COLUMBIA, 7/20/12 (Beat Byte) -- A new model of computer networks developed at the University of Missouri may help devise damaging cyber attacks against foreign enemies; guard important infrastructure; restore fragile ecosystems; halt epidemics; and stop smugglers.

"The difficulty in evaluating a networks' resilience is that there are an infinite number of possibilities, which makes it easy to miss important scenarios," said Tim Matisziw, assistant professor of geography and engineering at MU. "Our model can suggest ways to have the maximum impact on a network with the minimum effort."

Matisziw's model helps efficiently use constrained resources to disrupt trafficking networks, he explains. Law enforcement can use it to reduce smuggling of drugs, weapons, and exploited people. The model can identify important links in disease transmission, such as airports, thereby mitigating disease outbreaks once the links are blocked.

For networks that need protection from attack, the model can help officials predict key vulnerabilities. Future electrical grid failures, for instance, could be mitigated as weak points in the grid are identified and fortified.

Documented in the journal PLoS ONE, Matisziw's model even has biological uses. With it, land planners and conservationists can plan the best places for new wetlands to network with other natural areas to function as one ecosystem.