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The Power of Visualization: Analysis in a Tsunami of Information

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Blog by Amirah Saad, Sr. Manager, Intelligence at Constella Intelligence

Whether you’re preparing for an executive board meeting or a marathon day of video conference calls, the power of visualization serves as an essential cross-functional method to share contextualized information and effectively turn what is just sheer data into understandable intelligence. This tends to be the case for cyber investigations but unfortunately, it is not done often enough due to the nature of the data being analyzed.

In an era where so much information is at our fingertips, the value of data visualization has never been greater, and this includes both the data as well as the visual need to tell a compelling story. In most situations, images speak louder than words. With over 50% of our brains devoted to visual processing, a good visualization tool is just as important as a detailed analytical report. In fact, when used purposefully, visualization can serve as a standalone mechanism communicating essential findings needed to inform decision-makers.

Interactive and static visualization features make it easier to identify patterns, trends and outliers. The collection process typically uncovers extensive amounts of disparate data, oftentimes overwhelming analysts with what can feel like too much information to sort through. So we resort to spreadsheets to document details and use graphing tools to symbolize data, but not actually contain data. These days, efficient graphing capabilities allow you to simplify the presentation of complex relationships by providing an overview of the link analysis. It also lets you zero in on a specific network, an entity of interest and connected attributes. The value lies in the inherent ability to expeditiously and easily assess the correlated relationships.

For investigators and analysts alike, graphing capabilities help visualize links that may be hard for others to discern, especially in a target-centric investigation. Such features enable the user to document findings in a way that links the data to another correlating element on a graph — whether it be a person, location, business entity, phone number, financial transaction or social media post. Leveraging link analysis is invaluable to an investigator, cyber analyst and SME seeking to establish contextual relationships and behavioral patterns. Graphs provide the autonomy to present the information in a user-friendly manner and organize rich data sets to identify links in a logical way. When done appropriately, the use of color, shapes and sizes within a complex graph can help portray the relationships in a simplistic manner.

In sum, the power of visualization tools and link analysis improves efficiencies in many ways — it’s intuitive and easy to use; it’s insightful and powerful; and last, but certainly not least, visuals are perfect for showcasing the bottom line upfront in a succinct and illustrious manner, ultimately shortening investigations, and possibly even those hundreds of video conference calls we are all attending during this challenging and unprecedented time.

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