Conversations in Science
for K-12 Educators

A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.

Thursday, February 12, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Optimal Resource Allocation for Critical Infrastructure Protection.

Vicki M. Bier, Ph.D.
Professor in the departments of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Even before the September 11, 2001, airplane attacks and the anthrax attacks that followed, the nation has been working to put together an effective homeland-security plan. Managing the risks posed by intelligent and adaptable adversaries is fundamentally different from protecting against "acts of nature" or "accidents." For example, an earthquake will not become stronger or "smarter" just because we have hardened our buildings to protect against it. By contrast, an intelligent and determined adversary is likely to adopt a different offensive strategy once we have put a particular set of protective measures in place. Therefore, good defensive strategies must consider the adversary's behavior. Thus, risk management in this context is a problem of game theory, in which the defender wishes to choose the optimal strategy for defending against an optimal attack, and vice versa. In this work, we use game theory to help characterize optimal defensive strategies against intentional attacks. The objectives are to identify optimal or near-optimal strategies for allocating resources among possible defensive investments, and to develop qualitative guidelines or system design principles to managed intentional security threats to networked systems. The novel feature of the approach is the combined use of reliability analysis methods together with game theory to study management of intentional threats to networked systems. The results yield insights into the nature of optimal defensive investments in networked systems that yield the best tradeoff between the cost of the investments and the security of the resulting systems. In particular, the results illustrate how the optimal allocation of resources to defensive investments depends on features such as the structure of the system, the cost-effectiveness of infrastructure protection investments, and the objective function and constraints describing the attacker's behavior.

This material is based upon work supported in part by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army Research Office under grant number DAAD19-01-1-0502, and by the U.S. National Science Foundation under grant number DMI-0228204. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.

About the Presenter:

Vicki Bier: Dr. Bier holds a joint appointment as Professor in the departments of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has directed the Center for Human Performance and Risk Analysis (formerly the Center for Human Performance in Complex Systems) since 1995. She has more than twenty years of experience in risk analysis for the nuclear power, chemical, petrochemical, and aerospace industries. She received a Ph.D. in Operations Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983, and a B.S. in Mathematical Sciences from Stanford University in 1976.