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Computer virus researcher looks to biology for clues

A man sneezes. Flu viruses are released. People close by catch it. They go to work, go shopping. More people are infected. Then more and — Whoosh! — it’s an epidemic. Computer viruses can spread like that, too. The sometimes-striking similarities between biological viruses and their binary namesakes are a focus of a National Science Foundation-funded study. Biplab Sikdar, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, believes he can learn how to choke off incipient Internet attacks by looking at how plagues and flu viruses spread through human populations. Scientists have long been aware that epidemics can follow patterns. In cases of very contagious diseases with a short incubation period, the number of people infected often starts small before hitting a point where the disease takes off at an exponential rate. It peaks, then phases out more gradually than it grew. Full Story

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