On June 13, 2019, the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) held a joint Congressional briefing entitled "Addressing Threats and Vulnerabilities in Critical Interconnected Systems: Common Principles in Disease Outbreaks, Internet Malware, and Bank Failures." This Capitol Hill briefing was given by Dr. Jon M. Kleinberg, Cornell University.
Kleinberg explained to Congressional staff and other attendees that a vital feature of many critical systems in society is their connectivity -- they are built from large numbers of components linked together in a network. This structure makes it possible to build them at large scales, but it also puts them at risk of cascading breakdowns, when a problem in one component spreads to others. We can look at mathematical models originally developed for epidemic diseases, where a small change in the connectivity of the population or the infectiousness of the disease can lead to large changes in the reach of the outbreak. We then can consider how these models apply when developing detection techniques and countermeasures for risks to highly interconnected systems, including malware on the Internet and failures in banking systems.