Contagion in cybersecurity attacks

Adrian Baldwin, Iffat Gheyas, Christos Ioannidis, David Pym, Julian Willams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780-791
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Operational Research Society
Issue number7
Early online date9 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

The final publication is available at Springer via


  • jumps
  • contagion
  • Hawkes process
  • self- and mutually exciting processes


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