The state of the Internet: Faster, with more IPv6 -- and more attacks

Akamai report finds an uptick in Internet speed, IPv6 adoption, and DDoS attacks through fourth-quarter 2013

Akamai Technologies, using data aggregated from its network of servers, recently released its fourth-quarter "State of the Internet" report for 2013. The numbers show an Internet that's incrementally faster and using more IPv6 connections, yet still plagued with DDoS and other attacks.

Internet speeds grew overall during the course of 2013, with the global average connection speed at 3.8Mbps, up 5.5 percent from the previous quarter. South Korea continues to be the world broadband leader, with not only the fastest wire, but also the most connected population (94 percent). The United States hasn't done badly; for the first time since the report's inception, the United States now has a consistent 10Mbps average broadband speed -- even while more than a quarter of U.S. homes still lack any broadband connectivity at all.

With the increase in speed has also come an increase in IPv6 connectivity, particularly among educational institutions and a few key ISPs, such as Google Fiber and Verizon Wireless. It makes sense that Google Fiber is IPv6-connected by default, given the sheer newness of the network; ditto Verizon Wireless, which has a relatively rapid turnover in mobile devices and a newly deployed 4G LTE network. But IPv6 connectivity isn't close to what it ought to be, especially considering IPv4 addresses are expected to be entirely allocated by the end of the year.

Other stats gathered by Akamai include the behaviors of mobile Internet users. No surprise: Android Webkit and Apple Mobile Safari are the two leading mobile Web clients, with 35 percent and 29 percent of all mobile network traffic, respectively. But the picture's different when you take all networks, not just mobile, into account. In that tabulation, Safari leads at 47 percent and WebKit trails at 32 percent. Back in Q2, Safari commanded between 60 and 70 percent, but its downshift doesn't seem to have come with a concomitant rise in Android usage since Android's numbers were at around 30 percent during that time as well.

What is up? Network attacks, both of the conventional and DDoS variety, with China still the leading country for originating attack traffic: 43 percent, up from 35 percent compared to Q3 2013. A surprising jump in the attack stats comes by way of Canada, which hit 10 percent -- a 25-fold increase. Some of these regional shifts may be a reflection of local conditions, such as Indonesia's overall spike in cyber crime. A similar bounce happened with Indonesia in Q3, which jumped to 20 percent but has since dropped back down to 5.7 percent.

Akamai's attack statistics are intriguing both for what they do and don't reveal. The full report notes that "some of the most common methodologies that are used in DDoS attacks are simply ignored," since the Akamai Intelligent Platform screens them out pre-emptively and does not include them in any attack tallies. Only attacks that use layers 5 through 7 of the TCP stack are recorded. But tallying attacks from lower in the stack might not be as significant anymore since a lot of the worst damage is done elsewhere -- via Border Gateway Routing Protocol attacks or DNS-based DDoS attacks, for example.

Future Akamai reports will also eventually include a broader swath of data courtesy of Akamai's February acquisition of Prolexic Technologies, makers of a cloud-based security solution that provides DDoS protection. Prolexic has in the past noted the increasing use of older network protocols, like the Network Time Protocol, in DDoS attacks. That in turn hints that Akamai may have snapped up Prolexic because the company's expertise seems well suited to analyzing the types of network attacks now increasingly in vogue.

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