Infographic: Hackers Create An Amazing, Illegal Portrait Of The Internet

Someone hacked almost half a million devices around the world. Why? They wanted to see what the internet looked like.

It wasn’t malicious. The file itself was the size of a small JPEG. It was given the absolute lowest priority. And it was set to self-destruct if anything went wrong. But this small file allowed one single hacker to measure the Internet activity of nearly half a million connected devices around the world, then share the results with everyone.

I saw the chance to really work on an Internet scale, command hundred thousands of devices with a click of my mouse, portscan and map the whole Internet in a way nobody had done before, basically have fun with computers and the Internet in a way very few people ever will. I decided it would be worth my time.

How was this even possible? The "hacker" barely hacked anything. In reality, they gained access to all these systems because each had the default "root" set as a password. (Note: Always change the password on your router!) With this access in hand, they ran several tests focusing on Internet structure and activity. And what they created from all this data is a spectacular map that captures a day in the life of the Internet (and all of its users).

The red represents peak traffic and the blue represents base traffic. The creator points out that night affects the U.S. and Europe less than other areas, due to the amount of omnipresent Internet connections (mostly routers and set-top boxes). Another interesting anomaly is that Europeans seem to reach peak usage right before the sun goes down, as if they’re cramming in a lot of work (or casual browsing) at the end of the work day.

No doubt, the general ethics of the study will likely turn some of you off. But given that most people who hack computers on this scale are filling it with devastating malware, I think we can let this anonymous data spelunker slide.

See more here. The bolder amongst you may appreciate the zoomable Hilbert browser.

[Hat tip: Gawker]

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22 Comments

  • TheoDusko

    I live in China and I'm really incredibly surprised that people look at this map and think
    that China is shown as a big blank. That bright roundish area west of Japan and
    South Korea and above Thailand is the incredibly densely populated eastern region of China. The dark area to the the west is the more sparsely populated and poverty ridden expanding Gobi desert, mountainous regions and exhausted agricultural and mining areas. It shows usage in China. It's just that most of the country's massive population -- and definitely the population who can afford the internet (or computers) -- do not live in the west.

  • Jim Ulle

    User data for unsecure networks... those figures are scary.
    Just think how many people are doing things like banking, making online purchases and dealing with confidential personal information on those vulnerable networks.

  • Bojan Landekic

    China couldn't be hacked because root is an English word and Chinese rooters obviously aren't in English are they?  D'oh!!  This hacker, with whom I have no connection, simply neglected to use Google Translate to find the equivalent Chinese representation for "root" and program that into the bot.  :(

  • Bojan Landekic

    You do, of course, realize what you are doing, right?  Quad-core CPU architecture is way more efficient and better for us all than that of the 386, or even the 286.

    Phonetical languages are superior to English's sadistic spelling rules that waste the brain's processing needlessly.  And yet you are insisting that people stop making English a quad-core reality and are furthering the idea that we should adhere to the 386 architecture instead.  You want people to forget about phonetics and stick to the kludgy spelling rules that plagued the English world for centuries.

    That's just dumb, d00d.  Get with the 21st century, go and learn a phonetical language please :)

  • MarkC

    A great deal of that traffic is coming from the US and Central Europe...what does that say about how people treat digital security in those areas of the globe? Scary.

  • Pete Iorns

    So the data is really called the internet activity of those who don't change their router passwords. There's a psychological data subset right there.

  • Bojan Landekic

    Several factors make this 100% accurate

    1. It's on a website
    2. It has professional quality infographics
    3. It was seen on all of our social media newsfeeds
    4. The author's name seems as real as any of ours

    If none of that is enough for you and you need bulletproof authoritative assurance, then simply look at the date of the article.  That was enough to convince me!  :)

  • João Craveiro

    Well, you can't really do precise considerations regarding traffic vs working hours through a visualization based on sunlight. Not only do normal working hours different between countries (but that is obviously intractable to consider), but also, especially in Europe, time zones do not coincide with meridians (which is relatively easy to deal with in terms of visualization). Examples:
    (i) the easternmost parts of Portugal have almost the same longitude as the westernmost parts of France (viz. Brittany); however, the difference in local time between both is 1 hour;(ii) the westernmost parts of Spain (viz. Galicia) are almost two full meridians apart from the easternmost parts of Poland; however, they have the same local time;(iii) even more intricate  the easternmost parts of Great Britain are east of the westernmost parts of France; however, when it's 1 o'clock in the former, it's 2 o'clock in the latter!In short: in the 21st century, you can no longer draw social conclusions using sunlight.

  • Robert Boykin

    Notice how everywhere else in the world grows hotter during the evening.  They get off work and get on the internet.  Notice how the US grows hotter during 8a-5p.  Thats because we go to work and get on the internet.

    LOLZ!!