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January 2012 Archives

To say that Web-based security attacks are on the rise would be an understatement. Consider this: in just the past three years, we've seen an eye-popping 2,000% increase in the number of DDoS attack incidents investigated on behalf of our customers.  

And while those DDoS numbers are not currently part of Akamai's State of the Internet report (Q3 2011 edition released today at  http://www.akamai.com/stateoftheinternet/), the attack traffic that we monitor and report on provides some interesting food for thought. State of the Internet report attack data is gathered from a distributed set of agents deployed across the Internet. Based on data collected by these agents, we're able to identify the top countries from which this observed attack traffic originates, as well as the top ports targeted by these attacks.

Scaling for Any Device, Anywhere

This week I had the opportunity to address a large group of CIOs and global IT executives at the Handelsblatt Conference in Munich.  The theme of the event was "Seamless IT: anytime-anywhere-any service-any device."
I was asked to speak on the topic of Internet scalability, which is a challenge that Akamai has been addressing since our inception nearly 14 years ago.
In my presentation I argued that new risks to Internet scalability would far eclipse the traditional concern that rising demand for content delivery capacity would overwhelm network growth. Going forward, scalability will be most impacted by how companies are able to respond to the rapid adoption of cloud computing, and how well they can defend against the increasing security threats that have come with so much business - B2B and B2C - moving online.

As we begin a new year, it is worthwhile to look back at some of the events of 2011 - and project where some of the biggest challenges will lie ahead for us in 2012.  Security threats to the online world of financial services were perhaps the number one threat in 2011, and the risks will continue to build in 2012.

Akamai commissioned research by IDC Financial Insights to further understand these threats. The resulting whitepaper, titled 'New Threats Demand Innovative Responses,' exposes some of the challenges that IT departments and their business-side counterparts face in responding to these threats.  Some of the major recommendations include:

- IT security teams need to ensure that security strategies are reflective of business goals and strategic direction where the growth of the digital banking channel is concerned. This requires IT to be involved in the design and development of new products and services from the outset, particularly where newer interaction mechanisms - namely mobile and social - are involved.

- As a priority, banking IT security teams must become more knowledgeable regarding the threats posed by mobile malware. While the likelihood of attack is currently low, IDC Financial Insights believes this situation will change in 2012, as cyber criminals seek ways to exploit vulnerabilities in mobile OSs and develop more sophisticated methods by which to perform fraudulent activities.

- Banks should continue - or in some cases commence - to educate customers as to how they can identify fraudulent attempts to gain access to personal financial data (by means of phishing or smishing attacks). Historic fraud education methods have, in IDC's opinion, often been found wanting. Interactive training, where banks simulate phishing and smishing attacks to ensure customers know what signs to look out for and how to react offers a better alternative.

Best practices for DNS design and architecture

The DNS is a critical component of ISP infrastructure. It's usually described in two forms, Authoritative and Caching.

The sun has set on another CES show filled with new gadgets, celebrity appearances, endless cab lines, partially-functional voice and data services, and back-to-back meetings. After meeting with many connected device companies, content owners, press and analysts, a few themes seemed to stand out.

The first big theme is that hyperconnectivity has become completely pervasive. Every imaginable device can be connected to the Internet to provide additional services. Phones, tablets, TVs and game consoles have typically been the big talk, with innovation focused around thinner, lighter weight devices, faster processing and memory, and greater storage on the device. However, the pervasiveness of this trend toward Internet-connected devices emerged in Las Vegas. In particular, it's interesting that many businesses in the automotive industry made major announcements at CES instead of the North American International Auto Show, which was taking place at the same time. It was also interesting to see all the growth in connected devices across health, fitness, home automation and control, home security and more. A great example of innovation is a company called Nest, that has reinvented something as simple as a thermostat to become a smart device by leveraging learning capabilities with Internet-supported functionality to make better decisions about controlling temperature, providing real value and energy cost savings to consumers. However, more devices from different businesses and industries becoming connected has created a major challenge.

January 2012 marks the fourth year that Akamai has tracked greenhouse gas emissions (carbon footprint) associated with our business operations.  Over this time we have found monitoring and controlling our carbon footprint to be a valuable business management practice.  

Akamai's business operations include running our global server platform, office operations, and employee travel and commuting.  Like most companies and industries, Akamai's carbon footprint closely reflects our energy consumption and operational costs.     

Tracking our carbon footprint is an element of what we do as part of our sustainability program, and is seemingly tangential to our core business of making the Internet faster for our customers.  But in doing so we are able to understand how and why we use the energy we use, focus on big payback targets.  This very process helps us think of ways to do things more efficiently - innovate!  

Historically, energy had been a minor component of our operational costs so hadn't been prominent on anyone's radar.  However, energy prices have been on the rise while other aspects of our operational costs such as bandwidth have been falling. Thanks to carbon footprint management, we now have the data to analyze usage trends and look at the cost implications.  We can more easily evaluate our assumptions and identify opportunities both to improve operational efficiency and to lower costs.

Advantage DNS

The DNS has played an essential role since the earliest days of the Internet, resolving an IP address when given a domain name. Now it's being considered for security applications. There are many fundamental reasons why it makes sense:

Las Vegas is a Zoo!

Twitter and the blogosphere are buzzing about CES 2012. As the sun set the night before the show officially started, there was already a lot to think about. The cab lines at the airport weren't nearly as long as in years past, cell coverage seems to be working still (it was non existent last year at this time) and kangaroo's are the latest press conference gimmick. Should be a fun week ahead!

A few themes emerged already as major consumer electronic companies held press conferences and set the stage for their 2012 digital strategies. Stay tuned for more insights from the show floor this week.

Broader Device Reach
Lots of new tablets and smartphones were unveiled yesterday including those from Lenovo, AT&T and Samsung. Sony said it will bring more than 200 connected devices to market in the next three years alone! Also, a great article in Venture Beat takes a look at the new digital strategy by one of Akamai's leading customers - Fox News - to address the growing landscape of Internet-connected devices.

"The starting point for all [these changes] is there are more devices, more connectivity," Fox New and Business' vice president of digital, Jeff Misenti, told Venture Beat. Fox is introducing a slew of new ways for its audience to interact with news anchors, articles, video content, live streaming, and even the front page of Fox News' website itself. The emphasis, however, is on the recently adopted term "TV Everywhere." A number of media outlets are taking to TV Everywhere as a way to deliver content to a number of different devices and to do that as seamlessly as possible. But syncing your customers' viewing experience across a variety of screens is a challenge. One of Fox's first major moves Fox on this front is a partnership with Akamai to create a cross-device authentication system that allows Fox customers to prove they have Fox News accounts. From there, they can access saved and new content on any authorized device.

The Power of the Control Plane

Today's hackers are all about money, they constantly change the face of their exploits to maximize their returns.  These agile attacks require agile defenses.  Moving security protections into the network is essential to enabling more reliable updates of threat information; aggregation also provides significant scaling and manageability benefits.  DNS-based security protections improve agility because DNS queries are a leading indicator of security exposure; from a strategic vantage point, the DNS participates in web transactions that provide visibility into the presence of security threats.

Today's hyperconnected world is radically changing the business of media and entertainment. Cloud computing, ubiquitous connectivity, and the increasing consumption of IP video are driving content providers to move more content to the cloud and users to expect easy access across multiple devices. Technology advancements and rapid consumer adoption have created an environment where delivering a secure, high-performing consumer experience on any device is critical. This new environment brings enormous benefits and opportunities, but also real challenges.

Industry predictions indicate that by 2015, 90 percent of video will be online and the ratio of devices per Internet user will be five to one. As a result, the entertainment industry faces increasing complexities around entitlement, access, monetization, quality and security.

Today at CES, Akamai unveiled three new products to address emerging business and consumer needs in the online entertainment industry in the areas of security, delivery and as well as support for emerging business models. Building on its Intelligent Platform, Akamai is enhancing its next-generation broadcast solution - the Akamai HD Network - offering advanced monetization capabilities, business model flexibility and simplified workflow to reach a growing device landscape.

Premium entertainment content is a perfect fit for the cloud as the proliferation of connected devices makes on the go entertainment experiences today a reality. By solving the challenges of this dynamic landscape, Akamai continues to take complexity out of the equation and allow our customers to focus on their core business strategies.

More information about today's announcement can be found at these links:
Press Release: http://www.akamai.com/html/about/press_news.html
Akamai SecureHD Whitepaper: http://www.akamai.com/html/solutions/hdnetwork.html
Akamai for UltraViolet microsite: http://www.akamai.com/ultraviolet

Jennifer Donovan is a Senior Manager of Public Relations at Akamai

It seems that this holiday season was a highly-connected holiday based on initial numbers coming in from multiple sources.  According to Flurry Analytics, about 6.8 million tablets and smartphones using Apple iOS or Google Android were activated on Christmas Day, which is more than double the 2.8 million devices activated last Christmas Day. In addition, about a quarter of a billion apps were downloaded on Christmas Day at Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market, up from 85 million last Christmas. Forrester Research estimated Apple sold another 8 million iPads in the United States this quarter and Amazon sold 5 million Kindle Fires. Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii have also sold millions of more units in the fourth quarter, with nearly 1 million Xbox 360 consoles being sold Black Friday week. These are just a few examples of the data points showing how much more connected we are becoming as a society, and reinforces the point that a great user experience goes beyond the initial sale to the content and apps the device will interface with.