Halting a computer or biological virus outbreak requires a detailed understanding of the timing of the interactions between susceptible and infected individuals. While current spreading models assume that users interact uniformly in time, following a Poisson process, a series of recent measurements indicates that the intercontact time distribution is heavy tailed, corresponding to a temporally inhomogeneous bursty contact process. Here we show that the non-Poisson nature of the contact dynamics results in prevalence decay times significantly larger than predicted by the standard Poisson process based models. Our predictions are in agreement with the detailed time resolved prevalence data of computer viruses, which, according to virus bulletins, show a decay time close to a year, in contrast with the 1 day decay predicted by the standard Poisson process based models.


Originally published in Physical Review Letters 98(15), 2007. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.98.158702


complex networks, outbreaks, non-Poissonian activity patterns

Subject Categories

Computer viruses, Epidemics




The American Physical Society

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©2007 The American Physical Society

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