João Tomé

Author Archives: João Tomé

Exploring the 2024 EU Election: Internet traffic trends and cybersecurity insights

The 2024 European Parliament election took place June 6-9, 2024, with hundreds of millions of Europeans from the 27 countries of the European Union electing 720 members of the European Parliament. This was the first election after Brexit and without the UK, and it had an impact on the Internet. In this post, we will review some of the Internet traffic trends observed during the election days, as well as providing insight into cyberattack activity.

Elections matter, and as we have mentioned before (1, 2), 2024 is considered “the year of elections”, with voters going to the polls in at least 60 countries, as well as the 27 EU member states. That’s why we’re publishing a regularly updated election report on Cloudflare Radar. We’ve already included our analysis of recent elections in South Africa, India, Iceland, and Mexico, and provided a policy view on the EU elections.

The European Parliament election coincided with several other national or local elections in European Union member states, leading to direct consequences. For example, in Belgium, the prime minister announced his resignation, resulting in a drop in Internet traffic during the speech followed by a clear increase after the speech was Continue reading

Internet insights on 2024 elections in the Netherlands, South Africa, Iceland, India, and Mexico

2024 is being called by the media “the” year of elections. More voters than ever are going to the polls in at least 60 countries for national elections, plus the 27 member states of the European Union. This includes eight of the world’s 10 most populous nations, impacting around half of the world’s population.

To track and analyze these significant global events, we’ve created the 2024 Election Insights report on Cloudflare Radar, which will be regularly updated as elections take place.

Our data shows that during elections, there is often a decrease in Internet traffic during polling hours, followed by an increase as results are announced. This trend has been observed before in countries like France and Brazil, and more recently in Mexico and India — where elections were held between April 19 and June 1 in seven phases. Some regions, like Comoros and Pakistan, have experienced government-directed Internet disruptions around election time.

Below, you’ll find a review of the trends we saw in elections in South Africa (May 29), to Mexico (June 2), India (April 19 - June 1) and Iceland (June 1). This includes election-related shifts in traffic, as well at attacks. For example, during the Continue reading

Dutch political websites hit by cyber attacks as EU voting starts

The 2024 European Parliament election started in the Netherlands today, June 6, 2024, and will continue through June 9 in the other 26 countries that are part of the European Union. Cloudflare observed DDoS attacks targeting multiple election or politically-related Internet properties on election day in the Netherlands, as well as the preceding day.

These elections are highly anticipated. It’s also the first European election without the UK after Brexit.

According to news reports, several websites of political parties in the Netherlands suffered cyberattacks on Thursday, with a pro-Russian hacker group called HackNeT claiming responsibility.

On June 5 and 6, 2024, Cloudflare systems automatically detected and mitigated DDoS attacks that targeted at least three politically-related Dutch websites. Significant attack activity targeted two of them, and is described below.

A DDoS attack, short for Distributed Denial of Service attack, is a type of cyber attack that aims to take down or disrupt Internet services such as websites or mobile apps and make them unavailable for users. DDoS attacks are usually done by flooding the victim's server with more traffic than it can handle. To learn more about DDoS attacks and other types of attacks, visit our Learning Center.

Attackers Continue reading

An Internet traffic analysis during Iran’s April 13, 2024, attack on Israel

(UPDATED on April 15, 2024, with information regarding the Palestinian territories.)

As news came on Saturday, April 13, 2024, that Iran was launching a coordinated retaliatory attack on Israel, we took a closer look at the potential impact on Internet traffic and attacks. So far, we have seen some traffic shifts in both Israel and Iran, but we haven’t seen a coordinated large cyberattack on Israeli domains protected by Cloudflare.

First, let’s discuss general Internet traffic patterns. Following reports of attacks with drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, confirmed by Israeli and US authorities, Internet traffic in Israel surged after 02:00 local time on Saturday, April 13 (23:00 UTC on April 12), peaking at 75% higher than in the previous week around 02:30 (23:30 UTC) as people sought news updates. This traffic spike was predominantly driven by mobile device usage, accounting for 62% of all traffic from Israel at that time. Traffic remained higher than usual during Sunday.

Around that time, at 02:00 local time (23:00 UTC), the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) posted on X that sirens were sounding across Israel because of an imminent attack from Iran.

🚨Sirens sounding across Israel🚨 pic.twitter.com/BuDasagr10

— Israel Defense Forces Continue reading

Total eclipse of the Internet: traffic impacts in Mexico, the US, and Canada

A photo of the eclipse taken by Bryton Herdes, a member of Cloudflare's Network team, in Southern Illinois.

There are events that unite people, like a total solar eclipse, reminding us, humans living on planet Earth, of our shared dependence on the sun. Excitement was obvious in Mexico, several US states, and Canada during the total solar eclipse that occurred on April 8, 2024. Dubbed the Great North American Eclipse, millions gathered outdoors to witness the Moon pass between Earth and the Sun, casting darkness over fortunate states. Amidst the typical gesture of putting the eclipse glasses on and taking them off, depending on if people were looking at the sky during the total eclipse, or before or after, what happened to Internet traffic?

Cloudflare’s data shows a clear impact on Internet traffic from Mexico to Canada, following the path of totality. The eclipse occurred between 15:42 UTC and 20:52 UTC, moving from south to north, as seen in this NASA image of the path and percentage of darkness of the eclipse.

Looking at the United States in aggregate terms, bytes delivered traffic dropped by 8%, and request traffic by 12% as compared to the previous week at 19:00 UTC Continue reading

From Google to Generative AI: Ranking top Internet services in 2023

From Google to Generative AI: Ranking top Internet services in 2023

Ask nearly any Internet user, and they are bound to have their own personal list of favorite sites, applications, and Internet services for news, messaging, video, AI chatbots, music, and more. Sum that question up across a lot of users in a lot of different countries, and you end up with a sense of the most popular websites and services in the world. In a nutshell, that’s what this blog post is about: how humans interacted with the online world in 2023 from what Cloudflare observed.

Building on similar reports we’ve done over the past two years, we have compiled a ranking of the top Internet properties of 2023. In addition to our overall ranking, we chose 9 categories to focus on. One of these is a new addition in 2023: Generative AI. Here are the 9 categories we’ll be digging into:

1. Generative AI
2. Social Media
3. E-commerce
4. Video Streaming
5. News
6. Messaging
7. Metaverse & Gaming
8. Financial Services
9. Cryptocurrency Services

Our method for calculating the results is the same as in 2022: we analyze anonymized DNS query data from our 1.1.1.1 public DNS resolver, used by millions of Continue reading

Cyber Week: Analyzing Internet traffic and e-commerce trends

Throughout the year, special events lead to changes in Internet traffic. We observed this with Thanksgiving in the US last week, where traffic dipped, and during periods like Black Friday (November 24, 2023) and Cyber Monday (November 27, 2023), where traffic spiked.

But how significant are these Cyber Week days on the Internet? Is it a global phenomenon? Does e-commerce interest peak on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, and are attacks increasing during this time? These questions are important to retailers and stakeholders around the world. At Cloudflare, we manage substantial traffic for our customers, which gives us a unique vantage from which to analyze traffic and attack patterns across large swaths of the Internet.

As we'll explore next, we observed varying trends. From a global perspective, there was a clear Internet traffic winner: Cyber Monday was the highest overall traffic day of 2023 (as it was for 2022), followed by Black Friday, and then Monday, November 21 from the same week. But zooming in, this pattern didn’t hold in some countries.

For this analysis, we examined anonymized samples of HTTP requests crossing our network, as well as DNS queries. Cloudflare's global data shows that peak request traffic occurred on Continue reading

Do hackers eat turkey? And other Thanksgiving Internet trends

Do hackers eat turkey? And other Thanksgiving Internet trends

Thanksgiving is a tradition celebrated by millions of Americans across six time zones and 50 states, usually involving travel and bringing families together. This year, it was celebrated yesterday, on November 23, 2023. With the Internet so deeply enmeshed into our daily lives, anything that changes how so many people behave is going to also have an impact on online traffic. But how big an impact, exactly?

At a high level: a 10% daily decrease in Internet traffic in the US (compared to the previous week). That happens to be the exact same percentage decrease we observed in 2022. So, Thanksgiving in the US, at least in the realm of Internet traffic, seems consistent with last year.

Let’s dig into more details about how people deal with cooking (or online ordering!) and whether family gatherings are less online, according to our Cloudflare Radar data. We’ll also touch on whether hackers stop for turkey, too.

The Thanksgiving hour: around 15:00 (local time)

While we can see a 10% overall daily drop in US traffic due to Thanksgiving, the drop is even more noticeable when examining traffic on an hour-by-hour basis. Internet activity began to decrease significantly after 12:00 EST, persisting Continue reading

Internet traffic patterns in Israel and Palestine following the October 2023 attacks

Internet traffic patterns in Israel and Palestine following the October 2023 attacks
Internet traffic patterns in Israel and Palestine following the October 2023 attacks

On Saturday, October 7, 2023, attacks from the Palestinian group Hamas launched from the Gaza Strip against the south of Israel started a new conflict in the region. Israel officially declared that it is at war the next day. Cloudflare's data shows that Internet traffic was impacted in different ways, both in Israel and Palestine, with two networks (autonomous systems) in the Gaza Strip going offline a few hours after the attacks. Subsequently, on October 9, two additional networks also experienced outages. We also saw an uptick in cyberattacks targeting Israel, including a 1.26 billion HTTP requests DDoS attack, and Palestine.

Starting with general Internet traffic trends, there was a clear increase in Internet traffic right after the attacks reportedly began (03:30 UTC, 06:30 local time). Traffic spiked at around 03:35 UTC (06:35 local time) in both Israel (~170% growth compared with the previous week) and Palestine (100% growth).

That growth is consistent with other situations, where we’ve seen surges in Internet traffic when countrywide events occur and people are going online to check for news, updates, and more information on what is happening, with social media and messaging also playing a role. However, in Palestine, that traffic growth Continue reading

Typo traps: analyzing traffic to exmaple.com (or is it example.com?)

Typo traps: analyzing traffic to exmaple.com (or is it example.com?)
Typo traps: analyzing traffic to exmaple.com (or is it example.com?)

A typo is one of those common mistakes with unpredictable results when it comes to the Internet’s domain names (DNS). In this blog post we’re going to analyze traffic for exmaple.com, and see how a very simple human error ends up creating unintentional traffic on the Internet.

Cloudflare has owned exmaple.com for a few years now, but don’t confuse it with example.com! example.com is a reserved domain name set by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), under the direction of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It has been used since 1999 as a placeholder, or example, in documentation, tutorials, sample network configurations, or to prevent accidental references to real websites. We use it extensively on this blog.

As I’m writing it, the autocorrect system transforms exmaple.com into example.com, every time, assuming I must have misspelled it. But in situations where there’s no automatic spelling correction (for example, while editing a configuration file) it’s easy for example to become exmaple.

And so, lots of traffic goes to exmaple.com by mistake — whether it was a typoed attempt to reach example.com or due to other random reasons. Fake email accounts in Continue reading

Cloudflare Radar’s 2023 overview of new tools and insights

Cloudflare Radar’s 2023 overview of new tools and insights
Cloudflare Radar’s 2023 overview of new tools and insights

Cloudflare Radar was launched in September 2020, almost three years ago, when the pandemic was affecting Internet traffic usage. It is a free tool to show Internet usage patterns from both human and automated systems, as well as attack trends, top domains, and adoption and usage of browsers and protocols. As Cloudflare has been publishing data-driven insights related to the general Internet for more than 10 years now, Cloudflare Radar is a natural evolution.

This year, we have introduced several new features to Radar, also available through our public API, that enables deeper data exploration. We’ve also launched an Internet Quality section, a Trending Domains section, a URL Scanner tool, and a Routing section to track network interconnection, routing security, and observed routing anomalies.

In this reading list, we want to highlight some of those new additions, as well as some of the Internet disruptions and trends we’ve observed and published posts about during this year, including the war in Ukraine, the impact of Easter, and exam-related shutdowns in Iraq and Algeria.

We also encourage everyone to explore Cloudflare Radar and its new features, and to give you a partial review of the year, in terms of Internet Continue reading

An August reading list about online security and 2023 attacks landscape

An August reading list about online security and 2023 attacks landscape
An August reading list about online security and 2023 attacks landscape

In 2023, cybersecurity continues to be in most cases a need-to-have for those who don’t want to take chances on getting caught in a cyberattack and its consequences. Attacks have gotten more sophisticated, while conflicts (online and offline, and at the same time) continue, including in Ukraine. Governments have heightened their cyber warnings and put together strategies, including around critical infrastructure (including health and education). All of this, at a time when there were never so many online risks, but also people online — over five billion in July 2023, 64.5% of the now eight billion that are the world’s total population.

Here we take a look at what we’ve been discussing in 2023, so far, in our Cloudflare blog related to attacks and online security in general, with several August reading list suggestions. From new trends, products, initiatives or partnerships, including AI service safety, to record-breaking blocked cyberattacks. On that note, our AI hub (ai.cloudflare.com) was just launched.

Throughout the year, Cloudflare has continued to onboard customers while they were being attacked, and we have provided protection to many others, including once.net, responsible for the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest online voting system Continue reading

How the coronation of King Charles III affected Internet traffic

How the coronation of King Charles III affected Internet traffic
How the coronation of King Charles III affected Internet traffic

When major events in a country happen Internet traffic patterns are often impacted, depending on the type of event. But what about the coronation of a king or queen? There’s no similar precedent, with a worldwide impact, in the Internet age, except maybe the coronation of the king of Thailand, in 2019. The last time it happened in the United Kingdom was 70 years ago (June 2, 1953), with Queen Elizabeth II; it was the first British coronation to be fully televised. Neither the Internet nor ARPANET were around at the time.

Imagine a grand royal event (if you saw the broadcast or the news, there’s no need), filled with pomp and pageantry, that's so captivating it impacts Internet traffic. That's what happened during the coronation of Charles III and Camilla, the newly crowned king and queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms. As the coronation ceremony unfolded, on Saturday morning, May 6, 2023, there were clear spikes and dips in traffic, each coinciding with key moments of the ceremony.

Then came Sunday, and with it, the Coronation Big Lunch event. As the nation sat down to enjoy a communal meal throughout the country, Internet traffic took a Continue reading

Effects of the conflict in Sudan on Internet patterns

Effects of the conflict in Sudan on Internet patterns
Effects of the conflict in Sudan on Internet patterns

On Saturday, April 15, 2023, an armed conflict between rival factions of the military government of Sudan began. Cloudflare observed a disruption in Internet traffic on that Saturday, starting at 08:00 UTC, which deepened on Sunday. Since then, the conflict has continued, and different ISPs have been affected, in some cases with a 90% drop in traffic. On May 2, Internet traffic is still ~30% lower than pre-conflict levels. This blog post will show what we’ve been seeing in terms of Internet disruption there.

On the day that clashes broke out, our data shows that traffic in the country dropped as much as 60% on Saturday, after 08:00 UTC, with a partial recovery on Sunday around 14:00, but it has consistently been lower than before. Although we saw outages and disruptions on major local Internet providers, the general drop in traffic could also be related to different human usage patterns because of the conflict, with people trying to leave the country. In Ukraine, we saw a clear drop in traffic, not always related to ISP outages, after the war started, when people were leaving the country.

Here’s the hourly perspective of Sudan’s Internet traffic over the past weeks as seen Continue reading

How to stay safe from phishing

How to stay safe from phishing
How to stay safe from phishing

As you wake up in the morning feeling sleepy and preoccupied, you receive an urgent email from a seemingly familiar source, and without much thought, you click on a link that you shouldn't have. Sometimes it’s that simple, and this more than 30-year-old phishing method means chaos breaks loose – whether it’s your personal bank account or social media, where an attacker also begins to trick your family and friends; or at your company, with what could mean systems and data being compromised, services being disrupted, and all other subsequent consequences. Following up on our “Top 50 Most Impersonated Brands in phishing attacks” post, here are some tips to catch these scams before you fall for them.

We’re all human, and responding to or interacting with a malicious email remains the primary way to breach organizations. According to CISA, 90% of cyber attacks begin with a phishing email, and losses from a similar type of phishing attack, known as business email compromise (BEC), are a $43 billion problem facing organizations. One thing is for sure, phishing attacks are getting more sophisticated every day thanks to emerging tools like AI chatbots and the expanded usage of various communication Continue reading

One year of war in Ukraine: Internet trends, attacks, and resilience

One year of war in Ukraine: Internet trends, attacks, and resilience
One year of war in Ukraine: Internet trends, attacks, and resilience

The Internet has become a significant factor in geopolitical conflicts, such as the ongoing war in Ukraine. Tomorrow marks one year since the Russian invasion of that country. This post reports on Internet insights and discusses how Ukraine's Internet remained resilient in spite of dozens of disruptions in three different stages of the conflict.

Key takeaways:

  • Internet traffic shifts in Ukraine are clearly visible from east to west as Ukrainians fled the war, with country-wide traffic dropping as much as 33% after February 24, 2022.
  • Air strikes on energy infrastructure starting in October led to widespread Internet disruptions that continue in 2023.
  • Application-layer cyber attacks in Ukraine rose 1,300% in early March 2022 compared to pre-war levels.
  • Government administration, financial services, and the media saw the most attacks targeting Ukraine.
  • Traffic from a number of networks in Kherson was re-routed through Russia between June and October, subjecting traffic to Russia’s restrictions and limitations, including content filtering. Even after traffic ceased to reroute through Russia, those Ukrainian networks saw major outages through at least the end of the year, while two networks remain offline.
  • Through efforts on the ground to repair damaged fiber optics and restore electrical power, Ukraine’s networks have Continue reading

An early look at Thanksgiving 2022 Internet trends

An early look at Thanksgiving 2022 Internet trends

"The more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for."

— Norman Vincent Peale, American author  

The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Yesterday, November 24, 2022, was Thanksgiving Day in the US. A time for families and loved ones to be together and thankful, according to the tradition. Last year, we saw how the US paused shopping (and browsing) for Thanksgiving. So, how was it this year? Not only did we see Internet traffic go down (by 13%) during Thanksgiving dinner, but it was much higher than usual the day before and the day after (the Black Friday effect… so far). There was also a clear, but short, Thanksgiving day effect on e-commerce DNS trends.

We'll have to wait to see what Black Friday looks like.

Let’s start with Internet traffic at the time of Thanksgiving dinner. Although every family is different, a 2018 survey of US consumers showed that for 42% early afternoon (between 13:00 and 15:00 is the preferred time to sit at the table and start to dig in). But 16:00 seems to be the “correct time” — The Atlantic explains why.

That said, Cloudflare Continue reading

How the Brazilian Presidential elections affected Internet traffic

How the Brazilian Presidential elections affected Internet traffic
Brasil, sei lá
Ou o meu coração se engana
Ou uma terra igual não há
— From Tom Jobim’s song, Brasil Nativo
How the Brazilian Presidential elections affected Internet traffic

Brazil’s recent presidential election got significant attention from both global and national media outlets, not only because of the size of the country, but also because of premature allegations of electoral fraud. The first round of the Brazilian 2022 general election was held on October 2, and the runoff was held on Sunday, October 30. With 124 million votes counted, former president Lula da Silva (2003-2010) won with 50.9% of the votes, beating incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, who had 49.1% of the votes.

How the Brazilian Presidential elections affected Internet traffic
The final results of the elections as published by the official Tribunal Superior Eleitoral, with more than 124 million votes counted.)

Using Cloudflare’s data, we can explore the impact that this election had on Internet traffic patterns in Brazil, as well as interest in content from election-related websites, news organizations, social media platforms, and video platforms.

Here are a few highlights: while the runoff generated much more interest to election related websites (we actually have a view to DNS queries, a proxy to websites), the first round showed bigger increases in traffic Continue reading

How to enable Private Access Tokens in iOS 16 and stop seeing CAPTCHAs

How to enable Private Access Tokens in iOS 16 and stop seeing CAPTCHAs
How to enable Private Access Tokens in iOS 16 and stop seeing CAPTCHAs

You go to a website or service, but before access is granted, there’s a visual challenge that forces you to select bikes, buses or traffic lights in a set of images. That can be an exasperating experience. Now, if you have iOS 16 on your iPhone, those days could be over and are just a one-time toggle enabled away.

CAPTCHA = "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"

In 2021 and 2022, we took direct steps to end the madness that wastes humanity about 500 years per day called CAPTCHAs, that have been making sure you’re human and not a bot. In August 2022, we announced Private Access Tokens. With that, we’re able to eliminate CAPTCHAs on iPhones, iPads and Macs (and more to come) with open privacy-preserving standards.

On September 12, iOS 16 became generally available (iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 should arrive in October) and on the settings of your device there’s a toggle that can enable the Private Access Token (PAT) technology that will eliminate the need for those CAPTCHAs, and automatically validate that you are a real human visiting a site. If you already have iOS 16, here’s what you should Continue reading

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