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5 Infographics That Translate Scary Internet Security Facts into a Safer Reality

Thag had a problem. He needed to let other cave men know that it was mammoth-mating season and survival was iffy amidst the raging prehistoric hormones.

Thag dipped the sharp edge of a stone into a spit and charcoal mixture, pressed it against the cave wall and drew a picture of himself running from a stampede—and one of the first infographics communicating safety and security was born.

As likely descendents of Thag, we no longer run from the woolly mammoth, but we do interface with our own real threats. In today’s data and information-laden world, Internet security issues threaten to tip the balance of our sanity and safety. A sobering, but necessary, illustration from Unisys shares that concerns regarding Internet security are growing fast, threatening to eclipse financial, personal and national security.

The above tidbit is the infinitesimal tip of the data and statistics available on how freaked out we are as a nation about data mining, phishing, e-mail security and a host of other modern-day woolly mammoths. But who has time to read the white paper? Dipping into data streams is like fishing with your bare hands. No thanks! Luckily infographics make the complex and crazy content that is Web 2.0MG easily digestible for the eyes.

Can information be beautiful?
In a letter-riddled nutshell, "infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge." When complex information needs to be filtered through our maxed-out brains, data chieftains use talented designers or infographic resources to make lofty concepts accessible. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

When it comes to Internet security, we need help. Words have lost their impact, and we need to be told the story of our collective safety ignorance in fairy-tale panels until we get it. The following infographics offer what data journalist David McCandless calls a "landscape we can explore with our eyes." Hopefully after seeing the pretty pictures of our peril, we’ll be in a better position to let "the dataset change our mindset."

1. Space invaders of the virus kind
It’s been 25 years since the first computer virus, Brain, stole our hearts via floppy disks. (Happy anniversary, you crazy little code!) We’ve come a long way since this first invasion, and this delightfully nostalgic rendering from F-Secure reminds us just how far we’ve come. Ironically, we still have a long way to go, but the joystick is in our hands.

2. Cap’n Crunch, the hacker
Hacking has become much more than a word that moved from the pseudo-urban dictionary to the "real" dictionary; it’s part of a job description that could mess up your world in a flash. It also has some interesting history. Did you know, for example, that Cap’n Crunch himself was involved in one of the first technology hacks in 1972? This visual story from OnlineMBA.com also quantifies the damage and offers 15 reasons to get more serious about your firewall.

3. Sharp teeth and poison PCs!
Okay, so maybe pretty pictures don’t work for you. How about a mélange of piranha-esque computer screens and skulls and crossbones to get across just how nasty some viruses can be? This vignette from TopTenReviews.com intersperses evil computer icons with rather interesting and handy pie and bar graphs. It’s an infographic sandwich of doom with tasty data on malware, trojans, worms and spyware.

4. It’s all about the benjamins
If complex concepts smooshed into bite-sized fireworks still doesn’t woo you, maybe a reality check on the economic hardship of the threat might smack you silly. This woeful yet artsy piece from Lines and Mood Swings Creative has no problem showing you exactly why you should be concerned about identity theft. If the nicely displayed hard facts and figures don’t knock you out, the pathetic images of the maligned and depressed people with no identities are sure to make you think twice about protecting your information.

5. Building a better password
Hopefully you still don’t think that "Qwerty" or "1234567" are fabulous passwords. If you do, this infographic from ZoneAlarm was created just for you and the rest of the 79% of people who use "risky password construction practices." Straightforward but pleasingly orange and easy to follow, this journey into the blunders of password creation is both entertaining and educational.

Bonus Infographic

Finally, when the story of Internet security in trés chic imagery threatens to unravel you, look at security from a different angle, have a good laugh, and then get serious about your online safety again.

By Joy Keller