTP traffic at all on our network by 2020.
The Internet under attack
While users become more security conscious, cyber-attacks such as DDoS are becoming more common too. DDoS attacks rely on an army of devices hijacked by cyber criminals, which bombards a weakness in a network – often a website. Those infected devices are turned into botnets, which add network traffic to the attack, flooding the target to the point where it brings the network to a standstill. These attacks often carried out to extort ransoms but are also sometimes politically-motivated or simply malicious.
We observed three particularly large ‘events’ on our network during 2017 that were most likely DDoS attacks, whereby huge volumes of inbound traffic flooded in. Before the traffic managed to gather any momentum, however, our DDoS scrubbing farms on our network spotted it and cleaned it, protecting the intended recipients.
As the number of connected devices increases with the rise of the Internet of Things in the coming years, I’m certain that we will see more DDoS attacks, and the sophistication and scale of DDoS attacks is sure to present new challenges too.
The always-connected world
In a way, the data trends from our network confirm something we already know: the Internet, in all its forms, is becoming more deeply embedded in everything we do – at home, at work and in society as a whole.
The overall growth of Internet traffic highlights how different connected technologies are making our lives inordinately better. Music and films are delivered conveniently where, when and how we want. Keeping in touch and sharing experiences and information with friends, family and colleagues, near or far, has never been easier. The Internet has paved the way for a whole new digital economy, including new business models demonstrated by successes such as Airbnb and Deliveroo.
Yet, the pervasiveness of the Internet comes with a warning too, due to the continued rise of increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. It is therefore crucial that we don’t become complacent – we must continue to innovate to safeguard the always-connected world, so that the truly transformational, positive impact of the Internet will continue to be felt by people and businesses the world over.
Read one of our previous blogs on smart city solutions.