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The people who fight hacking and cybercrime

Not all intelligence analysts wear plain suits and grim expressions.

At the IBM Design studios in Austin, Texas, a team of 30 designers are enthusiastically parsing malware threats, viruses, hacks and malicious IP addresses to visualize the veins of cyberattacks all over the world.

Led by former print graphic designer Liz Holz, IBM’s growing security-focused creative unit is comprised of UX (user experience) specialists, industrial designers, content writers, motion animators, illustrators, developers, and user researchers. Using a design process called “observe-reflect-make” and great data visualization, the team makes products used by some 10,000 law-enforcement agencies and private security firms in 133 countries.

In last week’s WannaCry malware attacks, for instance, a platform for sharing threat intelligence that designers shaped, called IBM X-Force Exchange, helped analyze the paths by which the virus was quickly spreading. Instead of poring through pages and pages of Excel reports, security researchers were able to take in the data, in visual form, at a glance and share information swiftly.

Here’s an example of a intelligence visualization that IBM shared with Quartz, illustrating the top 10 countries affected by a particular virus.

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