How COVID-19 affects internet traffic and what content is accessed

This guest blog was written by Jocelyn Woolbright of Cloudflare.


As the COVID-19 emergency continues to affect countries and territories around the world, the Internet has been a key factor in providing information to the public. From healthcare, to academia, to sales, a working Internet infrastructure is essential for business continuity and the dissemination of information. Although COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, the Internet has allowed many aspects of our life to adapt and carry on. At Cloudflare, we’ve witnessed the effects of this transition to online interaction. In the last two months, we have seen both a massive increase in Internet traffic and a shift in the type of content users access online. For example, in London, there has been a 22.56% increase in Internet traffic during the pandemic.

These unexpected shifts in traffic patterns that we have observed can come with a cost. Essential websites that provide crucial information and updates on this pandemic may not have configured their systems to handle the massive surges in traffic they are currently seeing. Government agencies providing essential health information to citizens on the COVID-19 pandemic have temporarily gone offline due to increased traffic. We’ve also seen examples of public service announcements and the sites of governments providing unemployment resources unable to serve their traffic. In the UK, Labour MP Bill Esterson warned that the Universal Credit system website was overwhelmed with requests with people filing claims for unemployment benefits.

Government agencies have also experienced cyberattacks. On March 19, two government-related websites in the Netherlands that provide Dutch citizens with information on tax refunds and benefits were unavailable due to a DDoS attack. In the Czech Republic, one of the largest COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country, Brno University Hospital, experienced a cyberattack that halted many critical surgeries as the IT team had to shut down the entire network to counteract the attack.

During this time, Cloudflare has seen an increase in applications for Project Galileo, an initiative we started in 2014 to provide free services to vulnerable entities on the Internet including humanitarian organizations, media sites, and voices of political dissent. Since March 16, there has been a shift in the type of organizations that need this assistance, with a 40% increase in applications for the project from organizations related to COVID-19 relief efforts and information. We are happy to assist these organizations to ensure the accessibility, security, and resilience of their websites and internal systems under Project Galileo.

We recognize the strain that this pandemic has put on the groups working to assist with virus mitigation and providing accurate information to the general public on the state of the pandemic. In light of recent events, we want to help state and local government agencies stay online and provide essential information to the public without worrying about unexpected spikes in traffic or malicious attacks. As a result, Cloudflare is offering a free package of services to state and local governments worldwide until September 1, 2020, to ensure they have the tools needed to secure their web infrastructure and internal teams. To apply for our COVID-19 government assistance initiative, please visit our website at https://www.cloudflare.com/governmentagency/.

  • Max Chen

    Max Chen

    Policy Manager | Digital Adoption
    T 07943 640 911

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