An anonymous researcher has used illegal hacking techniques to create what some are calling the most accurate map yet of the internet and internet activity.
The researcher built a botnet, a loose network of computers that can be harnessed to perform specific tasks, comprised of some 420,000 unprotected computers and other connected devices around the world. The researcher then uploaded a small program onto the devices, which monitored their activity.
The result was what the researcher called “the largest and most comprehensive IPv4 census ever.” The animated map shows relative usage of IP addresses over a 24-hour period. IPv4 is the fourth version of the Internet Protocol, a system of numbers used to identify devices on the Internet. A newer Internet Protocol, IPv6, will replace IPv4, but IPv4 still carries the majority of Internet traffic.
The researcher justified using hacking techniques to collect data, writing in a paper about the project that the program was designed to have no negative impact on any device onto which it was loaded, and that the program was not permanently installed and stopped after a few days.
“I did not want to ask myself for the rest of my life how much fun it could have been or if the infrastructure I imagined in my head would have worked as expected,” explained the researcher in that paper. “I saw the chance to really work on an Internet scale, command hundred thousands of devices with a click of my mouse, portscan and map the whole Internet in a way nobody had done before, basically have fun with computers and the Internet in a way very few people ever will. I decided it would be worth my time.”