This Is the Most Detailed Picture of the Internet Ever (and Making it Was Very Illegal)

  • 2016-04-13

Why would you need a map of the Internet? The Internet is not like the Grand Canyon. It is not a destination in a voyage that requires so many right turns and so many left turns. The Internet, as the name suggests and many of you already know, is nothing but the sum of decentralized connections between various interconnected computers that are speaking roughly the same language. To map out those connections and visualize the place where I spend so much of my time may not have any clear use, but it intrigues the pants off me.

An anonymous researcher with a lot of time on his hands apparently shares the sentiment. In a newly published research paper, this unnamed data junkie explains how he used some stupid simple hacking techniques to build a 420,000-node botnet that helped him draw the most detailed map of the Internet known to man. Not only does it show where people are logging in, it also shows changes in traffic patterns over time with an impressive amount of precision. This is all possible, of course, because the researcher hacked into nearly half a million computers so that he could ping each one, charting the resulting paths in order to make such a complex and detailed map. Along those lines, the project has as much to do with hacking as it does with mapping.