Cyberwar, Visualized

Seen in real time, all of the world’s cyberattacks look like global thermonuclear war.

Ever seen WarGames? Remember at the end of the movie when Matthew Broderick’s character has tricked the malfunctioning supercomputer W.O.P.R. to simulate all permutations of global thermonuclear war, and it just starts flashing up a neon-hued light and laser show of all possible armageddons, faster than the eye can comprehend?

That’s a lot what looking at the Norse Attack Map is like, but the lines flashing between counties aren’t ICBMs. They’re cyber attacks. And at any given moment, there are more of them flying between countries than all the nukes that have ever existed.

Developed by Norse Corp., a company dedicated to monitoring and providing intelligence on global cyber warfare, the Attack Map shows in real-time all the cyber attacks currently happening on the Norse network: where the attacks originate, where they’re going, what kind of attacks they are, and so on. Each shooting streak of light is color coded after a different kind of attack: telnet is green, http-proxy is aqua, unknown is purple, and so on.

Speaking to The Creator’s Project, Jeff Harrell of Norse says that the map visualizes data collected from over 50 engineers in as many countries, who are collectively responsible for monitoring over eight million sensors. “These sensors mimic the favorite targets of the attacks, such as ATMs, smartphones, PCs or Macs, thus attracting the attacks,” he says. Hackers aren’t necessarily targeting Norse’s sensors: instead, they’re sending out blind barrages, feeling for weaknesses on various IP ranges which they can exploit.

Just looking at the Norse Attack Map, you might think there’s a lot of cyber warfare happening in the world, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But if anything, the Norse Attack Map underrepresents the number of attacks happening by (at least) three orders of magnitude: the Norse Attack Map only shows one out of 1,000 attacks that happen on their network. That, in turn, is just a drop in the ocean compared to all the computers in the world being attacked at any given moment. Even W.O.P.R. doesn’t have the smarts to process all that.

[via The Creators Project]

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at



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