SATURN (Self-organising Adaptive Technology underlying Resilient Networks)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Computer Science


The overall project aims are to develop a middleware layer to provide an agile and dependable service-based information infrastructure capable of supporting critical functions. The Warwick effort underpins this by fundamental research into the nature and communicability of interdependencies between organisations providing components of the infrastructure and analysis of the consequent risks.The complexity of systems today makes risk management a difficult task: often mitigation strategies become out of date as technology is installed and processes evolve. The agile nature of business and the fast-paced development of technology results in information infrastructures which are highly dynamic, changing both in configuration of their technology and in their use. The problem is aggravated when we consider a system of enterprises, where vulnerabilities are pervasive, and the infrastructures are interconnected via the Internet or some other common element (which might include members of staff). Here we need to be able to understand the potential impact of a single attack or set of events upon a whole system of systems, where the resilience mechanisms deployed may vary and where the risk management methods adopted may not be consistent. It is currently not possible to predict such an impact beyond the simplest cases (such as where the attack exploits an obvious vulnerability in a common piece of technology, which has a clear impact upon the organisations under attack, and where the potential for an attacker to exploit that vulnerability is known). However, where the potential impact of an attack is not known even within a single organisation, then understanding the cascade effects across a system of such organisations is exceptionally difficult. It is this interdependency problem which we seek to address.We will use our expertise in resilience, formal analysis, intelligence systems (and in particular data fusion) and threat modelling to develop an ontology and generic model of resilience mechanisms and risk-management methodologies, based on those in use in typical representatives of key domains, and to use this to assess the potential for cascade failures across a system of organisations, under a variety of vulnerability and threat models. Specifically, we will explore the relevant technology, process, standards, compliance, human and social (such as economics, WARP, social networking and other forms of collaboration) factors which could directly influence points of vulnerability and weakness. Logical abstractions will be developed and automated inference and model-checking tools will be used to explore the model and run 'what-if' scenarios in order to explore critical dependencies, and the degree of impact which attacks on vulnerabilities might have across the system of systems. The model will be extended to incorporate a formal representation of the SATURN self-healing functionality, allowing for 'what-if' scenarios to be explored and, in particular, potential conflicts between differing systems' strategies for healing and the overall impact on the CNI system of systems. The outputs of the mechanised analysis will be used to scope the experiments to be run on the Cyber Range; identifying potential areas of interest and concern, and healing strategies worthy of realistic simulation and further investigation using the range tools. The key outputs of this analysis will be: * a capability to model (subsets of) CNI as systems of systems, to assess the impact of the varying risk management approaches upon the exposure to threats and vulnerabilities. This capability will be based upon a formal model and automated analysis tools, and will be validated via the Cyber Range experimentation. * specific recommendations resulting directly from the experiments run on the Cyber Range on how organisations adopting differing risk management methodologies might collaborate to manage risk in a joined-up fashion.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
TS/H002138/1 21/12/2009 01/10/2011 £396,460
TS/H002138/2 Transfer TS/H002138/1 01/10/2011 31/12/2012 £167,239
Description Our key finding on the SATURN project was that there are extreme subtleties to understanding the true nature of inter-dependency inside a community or supply chain. That these can be visualised to greater effective.
Exploitation Route Other researchers of situational awareness tools will be able to use our insights into cognitive limits or lack thereof, to help make their tools more usable.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

Description CDE Next Generation Defense
Amount £1,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID numerous - three separate contracts... 
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Description SATURN - BT 
Organisation BT Group
Department BT Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The research we conducted into a modelling framework for CNI inter-dependancies and risk propagation informed the BT analytics framework, and more broadly our survey of SOC tools and visualisations helped them identify gaps in the capability base. We also helped inform their understanding of requirements for advanced situational awareness tools.
Collaborator Contribution BT brought insight into the actual information and technology layer inter-dependancies and how they are practically exploited in attacks, which informed our modelling approach.
Impact - research papers - analytical framework
Start Year 2009
Description SATURN - NG 
Organisation Northrop Grumman
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Our analytical tools and insights into situational awareness tools helped NG to scope their cyberrange requirements.
Collaborator Contribution NG provided a cyber-range which we were able to demonstrate our analytical tools working on.
Impact - research papers
Start Year 2009
Description SATURN - Oxford Cabdyn 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Said Business School
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our work on analytical models for CNI inter-dependencies helped inform the research being conducted in the Cabdyn group in their complexity-based analysis of similar issues for supply-chains.
Collaborator Contribution The Cabdyn research into supply chain security help to identify cases to stimulate our research into a modelling framework.
Impact - research papers - analytical framework
Start Year 2009