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Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have developed an innovative algorithm to mitigate disruptions in critical networks such as air traffic control and power distribution during a targeted attack.

“The terror attacks of 11th September 2001, all of which happened only on one day targeting a single country resulted in the entire airline industry coming to a standstill. Such threats are a reminder that in today’s highly interconnected world, there exists a high risk of one adverse event leading to the disruption of the entire network. Air traffic, road traffic, power distribution infrastructure and even social media platforms are all examples of highly connected networks and are, therefore, highly vulnerable to targeted attacks,” Karthik Raman, Core Member, Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, IIT Madras, stated. 

The algorithm proposes a way to build spare capacity in the network so that if one node (one entity linked to many entities) of the network is attacked, it is guided through this spare capacity to keep the network functioning.

Raman explained that this dormant space capacity is comparable to a spare tire kept in a car, as it is used if any of the four nodes becomes inoperable. “The algorithm takes a network whose spare capacity has to be determined as an input and gives out a modified network with added spare capacity, the cost of spare capacity for the network etc. Importantly, the algorithm also optimizes the cost associated with adding spare capacity.”

The algorithm has been tested on two infrastructure networks of air traffic and power distribution.