Visualization

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This page catalogs techniques for representing security data visually. Clear, cogent, meaningful visual displays of information enable the audience to rapidy grasp the essence of security issues and trends. Below are some examplars, many of which come from outside the world of information security. ( Wikipedia definition: Information Visualization )

Charts and Graphs

  • Summarizing Clinical Psychiatric Data (November 1997) – Edward Tufte popularized a highly efficient charting technique called “small multiples.” The technique essentially graphs multiple items together, by compressing identically-scaled and labeled graphs onto a single chart. Tufte’s article on visualizing clinical patient data shows the small-multiple technique in action. With a little imagination it is easy to see how this can be applied to security. As an example, see Jaquith’s Application Security: Not All Are Created Equal paper.

Graphs and Network Visualization

Security Dashboards

Small Multiples

  • The New York Times Election Graphics. InfoWorld columnist and blogger Jon Udell scanned in a stunning chart that displays the “small multiple” technique plus some extremely creative “geographic” visualization. This appeared recently in the NYT’s print edition as part of the 2004 US election coverage. Jon believes his scan falls into the realm of fair use. We hope so too.

Pattern Visualization

Rendering Hierarchical Data

  • Wijk, J.J. van, F. van Ham, H.M.M. van de Wetering. Dr. van Wijk’s “squarification” algorithm (as used by Newsmap, above) is already the de facto standard for treemaps. What do do for an encore? In this short ACM paper, he and colleagues examine strategies for visualizing large, tree-like structures: treemaps, beamtrees, and “botanical” graphs.
  • Map of the Market, Smartmoney.com. Java-applet-based treemap of stock market activity.
  • Freshcookies Treemap Library, Andrew Jaquith. As part of the research effort for his book on security metrics, Mr. Jaquith has created an open-source treemap library and a sample file-parsing application that reads tab-delimited text files. The library was used to produce the treemap graphics attached to this page. It is easy to use, well documented and free (as in beer).

Three-Dimensional Visualization

  • The Spinning Cube of Potential Doom, Stephen Lau, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. The author’s custom three dimensional visualizer charts intrusion activity, based on output from the Bro network intrusion detection system. The related presentation explains the rationale. Yes, yes, one does appreciate the irony of linking to a PowerPoint presentation on the same page as a Tufte article.
  • Visitorville Weblog Analysis, visitorville.com. As covered in Slashdot, weblog analysis meets SimCity. This product aggregates web log information and displays it as a three-dimensional cityscape. Very interesting; its potential utility to security metrics seems pretty clear. The ensuing Slashdot discussion thread was entertaining also.

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