Map shows Web use around the world

·Claudine Zap

How do you get data on the world’s Internet usage? Very stealthily, that's for sure.

Still, the project, surfaced by Gawker and called the “Internet Census 2012,” shows how one anonymous researcher basically pinged computers around the globe without passwords.

Yup, there are a lot of them. The researcher built a botnet of almost half-a-million Linux computers that weren't password protected to provide the project with an idea of where in the world people are using the Internet over a 24-hour period in 2012.

The result: a color-coded image that basically maps global usage of those unprotected computers. The hacker pinged each one, following its path and gathering data. The resulting colorful map is the result of all that data collection: yellows and reds for high usage, and greens and blues for low.

The project wanted to “be nice” and not change anyone’s password. As the website explains, “We had no interest to interfere with default device operation so we did not change passwords and did not make any permanent changes.” Further, “We also uploaded a readme file containing a short explanation of the project as well as a contact email address to provide feedback for security researchers, ISPs and law enforcement who may notice the project.”

The website concludes, "We used the devices as a tool to work at the Internet scale. We did this in the least invasive way possible and with the maximum respect to the privacy of the regular device users." It does sound all very above board, except it isn't. It's highly illegal.

To get super geeky for a moment, and keeping in mind we're not very, the survey only looked at IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) computers. That’s the tool that runs the Web, but now there’s also a new version, IPv6, which the survey skipped. Still, most of the Internet still runs off IPv4, so the researcher claims it to be the most comprehensive of IPv4 computers.

Seems that one thing we have in common with our global Internet users—many of us are still not so careful with our passwords.