Beyond computer viruses, the software can also trace terror suspects, rumor-mongers and even infectious diseases back to their source. Pedro Pinto, one of the researchers, explained that the algorithm works by going through information in a reverse direction back to the original source.
He said, “Using our method, we can find the source of all kinds of things circulating in a network just by ‘listening’ to a limited number of members of that network.” notes Sky News.
The team behind the algorithm published their research in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters and tested their software on a known data maze to check if their research actually pinpoints the individuals behind the 9/11 attacks.
“By reconstructing the message exchange inside the 9/11 terrorist network extracted from publicly released news, our system spit out the names of three potential suspects — one of whom was found to be the mastermind of the attacks, according to the official inquiry,” he said.
The same algorithm can be applied to a list of contacts on Facebook and check who among those was the person who started a particular rumor. Similar principles can be applied to identify the source of spam emails, computer virus. The team also applied the algorithm to water and transport networks in South Africa and traced the source of a cholera outbreak as well.
Pinto said, “By modeling the network of water circulation, rivers and human transports, we were able to pinpoint the place where the first cases appeared”.
Update [12/08/2012 9:34 AM UTC] In a phone interview with IBTimes, Pinto explained that the triangulation method used for a cell phone user has been applied and to networks with nodes under this algorithm. Considering the system to be monitored as an interconnection of lot of nodes, around 15 to 20 percent nodes are to be monitored said Pinto. According to him the best connected nodes can be the point of observation and monitoring to achieve the best required results.