Complex networks: Dynamics and security

Ying-Cheng Lai, Adilson Motter, Takashi Nishikawa, Kwangho Park, Liang Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This paper presents a perspective in the study of complex networks by focusing on how dynamics may affect network security under attacks. In particular, we review two related problems: attack-induced cascading breakdown and range-based attacks on links. A cascade in a network means the failure of a substantial fraction of the entire network in a cascading manner, which can be induced by the failure of or attacks on only a few nodes. These have been reported for the internet and for the power grid (e.g., the August 10, 1996 failure of the western United States power grid). We study a mechanism for cascades in complex networks by constructing a model incorporating the flows of information and physical quantities in the network. Using this model we can also show that the cascading phenomenon can be understood as a phase transition in terms of the key parameter characterizing the node capacity. For a parameter value below the phase-transition point, cascading failures can cause the network to disintegrate almost entirely. We will show how to obtain a theoretical estimate for the phase-transition point. The second problem is motivated by the fact that most existing works on the security of complex networks consider attacks on nodes rather than on links. We address attacks on links. Our investigation leads to the finding that many scale-free networks are more sensitive to attacks on short-range than on long-range links. Considering that the small-world phenomenon in complex networks has been identified as being due to the presence of long-range links, i.e., links connecting nodes that would otherwise be separated by a long node-to-node distance, our result, besides its importance concerning network efficiency and security, has the striking implication that the small-world property of scale-free networks is mainly due to short-range links.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-502
Number of pages20
JournalPramana - Journal of Physics
Issue number4 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Attacks
  • Cascading breakdown
  • Network security
  • Phase transition
  • Scale-free network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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