Internet use surged around the world during the pandemic but the traffic growth is being outstripped by a rise in malicious actors and cyber attacks, according to Akamai.

The company, whose servers deliver a large portion of the content on the internet, on Wednesday warned bad actors are being attracted to bigger honeypots and enterprises are struggling to keep up.

“We saw more or less a year’s worth of traffic growth overnight,” Akamai co-founder and CEO Dr Tom Leighton said during the company’ annual event, held virtually this week.

“We’re seeing about a doubling of traffic peaks year over year from major events, such as [over the top video] releases, gaming software releases, major news or sporting events that can drive very large amounts of traffic.”

According to Akamai, which also provides enterprises with cybersecurity services and enjoyed a 23 per cent jump in that business last quarter, an unprecedented surge in traffic is being outpaced by cyber threats because enterprises are “distracted” and the “prize” for cyber criminals is much bigger now.

Threats outstrip traffic growth

Leighton told Which-50 enterprises have had to stand u p remote workforces while also digitising their products and services, all in the midst of a pandemic, which is still out of control in parts of the US and Europe. 

Akamai Cofounder and CEO, Dr Tom Leighton. Akamai.com

“There’s vulnerabilities created when you have employees working remotely and accessing sensitive applications and data from outside the physical enterprise.”

The reliance on the internet also means the risks of losing access are greater. For attackers – that increasingly use threats of ransom of extortion – that translates to a bigger potential payday.

“The business of the company is done online with a lot of remote work today,” Leighton explained. “And if you can disrupt that you can cause more harm to the business than ever before. 

“So I think there’s multiple factors causing the increase in attacks. And that’s why the attacks have grown so much more than the traffic which, of course, has had substantial growth.”

However, enterprises have often not responded fast enough to the rising threats including a newly remote workforce, Leighton says.

“I know a lot of enterprises had to get support for remote workforce very quickly. And there wasn’t time [for them] to make it secure,” the Akamai chief said, adding some enterprises have told him a shift to remote work of the current scale would take around two years to secure.

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