Demystifying DDoS attacks: Google Ideas and Arbor show off new visualisation tool

DDoS in pretty graphs

Google's Ideas 'think do' tank is to publish a daily visualisation of global DDoS attacks and trends based on data fed to it by mitigation firm Arbor Networks.

The information in Google Ideas' Digital Attack Map is already available on Arbor's website through its Atlas system which pulls raw data from a network of sensors located in important Internet peers, but the new visualisation makes it much easier to understand for non-experts.

A number of types of trend can be viewed from the visualisation, including global bandwidth consumed by DDoS traffic and the types of attacks prevalent on any given day. Attack patterns for individual countries are also presented in a design that will make it possible to trace longer-term trends over time.

The obvious question is why Google Ideas and Arbor felt the need to set up this kind of tool when the data is already available. The answer seems to be the rising significance of DDoS attacks as a type of threat with consequences in the real world.

Far from being an area of interest onlly to security researchers, these days DDoS attacks can be a mainstream event as coverage of the mega attack on Spamhaus earlier in 2013 underlined.

"The goal of this collaboration was to show what a global threat DDoS is and how DDoS can be used to suppress speech and threaten open access to information," said Arbor's president, Colin Doherty. "The people at Google Ideas have really done an amazing job bringing Arbor's global DDoS attack data to life."

It's also a clever way for Arbor Networks and Google to brand their portal as a reference point for anyone looking for hard data on real attacks. Although Atlas only sees a portion of global Internet traffic it sees more than enough to make possible an accurate visualisation of what is actually going on.

Last week the firm reported that during the first three quarters of 2013 very large DDoS atttacks had increased markedly.

Google Ideas already has a number of diverse visualisation projects on the go, including mapping defections from the regime of Syria's President Assad and plotting the long-term global import and export of small arms and their ammunition.