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Contagion in cyber security attacks.

Baldwin, A. and Gheyas, I. and Ioannidis, C. and Pym, D. and Williams, J. (2017) 'Contagion in cyber security attacks.', Journal of the Operational Research Society., 68 (7). pp. 780-791.


Systems security is essential for the efficient operation of all organizations. Indeed, most large firms employ a designated ‘Chief Information Security Officer’ to coordinate the operational aspects of the organization’s information security. Part of this role is in planning investment responses to information security threats against the firm’s corporate network infrastructure. To this end, we develop and estimate a vector equation system of threats to 10 important IP services, using industry standard SANS data on threats to various components of a firm’s information system over the period January 2003 – February 2011. Our results reveal strong evidence of contagion between such attacks, with attacks on ssh and Secure Web Server indicating increased attack activity on other ports. Security managers who ignore such contagious inter-relationships may underestimate the underlying risk to their systems’ defence of security attributes, such as sensitivity and criticality, and thus delay appropriate information security investments.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Journal of the Operational Research Society. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Baldwin, A., Gheyas, I., Ioannidis, C., Pym, D. & Williams, J. (2017). Contagion in cyber security attacks. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 68(7): 780-791, doi: 10.1057/jors.2016.37 is available online at:
Date accepted:25 April 2016
Date deposited:06 May 2016
Date of first online publication:21 December 2017
Date first made open access:21 December 2018

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