Remember the movie Hackers? Remember how amazing all of the visualizations looked? (Relatively, this was the '90s.) Viruses were 3-D blobs eating bank accounts. Servers literally exploded when they went down. In reality, all of this hacking stuff is a lot more dull to look at. Snippets of code. More snippets of code. Coffee.
But now, Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) has developed a counter cyber warfare system called Daedalus that looks worthy of a Hackers reboot. It visualizes network attacks in real-time 3-D, as a pulsating universe of computer connections. The big center orb is the Internet itself, and each of the surrounding satellites are observed networks. Amongst other things, Daedalus is tracking 190,000 IP addresses from inside Japan at all times, always wary of network vulnerabilities.
The system looks complex at first glance, mapping connections from an unfathomable amount of file sharing, but ultimately, this manifests into clear alerts—red bubbles that can be clicked to gather more information on something like a piece of malware making the rounds. The system is also smart enough to automatically contact infected IPs, alerting them of the infection. So by the time an engineer is analyzing Daedalus findings, the first steps of containment have been made automatically, freeing up resources for IT strategizing and/or just staring at the beautiful visualization. The system itself is based upon NICT’s precursor technology called Nicter, seen below. Notice that Daedalus ditches the globe iconography—Nicter seems so dated by comparison, resembling Cold War era missile attacks—and focuses instead on the relationships of network connections.
I’m no network security specialist. I can’t say whether a visualization like this makes it easier to hunt down cyber attacks than a short list of code and IPs to the trained eye. But in the information age, as warfare could become more about Internet control than territory control, extremely esoteric information will need to be passed along to decision makers beyond the specialists. And it’s here, in a closed-door meeting with military generals and heads of government, that alerts like this seem so valuable—just as they would be during a news broadcast to the public. Well, assuming the channel hasn’t gone black.
[Hat tip: The Verge]