World Cup fans embrace in-match WiFi, but in-stadium services a security target

Usage statistics confirm that sports fans love connecting to public WiFi services for use during sports matches, with the large numbers of users and masses of data being transferred during World Cup matches confirming the need not to be tricked into connecting into a rogue access point at the event.

Public WiFi hotspot provider Ruckus Wireless worked with Brazilian integrator Comba Telecom Systems to install 709 Ruckus ZoneFlex wireless access points across four Brazilian stadiums containing some 241,033 seats in total.

Around 30 per cent of the attendees – equivalent to over 72,000 engaged sports fans – connected to the in-stadium WiFi services during the match, with 5.6 terabytes transferred across the WiFi network during the course of the event.

Usage increased with the popularity of the match: while the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador recorded some 63,000 sessions from 4659 unique users and 45 GB of daily traffic, the grand-final match at Maracaña in Rio de Janeiro was a different matter entirely.

During that match, some 30,000 of the 76,000 people in attendance logged onto the WiFi, with 11,400 simultaneous users and 770Mbps peak throughput at peak load. Some 580GB of data were transferred during that match alone.

With economies of scale potentially playing havoc with network performance, the need to lock down public and private access environments has become increasingly important in providing WiFi in stadium and other large-volume public environments.

The IT team at Melbourne and Olympic Park, for one, makes heavy use of virtual LANs (VLANs) to segregate traffic from different exhibitors or touring acts that are using its facilities. Careful load balancing ensures bandwidth is available to those who need it most, while next-generation firewalls from Palo Alto Networks scour the large volumes of data that the park's facilities for signs of malicious code.

Adelaide firm Uniti Wireless has been making a play into the same market, notching up strong numbers during deployments at Melbourne's AAMI Park and elsewhere.

Yet for all their popularity, such deployments – whether at the World Cup or the Bledisloe Cup – have historically attracted unwanted attention as well.

“We've had people with malicious devices pinging our gateway millions of times a second to bring it down,” says Uniti Wireless co-founder Che Metcalfe, who says the use of carefully-managed gateways prevents usage for bandwidth-devouring applications like BitTorrent and Dropbox, as well as countering misuse of the in-stadium services.

“People love to hack wireless networks,” he says. “It's a pastime for people. I don't know why they do it, but they get a thrill out of it.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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