Home > Articles > Security > General Security and Privacy

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Treemaps

The visualization methods I have described in this chapter show how to effectively display data over time, in cross sections, and using systems of one or more variables. The vast majority of the security metrics discussed in the preceding chapters lend themselves well to these methods. However, all these methods assume a data set whose records are structured in a relatively simple manner. For example, department X has value Y, or activity A has value B at time T. We assume that the independent variables—departments or activities—iterate through flat lists of values.

But what if the data set is not flat? Metrics visualization for security often requires the ability to roll up, or drill down into, a data set. In these cases, containment and hierarchy relationships establish vital context for the viewer. Perhaps the best way to view the data is to show the hierarchy as part of the exhibit. For example, one could show the roll-up structure for departments, sites, and business units, or the containment relationships of business processes.

"Hmm," says the IT analyst as he strokes his goatee. "Graphical displays of hierarchy... isn't this what network diagrams do?" Yes, in part. Technology architects have been drawing network diagrams for an eternity, and these show containment relationships quite well. However, network diagrams are rarely suitable for metrics visualization because they are

  • Too technical: Managers don't care about TCP/IP addresses.
  • Too literal: Only a small number of security metrics make sense on network diagrams.
  • Space-inefficient: Lots of white space, low density of nodes per inch.

Fortunately, recent innovations in data visualization outside the information technology field mean that security analysts need not rely on network diagrams to show containment-oriented data sets. There is a better alternative: the treemap.

Little known outside of academe, treemaps are used with hierarchical data structures that can be aggregated. The core data elements of a treemap are rectangular nodes that, when rendered, appear as a patchwork of rectangles. The arrangement of the rectangles shows the containment hierarchy, in the same way a Bento box does. The size (area) of each rectangle represents the node's "weight," while its color or brightness displays attributes such as relative importance, criticality, or membership within an arbitrary category. Treemaps possess four properties that make them extremely useful for large-scale data visualization:

  • Simple visual paradigm
  • Extremely space-efficient
  • Naturally suited for aggregation
  • Excellent for high-resolution data display

Originally developed by Ben Schneiderman, a professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Computer Science, treemaps are easily the most innovative data visualization technique to emerge from the research world in the last ten years. Although they are not yet mainstream, many companies have created compelling, rich information graphics with them. For example, SmartMoney.com's Java-based Map of the Market applet, shown in Figure 6-25, features a treemap that shows near-real-time stock activity. The size of each block represents the relative market capitalization of the sector or company; the color shows whether prices are increasing (green, rendered here as light grays) or decreasing (red, rendered as darker grays). What is particularly clever about this example is that it precisely illustrates the micro/macro visualization qualities of treemaps. The reader sees the overall sweep and scope of the market, and he or she also sees how the different blocks relate to each other—and can dive into one of the individual data points, too.

Figure 6-25

Figure 6-25 SmartMoney.com Map of the Market

Copyright © 2005 Smartmoney.com. Reprinted with permission; all rights reserved.

Creating Treemaps

Standard office productivity suites cannot create treemaps; instead, analysts must rely on specialized toolkits. Many treemap packages exist, including an open-source implementation I wrote for my own use called JTreemap. Let's walk through a simple treemap example using this tool, available on my website at http://www.freshcookies.org/jtreemap.

To construct a treemap, the security analyst identifies data attributes that supply:

  • The size of each rectangle (size of deployed base, dollar value of asset, number of lines of code)
  • The saturation value for each rectangle (criticality, priority, business impact)

and optionally

  • The containment hierarchy (top-level category, department, business unit)

Next, the analyst formats a data set, loads it into JTreemap, and plots the results. JTreemap accepts a tab-delimited input file; after parsing the input, it creates a graph of the treemap. Table 6-3 shows a sample input file containing action plan data for an assessment of an e-commerce application. The field order for the file is as follows:

  • NAME: Displayed as text within the node. Here, we'll use the name of the action item.
  • DESCRIPTION: Displayed in the tool tip when the mouse pointer hovers over the node.
  • BRIGHTNESS: The node's relative saturation, ranging from 0.0 (transparent) to 1.0 (fully saturated). In this example, we'll supply the item's priority, with the highest values representing the most important items.
  • AREA: The amount of space to allocate to the node, relative to all others in the treemap. For the area, we will specify the amount of effort required to implement the action item.
  • CATEGORIES[0..n]: The categories to use for this node (separated by tabs), with the highest-level categories first. An arbitrary number of categories may be specified, although in practice most simple applications will not need more than three or four. Each top-level category will be given its own color; in this example, there is only one top-level category. For this example, we will simply supply the name of the responsible business group ("E-commerce security").

Table 6-3. Sample Treemap Data File

Name (Action Item)

Description

Brightness (Priority)

Area (Effort)

Categories (Application Name)

Password policy

For end users

0.9

4

E-commerce security

Secure coding practices

For developers

1

8

E-commerce security

Identity management

Centralized account management

0.6

12

E-commerce security

Website server configuration

To be done by the systems group

0.7

5

E-commerce security

To ensure that nodes are arranged sensibly and in a manner pleasing to the eye, treemaps typically support one or more layout algorithms. The first algorithm, originally developed by the University of Maryland, is the "strip" layout. However, at present prevailing consensus holds that J.J. van Wijk's "squarified" layout algorithm13 provides the best balance of structural fidelity and aesthetics. This is the one I use in my own package.

A single command from the console produces an interactive dialog box containing the treemap:

java -jar freshcookies-treemap-0.3.jar test.tab

Figure 6-26 shows the resulting JTreemap dialog for our sample data set.

Figure 6-26

Figure 6-26 Sample Treemap

The preceding example, while simplistic, shows how treemaps work. The "Identity management" rectangle dominates because it requires the most effort to fix; the saturated color of "Secure coding practices" (rendered as a lighter gray) shows that it is the most important priority. Since the business group "eCommerce security" will fix every action item, all items receive the same color (red, rendered as gray here).

Treemaps can support much higher data densities than in our simple example. Figure 6-27 shows action items mapped to the ISO 17799 security framework. In contrast to the previous example, which contained only one level of containment (the group name, eCommerce security), this example contains three. These levels correspond to the first three levels of the ISO topic hierarchy. Each rectangle is equally weighted (all have areas of 1) but contains different saturation values. In all, Figure 6-27 displays 556 data attributes (139 topics times 4 attributes: area, saturation, top-level grouping, and name).

Figure 6-27

Figure 6-27 ISO 17799 Treemap (Displaying Three Levels of Hierarchy)

Figure 6-28 shows the same data again, but aggregated so that the lowest level "rolls up" to the top two.

Figure 6-28

Figure 6-28 ISO 17799 Treemap (Displaying Two Levels of Hierarchy)

Treemap styles often vary from the one I have presented here, which is my own implementation. Some include text in individual nodes; others do not. Other implementations feature clever shading or border-rendering algorithms, drilldown capabilities, and more. The University of Maryland's treemap website (http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/treemap-history) contains links to other implementations, including a wide variety of commercial packages.

In summary, treemaps add another tool to the security analyst's bag of tricks. Treemaps provide an effective way of visualizing highly dense, hierarchically structured data. Although treemaps are not yet implemented in commercial office productivity packages, implementations exist that can help you today. Get to know them, and watch your colleagues' jaws drop.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020