It was a case of one wedding and a funeral. In the space of three days two major events trended across its servers - the Royal Wedding and the death of Osama - both of which dramatically illustrate how the Internet has become both best friend and feared foe.
As we reported last week, the UK’s Royal Wedding event broke Akamai’s traffic record of 1.6 million concurrent streaming connections while YouTube hosted possibly the largest single event in its history thanks to a special deal with the Palace to have cameras inside Westminster Abbey.
With six times its normal traffic, we also know why the BBC’s iPlayer app became overloaded. According to Sandvine, Twitter was up 30 percent on normal while even Facebook managed an extra 10 percent. Internet video traffic was up by a quarter compared to an average day, the company added, despite Google actually ending up 10 percent down on normal.
But the real traffic event came only hours later with the news of the death fugitive Osama Bin Laden, which set off an extraordinary tidal wave of spam, bogus video links, poisoned search engine returns, and social media scams, mostly based on luring rubberneckers to photos of his body.
The sheer scale and speed of the flood makes it likely that these scams were more effective at finding victims than any previous news-based campaign, which is a warning on its own. If so, evidence of this will become apparent in the weeks and months ahead as botnets and malware infections swell unexpectedly.
The connection between the two events is that the same expensive infrastructure and Web 2.0 technologies that allowed millions to peer at the Royal wedding from afar allowed criminals to exploit the death of the world’s most wanted man.
Google in particular needs to look at itself long and hard. Its Royal Wedding Channel was an Internet coup that marks its maturing position as a global system for serious media events. Then, as Osama’s death hit the top of its search board, it looked powerless to stop the news being exploited at will by malware-peddlers.
Good, bad, indifferent or downright terrifying, the Internet makes no distinctions.
The Internet is getting bigger, more important, but also nastier.
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