Cybersecurity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of data visualizations. But we live in a design-centered world, and cyberattacks and online fraud, it turns out, can be quite beautiful.
One security company, Israel-based biometrics authentication firm BioCatch, recently turned visualizations of attacks on their clients into an online art gallery. The result, called the Art of Fraud, is essentially an advertisement for the company’s services. It’s also a perfect example of how security firms are turning to data visualizations and graphic representations of attacks to serve their clients and mitigate online attacks.
BioCatch, whose clients reportedly include Microsoft, Barclays, and Capital One, provides customers with malware detection services and biometric authentication services (like revealing the way a mouse moves, left- or right-handedness, or the way a user types) to implement into online banking, commerce, or enterprise platforms. Uri Rivner, the company’s cofounder, tells Fast Company that each of the images in the gallery captures the movement of a malware attack that BioCatch intercepted.
The idea for building an art gallery around the images, Rivner says, came when he discovered some of the company’s customers were using visualizations of the attacks as screen savers. The visualizations were generated by patterns malware attacks created when trying to simulate human behavior–in this case, they came from recordings of interactions made by BioCatch’s analytics back end.
Because malware is omnipresent these days–and routinely used by everyone from organized crime to intelligence agencies to bored teenagers–researchers often struggle with ways to simply grasp exceedingly complicated attacks. Data visualizations happen to be a great way to do that; many times, visualizing an attack helps researchers in a way that looking at server logs or client records simply can’t.
To wit: This past April, Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab unveiled a real-time visualization of cyberattacks worldwide using information gleaned from the company’s users. The map allows users to view cyberattacks detected in dispersed places all around the world, simply displaying patterns of attack (when I viewed it, a spate of security incidents in India) that wouldn’t have as much impact in written form.
There have even been research papers written on the topic. Because cyberattacks are so complicated, and involve so many separate factors, experts are often moved to turn them into visualizations. One effort, by Italian security researcher Aldo Cortesi, involved visualizing entropy in malware files.
As the rise of cyberattacks continues apace–by one count there were 32% more such attacks last year compared to the previous year–BioCatch will be busy building algorithms that visualize them.
Art lovers, it seems, will be busy, too.