May 20, 2005 Disrupting certain networks, such as the Internet or a Mafia ring, is very difficult without accurate information about the important network members. But, as you might imagine, knowing the identity of a few powerful mob Dons or critical network servers can make taking down a network much easier. Researchers at the University of Thessaloniki (Greece), Bar-Ilan University (Israel), and Justus-Liebig-Universitat Giessen (Germany) have quantified just how much easier it would be, given different levels of information.
In order to destroy a common type of network that scientists call "scale free", it may be necessary to disrupt (or arrest) essentially every member, if we know nothing about the relative importance of each of the members. Having reliable information about the top 1% of the most important nodes in a network means that the system could be destroyed by attacking as few as one fourth of the network members. Knowing the relative importance of all the members will allow you to destroy a network by taking out about 7% of the nodes.
It should come as no surprise that crime rings and terrorist networks go to great trouble to keep their most powerful and highly connected members secret. The bottom line: secrecy is the best defense for networks under attack, and good intelligence is vital for taking networks down. The researchers note that their analysis is also applicable to controlling the spread of contagious disease through vaccinations in populations connected by social networks.
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