Modelling the role of software in the propagation of failure across National Critical Infrastructures

Johnson, C.W. (2008) Modelling the role of software in the propagation of failure across National Critical Infrastructures. ERCIM News, 75, pp. 23-25.

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Previous terrorist attacks, system failures and natural disasters have revealed the problems that many States face in preparing for national civil contingencies. The diversity of critical infrastructures and the interconnections between different systems makes it difficult for planners to ‘think of everything’. For example, the loss of power distribution networks can disrupt rail and road transportation systems. Knock-on effects can also be felt across telecommunications infrastructures as the uninterruptible power supplies (UPS’) that protect mobile phone base stations fail over time. Domestic water supplies are affected when pumping and treatment centres lose power. It is difficult to under-estimate the safety implications of these interdependencies. For example, Pironi, Spinucci and Paganelli describe how the Italian blackout of 2003 affected patients that relied on home parenteral nutrition systems [1]. These individuals used electronic pumps for the overnight infusion of nutritional solutions. The loss of power disrupted their treatment. Different devices responded in different ways as some began to generate alarms while others reverted to battery power. Patients responded in different ways as they became worried about whether or not their systems had sufficient power to complete their treatment for that night. The blackout lasted several days across many areas of Italy. This created further problems as stores of parenteral solution had to be stored in freezers. Other patients were placed at risk when the loss of power began to affect water treatment centres. It became difficult to guarantee that there was no microbiological or toxic contamination in the water supplies for dialysis patients.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnson, Professor Chris
Authors: Johnson, C.W.
Subjects:Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
Journal Name:ERCIM News
Publisher:European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics
ISSN (Online):1564-0094
Published Online:01 January 2008
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