Inderscience Publishers

Identification of sources of failures and their propagation in critical infrastructures from 12 years of public failure reports

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Understanding the origin of infrastructure failures and their propagation patterns in critical infrastructures can provide important information for secure and reliable infrastructure design. Among the critical infrastructures, the Communication and Information Technology Infrastructure (CITI) is crucial, as it provides the basic mechanism for sharing information among all infrastructures. Failures in CITI can disrupt the effective functionality of the other critical infrastructures. Conversely, failures in the other infrastructures can also propagate to CITI, and hence disrupt the operation of all systems. In this study, we used public domain failure reports to identify the origin of these failures and their propagation patterns. We analysed 347 infrastructure failure cases reported from 1994 to 2005 in the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) RISKS forum. We studied these reports to determine the causes of infrastructure failures and their impact on CITI and other critical infrastructures in a number of dimensions, such as the origin of failures, impacts of failures in spatial and temporal dimensions, their effect on public safety and how failures propagate from one infrastructure to another. The results obtained from the analysis of these real-life failure cases, which occurred over a considerable timespan, should be useful to researchers and practitioners. This paper also discusses the difficulties and limitations of using public domain data in academic research.

Keywords: critical infrastructures, infrastructure failure, telecommunications, infrastructure interdependencies, failure identification, failure propagation, CITI, communications, information technology, ICT infrastructure, cyber interdependency, information sharing

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