Every minute of every day, a cyber attack is taking place. It might sound like crazy conspiracy theories, but a research group from the RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany developed a map that tracks cyber attacks in real time.

The map, referred to as HoneyMap, reveals attacks received by a number of sensors spread throughout the world that simulate vulnerable systems. These detectors are referred to as honeypots, data-gathering units for the larger Honeynet Project.

The most active of these honeypots is located in Aachen and is almost constantly signaling an attack against at least one of hundreds of IP addresses. It doesn’t indicate that Aachen is attacked more than the rest of the world, but that it’s the most sensitive to attacks.

The honeypots are running dionaea, glastopf, or thug. These programs emulate vulnerabilities that make them susceptible to attack from automated programs intended to infiltrate and compromise systems virtually anywhere around the world. In many cases, these attacks are being carried out by systems the owners don’t even know are compromised. It’s a virtual web built by a clever hacker to trap and turn unsuspecting systems into resources by which they can launch attacks.

This map also doesn’t represent all the attacks taking place around the world. It’s only showing off the ones that are carried out against honeypots. One could only imagine what an actual representation of the real-time attacks being carried out globally would look like.

What Does This Mean?

Basically, this map should shed some light into exactly how prevalent cyber attacks really are. They come from all corners of the globe, and happen around the clock. Taking preventative measures to protect your system from harm is not only good defense, but it may be essential to keeping your information private and your computer from being put to work for someone with less wholesome intentions.

DDoS attacks bring down entire servers and cause havoc across the Web. Often, the sources of these attacks are compromised systems that hit a server by the direction of someone the owners neither know nor would trust.

And then there’s identity theft, keylogging, spyware, malware, viruses, and any number of other malicious act that could take place if your system isn’t properly safeguarded from harm.

What Can Someone Do to Prevent Attack?

A firewall at the router level is an excellent first line of defense. It would (or should) put a stop to any incoming information requests not requested by the system on the protected side of the firewall. A software firewall at the operating system level is another line of defense that could help in cases where the firewall fails.

Anti-virus and anti-spyware software is also available and capable of detecting and resolving malicious software before it does too much damage to your system. It’s more of a safety net than a strong line of defense, but with free solutions such as Microsoft Security Essentials available, there’s no reason not to put them to use.

Above all, your own usage practices are the best line of defense. Don’t open files sent by people you don’t know. Links sent through email should only be trusted if you are expecting them, and avoid sites that you don’t know and trust.

If anything, the Honeynet Project is a great reminder that the Internet is still something of a chaotic mess. The best you can do is practice good usage habits and set yourself up with the best defense.