World Cup 'a drain on bandwidth,' study says

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Organizations face a potential drain on bandwidth and employee productivity when streaming online coverage of the FIFA World Cup becomes available in two week's time, according to a recent poll.

According to 266 IT managers who participated in the May survey, commissioned by St. Bernard Software, 85 percent of organizations do not plan to block workers' internet access to sites running World Cup footage, news and discussions.

The most popular sporting event in the world will be a main attraction for a global fan base of millions, who will likely rely on the internet for coverage and match updates. The final game will garner an international television audience larger than the Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Finals combined.

The convenience and availability of online coverage to the World Cup will likely influence employee behavior on the internet. During the last tournament in 2002, research firm ComScore Media Metrix reported a significant rise in online traffic to sporting news. Yahoo Sports rose 83 percent, reaching 9.2 million visitors for the month, and CNNSI's traffic increased to 5.9 million, an increase of 39 percent.

In March 2006, Nielsen/NetRatings reported that CBS Sportsline.com Network sites' daily traffic increased by 21 percent on the first day of March Madness, the NCAA men's college basketball tournament. In addition, more people visited sports sites at work than at home, with at-work traffic to NCAA sites attracting nearly 5.9 million unique visitors, versus 4.8 million unique visitors at home.

"With the recent success of streaming March Madness online, an increasing number of sporting event viewers are switching from TV to the internet while at work," said Steve Yin, vice president of sales and marketing at St. Bernard Software. "Still, a large number of organizations will not block access to FIFA World Cup. Since this event draws such a massive global audience, organizations should take the necessary steps to reduce any potential negative impact on their bottom line by managing online access during business hours."

Other experts warned companies to be on the lookout for criminals seeking to use the World Cup as an opportunity to commit cybercrime. Mark Murtagh, Technical Services Director for Websense said there was already evidence of the tournament being used as a vehicle for online fraudsters to plant malicious code onto seemingly innocent websites.

“Social engineering techniques, through spam and phishing scams, mean that even the most internet-savvy could download malicious code without knowing so businesses need to be prepared,” said Murtagh. “Companies should promote safe surfing throughout the year and have the relevant security systems in place to back this up.”

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