Digital Attack Map /// Google’s visualization of online war

Digital Attacks

Google and Arbor Networks recently came out with a map visualizing distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in real time. The map shows those implicated in the attack in a darker grey (by country) and connects attacker to victim through an animated dotted line. Attacks occurring within a country are visualized as a circle. Interestingly this map does not (if I understand it properly) use a Google map, but instead uses an SVG image enabled with d3.js. I’m seeing more of these popping up around the web.


Critique: this map is pretty polished, as would be expected from Google. The downfalls are mainly things that I think were probably done for confidentiality. So, showing the exact location of an attack or a victim would probably not be allowed, though I’m certain the data exists.

The use of animation is what I like the best about this map. The cartographers were able to visualize traffic using a simple arched dotted line, and gave information about the origin and destination through the movement of the dots. Another example that this reminds me of is the wind mapย I covered a while back.ย 

In regards to colour scheme, they won me over. The colours seem to convey disruption with their almost muddy hues and dark shading. The one thing that puts me off is the oval shape of the attacks, seems a bit playful. Maybe sharper ovals, or dashes would make it more serious.

The content of the map is a bit disturbing on a variety of fronts. For one, these attacks are happening in our daily background. Though they don’t harm us physically, there are still implications. For another, it is a bit of a show of power in a way, that Google and Arbor Networks have this data on hand. In terms of audience, I am again confused – is this meant to scare us? Is this meant to teach us? I don’t know much about national web security, but I would expect that people who would need to know about these attacks would already know.


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