Contrary to the 1995 movie Hackers, breaking into a computer system does not involve colourful cartoon characters. The act can be accurately represented visually, however, as proven in this excellent video created by Ben Reardon of Dataviz Australia.
Reardon's visualisation transforms the act of hacking a VoIP server into a strategic dance. The hacker shoots streams of red and white dot scans into the server, attempting to access user accounts, represented by blue bubbles. If the two meet, user accounts may be compromised, something we'd hate to see happen to anyone.
The server responds by releasing honeypots, shown here as green bubbles. These packets of disguised data will trap and confound the hacker's scans. The hacker responds by increasing the scans, attempting to flood the server to the point where the honeypots become ineffective.
In this demonstration, slowed down by 25 per cent, the server is triumphant. This is just one of countless such attacks that occur every second, according to Reardon.
Sometimes it helps to visualise the process in order to better understand what occurs during events the human eye can't catch. It might not be as entertaining as the stage-diving data thieves depicted in the movies, but it's definitely a more effective learning tool.
Born to be viral: Computer fights hacker attack [NewScientist]