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This year's games are likely to cause issues for corporate networks as people stream Rio coverage

August 4, 2016

By Nate Bowen



Think your computer network isn’t at risk? Consider the type of content tempting your coworkers this summer.

Download free bracket software for your office betting pool for the upcoming games

Browse a photo essay about the chaos leading up to the Rio games

Stream today’s live events and medal ceremonies

Do you trust your users to factor in network security and bandwidth use when excitement beckons during the games? Didn’t think so. This year Rio is creating the kind of buzz that ensures employees will want access to news and events throughout the workday, using your organization’s devices and network.

What do other IT pros think will happen to networks during the games?

Apparently, not much! But, given a special combination of events for this year’s games, it’s likely they just haven’t thought it through. As the world prepares to watch athletes from 205 nations compete for positions on 306 podiums around Rio de Janeiro, our survey shows that IT departments—while quite aware of the increased traffic, use of bandwidth and security risks involved—are more or less content to monitor current network security protocols instead of proactively addressing potential threats.

Seventy-two percent of IT pros we surveyed expect a spike in internet use due to the games. While 79 percent believe the company’s IT network will be at greater risk, only a mere 16 percent plan to issue any official guidelines or warnings specifically related to the games this summer. 

What makes the games such a network bandwidth nightmare?

A few details upfront:

  • This is the first time South America has hosted the games… ever!
  • It’s the first time in six years any games are taking place in a Western hemisphere time zone—meaning most of the excitement takes place during normal work hours
  • The games garner more attention than their winter counterpart, with viewership expected to reach an estimated 20 million per day
  • These are the first summertime games in our time zone since the 1996 Atlanta games, when the World Wide Web was still in its infancy

All those ingredients add up to a massive increase in web traffic. And we haven’t even talked about the special sauce spicing up the story: Rio itself!

Why does Rio make the IT network nightmares worse?

Regardless of where the games are held, every host nation inevitably comes under intense scrutiny. There’s the staggering amount of preparation and money involved, the construction of stadiums and event sites, and the reputation of the host country. Those factors alone are enough to keep a nation in the media crosshairs, but Brazil has drawn extra interest.

The alarming rise of the Zika virus has caused some athletes to withdraw from the games altogether, like Jason Day, the world’s No. 1 golfer. The country has come under scrutiny for its financing of the games amid the well-reported economic troubles it faces. Then there are the reports of athletes being robbed and kidnapped, super-bacteria found in open water and the crumbling, unfinished and unlivable dorms.

All these events are hurtling an audience of millions toward the largest global sporting event of the year, and IT departments seem comfortable being spectators as well.

Overloaded corporate computer networks tempt hackers

Nearly 50 percent of companies surveyed aren’t installing additional blockers, filters, firewalls or taking other preventive measures to protect their networks. And almost 4 in 10 aren’t even tracking streaming associated with a specific source, like the games. Experts say hacking collectives are keenly aware of the increased internet use associated with large events like this, and will take full advantage of the kind of target-rich environment that the spike in activity will provide. We’ll have to see what happens once the torch is lit in Maracanã Stadium, whether a watching world will be online—and who will be watching them. 

Related reading

Infographic: Are you ready for the Internet of Things? 

Nate Bowen heads up public relations for TEKsystems. He’s constantly looking at the shifting tech landscape and how people’s relationship to technology changes with it. He can be reached at nabowen@teksystems.com

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