Akamai CEO Touts Traffic Growth on its Platform, Warns of Increased Cybersecurity Risks


Akamai saw global traffic on its platform grow 30% over the past month as Internet usage soared around the world amid the coronavirus crisis, according to Akamai CEO and co-founder Tom Leighton.

Worldwide Akamai traffic typically enjoys an average of only about 3% growth in a typical month, he said April 7 during the company’s online Edge Live Virtual Summit 2020, underscoring just how significant March growth was.

Meanwhile, Akamai traffic growth in the four countries that were locked down early (China, Italy, Japan and South Korea) “jumped by 30% more than the traffic was growing in the rest of the world,” he pointed out.

Peak traffic on Akamai’s Edge platform doubled in March from a year earlier, soaring to 167 Tbps from 82 Tbps, he also said.

Although there is concern about the Internet being under tremendous strain now, experts expect it can cope, at least for now, according to Akamai, whose Edge platform is helping avoid an Internet meltdown, Leighton said.

Thanks to improvements the company has made to its platform, Akamai’s performance has improved year over year, he went on to say, noting U.S. web page load times have grown 14% on desktops and 19% on mobile devices, while global page load times have increased 9% on desktops and 11% on mobile.

The pandemic is “changing pretty much everything” for citizens around the world, many of whom are now sheltering in place at their homes, he noted. With businesses also impacted globally, “now we’re headed into a global recession or worse,” he said.

“I guess the good news is the Internet is here to make our lives be a lot more manageable through this crisis,” he told viewers, noting many people are working remotely and using teleconferencing services and, although we don’t have any live concerts and sports events we can attend now, “there’s a lot of virtual events taking place online.” We don’t have movie theaters to go to, but many people are streaming movies, as well as banking, playing games and shopping online, he pointed out.

“Pretty much everything is being done online today,” he said. Although none of those use cases he cited are new, “suddenly they’re operating at a much larger scale and now they’re really critical,” he noted.

Also critical today is online security, he said, noting that has become “even more important today than it was before.”

After all, hackers and other bad actors are taking advantage of the global crisis. “We’re all working at home now and adjusting to that is, you know, a big adjustment for a lot of us,” Leighton said. However, he was quick to add: “The bad news is that the bad guys out there, they’ve been working remotely for years, so it’s not a big adjustment for them.”

Those bad guys “know that you’re vulnerable right now – they know you have got a lot on your minds and they’re taking advantage of it,” he said, pointing to data showing cyberattack growth has jumped across many Akamai customers across multiple vertical sectors in recent months.

Those bad guys are even “hiding behind the resources that you need to be using and embedding malware in those resources,” he said, pointing out coronavirus trackers are being used that, if clicked on, will place malware on your devices.

“We’re up against really powerful adversaries,” he said, noting today’s expanded threat landscape includes political “hacktivism,” terrorist organizations, major nation states and organized crime, he also said.

It has also become extremely hard for companies to defend themselves today because “there’s just so many ways to be attacked and all you need is one hole in your defenses and the bad guys are going to find a way in,” he said, pointing to the “massive armies” they have to exploit enterprise vulnerabilities, while using systems that include bots, sophisticated phishing attacks and third-party content. Apps and websites today are relying heavily on third parties, he told viewers, noting 61% of desktop and 68% of mobile content from third parties.

As a result of all those factors, companies need a multi-prong defense system that cover at least four areas, including distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, app security/bot management, zero trust enterprise security, and page integrity. Akamai’s Kona Site Defender, in particular, “helps a lot with denial of service prevention,” he told viewers, noting the company offers other security products that can also help.

“What crazy times we’re in at the moment,” Graeme Beardsell, VP and managing director of Asia Pacific & Japan at Akamai, also said during the event, noting his region was the first to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although many industries have been hurt significantly by the crisis, Akamai has “seen a considerable uptick in our media business, where customers who have more time at home [are] using high-resolution video to entertain themselves or to extend their work environment,” he said.