Simulating cyber-physical threats to the City of Vienna

A large number of critical infrastructure facilities are located in cities and their surroundings, providing essential services in a compact geographical space and resulting in mutual physical and logical dependencies. The provision of services such as electricity, gas, water, communication, food, fuel, road or rail, in particular, is achieved by operating extensive networks. In the FFG-funded project ODYSSEUS, Stefan Rass (Institute of Applied Informatics) and his team are working on developing a framework for a simulation designed to forecast the consequences of attacks on such interlinked infrastructure facilities.  

“In order to protect these critical supply infrastructures, we need a detailed risk analysis. For this purpose, we must focus on the interactions between these networks and on potential cascading effects”, Stefan Rass, who is leading the project at the university, explains. In addition, they must consider so-called “soft targets”, i.e. targets in the public sphere that are attractive goals for terrorists. These have recently started to gain attention and would also have an impact on the above-mentioned networks in the event of an attack.

ODYSSEUS represents the scientific endeavour to create a simulation-based, cross-domain risk model based on the example of the City of Vienna. The aim is to comprehensively model the networks of the central supply infrastructures (electricity, gas, water, food, and telecommunications including ICT) along with the transport networks (road and rail). Stefan Rass elaborates: “We want to use artificial intelligence techniques to construct a realistic replica – a ‘digital twin’ – based on existing data.”

Using this model as their basis, Rass and his team will simulate potential threats. In doing so, they will take into account both natural disasters and man-made incidents.

In response to the question whether similar simulations already exist, Rass explains: “The novel aspect of this work is our focus on the dynamic relationships between the networks. To achieve a realistic representation of these interdependencies, we will develop mathematical models drawn from the field of statistics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

One key output artefact of ODYSSEUS will be a simulation environment that allows a detailed assessment of the impact of threats, taking into account the urban population. The results describe the potential compensation and displacement mechanisms that one should expect within the multi-layered network of infrastructures and public spaces. “Based on this knowledge, targeted preventive safety measures can be derived, presented and evaluated”, Stefan Rass concludes, summarising the project’s prospects.

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