Keeping a Large Venue’s Network Secure Is Difficult — But Not Impossible

Designing and implementing a wireless network that is equally reliable and secure can be a challenge in a large venue, but it’s possible with the right approach.

From stadiums to concert halls, convention centers to transportation hubs, the number and type of large public venues (LPVs) in which attendees expect to enjoy a reliable Wi-Fi connection continues to grow.

Providing high-performing, secure wireless networks for thousands of visitors at once while reserving enough bandwidth for critical back-of-house operations can be a challenge for even the most seasoned LPV proprietor. With the proper approach and guidance, however, this is a challenge that can ultimately be overcome.

The Complexity of LPV Networking

The size of a venue, the shape of its footprint, and the location of specific architectural and structural components within it all play a role in formulating the ideal networking strategy for an LPV. But more and more, a venue’s roster of IP-enabled devices is the determinative factor in successful network design.

Not only do LPVs have to build a network capable of handling thousands upon thousands of fans’ personal devices, but many of them must also create the capacity for networked metal detectors, access control systems for people like employees and the media, and vendor POS systems.

LPVs — especially outdoor festival grounds — are also beginning to use radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags for both access control and ticketing. RFID wristbands streamline the credential-checking and venue entry processes, but they often complicate an LPV’s bandwidth considerations.

On top of managing the network demands of these numerous IP-enabled devices, LPVs are forced to contend with wildly inconsistent traffic patterns. In a typical enterprise or educational setting, network administrators can predict the day-to-day demands on their systems with a fair amount of accuracy. LPV administrators don’t have this luxury, as every event brings a different crowd, a different level of security, and a different set of back-of-house operations.

High-Value Targets Galore

The difficulty of building an LPV network that accommodates all of these demands is only heightened by the need to overlay the network with substantial security measures. LPVs offer cybercriminals a wealth of highly valuable targets, and securing all of this information is absolutely essential.

For example, during the 2015 Major League Baseball season, an executive from the St. Louis Cardinals managed to hack into the Houston Astros’ player database and steal an estimated $1.7 million worth of proprietary scouting and player evaluation information. The executive was hardly a master cybercriminal — he was able to gain access to Houston’s system through a weak employee password. One can only imagine the havoc a more experienced and more sinister hacker could have wreaked.

But in spite of high-profile breaches like these, the bigger threat to LPV networks rests with smaller, but more widespread cyberattacks. Patrons’ smartphones and other connected devices are gold mines of personal information like credit card numbers that become vulnerable when an LPV network isn’t properly secured.

Things to Consider When Designing an LPV Network 

There are a number of steps LPV proprietors can take in order to ensure that their networks are equally reliable and secure. For one, network administrators should consider installing web application firewalls and enforcing security filters designed to prevent IP-enabled devices from communicating with each other directly over the venue’s network. Further, malware detection software can help venue IT teams monitor the kinds of files that are being sent over their network, enabling them to detect cyberattacks on attendee devices in real time.

Above all else, LPV IT teams need to forge a strong collaborative partnership between the venue’s proprietor and its Wi-Fi integrator. The venue and the network service provider must work together in order to arrive at a networking solution tailored to the venue’s unique needs.

At Turn-key Technologies, we’ve partnered with a wide variety of large public venues over the years to overcome the networking challenges presented by high-user density, extensive bandwidth demands, and complex security considerations. Venue owners who are interested in finding out everything there is to know about designing and implementing an LPV network are encouraged download our free e-book and take the first step toward better, more secure Wi-Fi for all.

By Craig Badrick

October 24, 2017

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