As a network administrator I really don’t like Internet Radio Streaming sites. My two biggest complaints about them are these:

  1. 1. They incredible bandwidth hogs.
  2. 2. Some of them are crawling with bugs and other malware hidden to the user. (Those ads you see all over them? That’s typically one of the places they hide the malware, or it’s sometimes injected directly into the stream; mostly without the sites owner/operator’s knowledge.)

They’re so pernicious!

Any site where you see ads that site owner is getting paid to place those ads all over their web sites. Often, in my opinion, in the most annoying places. (you hit a site for information, get 5 seconds into what you’re reading and one of those wonderful ads pops up, front and center, blocking my view of what I was reading. I get it… I really do, but it drives me batty sometimes.  Less reputable sites get paid for allowing malware writers and other nefarious types to use their web sites in much the same manner. The ads now, are not only annoying but malicious.

How is a person supposed to know the difference! It’s often hard and sometimes impossible to judge at a glance. Some AV vendors have started including modules in their software that rely on a web reputation database for web sites all over the web, but as always the front line of defense is a savvy, educated user.

Now, to my point… We’ve pretty much covered #2 from above, so on to #1: The band-width hoginess (not a word) of Internet Radio Streaming. And they truly are. I was getting calls for a while from a client asking me why their internet slowed down at basically the same time everyday. So, I setup some monitoring on the servers and looked at the network traffic but wasn’t finding anything. Until one afternoon while I was going through the SonicWALL looking for something else, and stumbled upon the web site history contained on the device. This is a list of all the sites visited from the internet network and I found a number of Internet Radio streaming site. I checked further and found the amount of data being downloaded and the IP address of the computer that was accessing the web site. From the timestamp of the traffic I had my answer; the mystery, or at least part of it had been solved.

So, I went back to the client to finally answer the question and was almost dismissed out of hand… until I showed them the report containing the information I had collected. That changed things.

Since devices such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo (Alexa) uses services that comes directly from their respective vendors we can rule out all the nastiness of suspect, untrusted, or questionable site, but we’re still left with how much bandwidth will it use.  That really remains to be seen once you have one, have it plugged in and begin using it. But I can tell you with some certainty that it will use bandwidth. You’ll just have to judge for yourself as to whether or not it’s Ok, just right, or too much. But at least it’s a safer alternative than streaming directly from just any old Internet Radio web site. Keep in mind… No web site made is un-hackable. Just ask the US government, YaHoo, and any of the other high-profile players with a big presence on the internet.

So, as a network administrator, if I have to choose between a device like Google Home, or Amazon Echo using a lot, or a fair amount of network bandwidth and a potentially malicious web site streaming content to the network using scads of bandwidth, I’d definitely choose the former. It’s safer and likely much more manageable.

(Disclaimer: Nothing is un-hackable meaning any device connected to a network can potentially be compromised and turned into a pawn for nefarious purposes.)

And thanks to Jennifer Reisinger, of River Wealth Advisors for the inspiration for this post.

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