This research project examines how a combination of infrastructure failures and cyber-attacks can compound the damage inflicted by climatic hazards. In understanding the compounding environmental impacts of cyber on climatic disruptions, the team will begin by analyzing operational and informational technological failures as two separate, but related disturbances. The research team will contribute significantly to the current environmental as well as computer science academic literature to understand better these types of hybrid threats—how physical failures combined with malicious cyber-attacks escalate into a larger environmental calamity. There is a concerning gap in current academic literature in understanding compound threats—the relationship between the “internet of things” and the corresponding rise of “internet of threats,” to include attacks on critical process controls, such as industrial control systems. Finding solutions to mitigate cascading degradations, such as attacking soft target utilities in close geographic proximity to military bases and critical infrastructures such as dams, begins with a clear understanding of the vulnerabilities of operational and informational networks linking these various physical assets and social entities.

Technical Approach

The research team will use a case study—mixed (quantitative and qualitative) methods approach with a realistic threat scenario in the continental US (CONUS) and also outside of it (OCONUS). In estimating the compounding threat outcomes of cyber-attacks during natural disasters, the team will quantify key failure and recovery characteristics at the systems, network, geographical and institutional levels. To validate this framework, the team will create a laboratory test environment, and perform validation through actual demonstration using system and network behavior emulations. The research team will emulate sophisticated network and system attacks with climate-induced infrastructure failure scenarios, and formally prove the correctness of the resultant algorithms.


Different from existing approaches, the team will establish a novel and dynamic multiphase resilience assessment framework, capable of modeling and quantifying the resilience of cyber infrastructures during an extreme disruption to improve military operations, and inform humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) concepts of operations across a wide range of changing threat scenarios.