February 12, 2012, 7:43 AM — Every sport has its fans, and the Phoenix Suns basketball team is finding that use of social networking has become one of the main ways to keep in touch with its fan base -- though it can get dicey when basketball fans across the NBA go a little wild before big games.
"Social media is big, like Twitter and Facebook," says Bill Bolt, vice president of information technology for the Phoenix Suns, the NBA team whose home arena is the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Ariz. "And now there's Google."
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Online interaction with fans started years ago with the team's website and email, and now there are five employees of the Phoenix Suns coordinating outreach on social media, whether it's tweeting team news, posting video interviews with coaches or team stars like Jared Dudley and Steve Nash, or selling game tickets through direct interaction with potential customers.
But sometimes things can get a little out of hand when emotions run high and fans from competing teams run wild across the Internet.
The craziness comes into play when there are direct attacks on the Phoenix Suns network and "some people will try to log into the network," says Bolt, saying the Phoenix Suns' information technology department also detects attempts to try to get into email or Twitter accounts associated with basketball stars. These incidents are most apparent as ongoing battles that occur at playoff times when emotions run high among fans of competing teams.
"Some of this crosses the line," says Bolt, adding the Phoenix Suns have to dedicate resources to screening and eliminating expressions of virulent hate or verbal abuse coming in via Facebook and other sources.
There are also attempts to send email floods to the Phoenix Suns and attempts at phishing to steal identities. The Phoenix Suns makes use of security gear from Check Point, McAfee, SonicWall and LogRhythm, among others, to hold down the fort by monitoring, detecting and filtering out attack traffic. Most of these types of attacks tend to be cyclical and tied to big games.