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Anticipating complex network vulnerabilities through abstraction-based analysis


Large, complex networks are ubiquitous in nature and society, and there is great interest in developing rigorous, scalable methods for identifying and characterizing their vulnerabilities. This paper presents an approach for analyzing the dynamics of complex networks in which the network of interest is first abstracted to a much simpler, but mathematically equivalent, representation, the required analysis is performed on the abstraction, and analytic conclusions are then mapped back to the original network and interpreted there. We begin by identifying a broad and important class of complex networks which admit vulnerability-preserving, finite state abstractions, and develop efficient algorithms for computing these abstractions. We then propose a vulnerability analysis methodology which combines these finite state abstractions with formal analytics from theoretical computer science to yield a comprehensive vulnerability analysis process for networks of real-world scale and complexity. The potential of the proposed approach is illustrated via case studies involving a realistic electric power grid, a gene regulatory network, and a general class of social network dynamics.