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.

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

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]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.