NEWS UPDATE: The impact of COVID-19 on public networks and security

As the coronavirus spreads, public and private companies as well as government entities are requiring employees to work from home, putting unforeseen strain on all manner of networking technologies and causing bandwidth and security concerns.  What follows is a round-up of news and traffic updates that Network World will update as needed to help keep up with the ever-changing situation.  Check back frequently!

UPDATE: 3.26

  • Week over week (ending March 23) Ookla says it has started to see a degradation of mobile and fixed-broadband performance worldwide. More detail on specific locations is available below. Comparing the week of March 16 to the week of March 9, mean download speed over mobile and fixed broadband decreased in Canada and the U.S. while both remained relatively flat in Mexico.
  • What is the impact of the coronavirus on corporate network planning? Depends on how long the work-from-home mandate goes on really. Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. takes an interesting look at the situation saying the shutdown “could eventually produce a major uptick for SD-WAN services, particularly in [managed service provider]    Businesses would be much more likely to embark on an SD-WAN VPN adventure that didn’t involve purchase/licensing, favoring a service approach in general, and in particular one with a fairly short contract period.”
  • Statistics from VPN provider NordVPN show the growth of VPN usage across the globe.  For example, the company said the US has experienced a 65.93% growth in the use of business VPNs since March 11. It reported that mass remote working has contributed towards a rise in desktop (94.09%) and mobile app (0.39%) usage among Americans. Globally, NordVPN teams has seen a 165% spike in the use of business VPNs and business VPN usage in Netherlands (240.49%), Canada (206.29%) and Austria (207.86%) has skyrocketed beyond 200%. Italy has had the most modest growth in business VPN usage at just 10.57%.

UPDATE: 3. 25:

  • According to Atlas VPN user data, VPN usage in the US increased by 124% during the last two weeks. VPN usage in the country increased by 71% between March 16 and 22 alone. Atlas said it measured how much traffic traveled through its servers during that period compared to March 9 to 15. The data came from the company’s 53,000 weekly users.
  • Verizon reports that voice usage, long declining in the age of texting, chat and social media, is up 25% in the last week. The network report shows the primary driver is accessing conference calls. In addition, people are talking longer on mobile devices with wireless voice usage notching a 10% increase and calls lasting 15% longer. 
  • AT&T also reported increased calling, especially Wi-Fi calling, up 88% on March 22 versus a normal Sunday. It says that consumer home voice calls were up 74% more than an average Sunday; traffic from Netflix dipped after all-time highs on Friday and Saturday; and data traffic due to heavy video streaming between its network and peered networks tied record highs. AT&T said it has deployed portable cell nodes to bolster coverage supporting FirstNet customers in Indiana, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and New York.
  • Microsoft this week advised users of Office 365 it was throttling back some services:
    • OneNote:  OneNote in Teams will be read-only for commercial tenants, excluding EDU. Users can go to OneNote for the web for editing. Download size and sync frequency of file attachments has been changed. You can find details on these and other OneNote related updates as http://aka.ms/notesupdates.
    • SharePoint: We are rescheduling specific backend operations to regional evening and weekend business hours. Impacted capabilities include migration, DLP and delays in file management after uploading a new file, video or image. Reduced video resolution for playback videos.
    • Stream: People timeline has been disabled for newly uploaded videos. Pre-existing videos will not be impacted. Meeting recording video resolution adjusted to 720p.

RELATED COVID-19 NEWS:

  • Security vendor Check Point’s Threat Intelligence says that Since January 2020, there have been over 4,000 coronavirus-related domains registered globally. Out of these websites, 3% were found to be malicious and an additional 5% are suspicious. Coronavirus- related domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains registered at the same period, and also higher than recent seasonal themes such as Valentine’s day.
  • Orange an IT and communications services company aid that has increased its network capacity and upgraded its service platforms. These measures allow it to support the ongoing exponential increase in needs and uses. The number of users connecting to their company’s network remotely has already increased by 700% among its customers. It has also doubled the capacity for simultaneous connections on its platforms. The use of remote collaboration solutions such as video conferencing has also risen massively with usage increasing by between 20% to 100%.
  • Verizon said it has seen a 34% increase in VPN traffic from March 10 to 17. It has also seen a 75% increase in gaming traffic and web traffic increased by just under 20% in that time period according to Verizon.
  • One week after the CDC declaration of the virus as a pandemic, data analytics and broadband vendor OpenVault wrote on March 19 that:
    • Subscribers’ average usage during the 9 am-to-5 pm daypart has risen to 6.3 GB, 41.4% higher than the January figure of 4.4 GB. 
    • During the same period, peak hours (6 pm–11 pm) usage has risen 17.2% from 5.0 GB per subscriber in January to 5.87 GB in March. 
    • Overall daily usage has grown from 12.19 GB to 15.46 GB, an increase of 26.8%.
    • Based on the current rate of growth, OpenVault projected that consumption for March will reach nearly 400 GB per subscriber, an increase of almost 11% over the previous monthly record of 361 GB, established in January of this year. In addition, OpenVault projects a new coronavirus-influenced run rate of 460 GB per subscriber per month going forward.
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