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Modeling, Analysis, and Optimization of Robustness in Interdependent Networks against Cascading Failures

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posted on 06.06.2019 by Yingrui Zhang
Critical infrastructures, including those that concern the nation's economy and security such as electrical power systems, water distribution systems and transportation systems, are becoming more and more interdependent with each other. Although they bring unprecedented improvements on efficiency and flexibility, the interdependent relations enable failures in one network to propagate and impact the performance of other coupled networks. Cascading failures is one such phenomenon that creates dramatic damages to critical infrastructures, where a small initial shock can get escalated due to the intricate dependencies and result in system-wide collapses. This dissertation aims to understand and mitigate the root cause of the seemingly unexpected large-scale cascading failures by characterizing and modeling the inherent dependencies between and within different networks. A main finding is that allocating the available redundancies uniformly across the system maximizes the robustness against random failures. We support this thesis statement with different networks and attack types: flow-carrying networks under random and targeted attack, interdependent flow-carrying networks under random attacks, and interdependent cyber-physical networks under random attacks. In the flow redistribution network, we propose a global and equal flow redistribution model to capture the cascading failure dynamics. In the case of random attacks, we derive the final system size and critical attack size, and prove that the optimal robustness is reached when system redundancy is allocated uniformly. For targeted attacks, we propose the optimization problem of finding the best k lines to attack so as to minimize the number of alive lines at the steady-state, to reveal the worst-case attack vulnerability of the system. In interdependent flow-carrying networks, we study a model where the flow of a failed line is redistributed partially within the network that the failed line belongs to, with the rest being shed to other coupled networks. Analyzing the cascading failures in this model, we show that interdependence has a multi-faceted impact on system robustness in that as the level of coupling increases, the chance for both networks to survive or collapse concurrently increases, whereas it becomes more difficult for each component network to survive on its own. To understand the robustness of integrated cyber-physical systems (CPSs), we develop a novel interdependent system model to capture the inherently different failure cascade characteristics of each component network; i.e., the cyber and the physical networks are governed by different cascade rules to be able to function. We demonstrate the ability of our model to capture the unexpected nature of large-scale cascading failures in CPSs, and provide insights on improving system robustness by proposing optimal redundancy allocation schemes.




Degree Type



Electrical and Computer Engineering

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Osman Yagan