Interdependent networks: vulnerability analysis and strategies to limit cascading failure
Network theory is increasingly employed to study the structure and behaviour of social, physical and technological systems — including civil infrastructure. Many of these systems are interconnected and the interdependencies between them allow disruptive events to propagate across networks, enabling damage to spread far beyond the immediate footprint of disturbance. In this research we experiment with a model to characterise the configuration of interdependencies in terms of direction, redundancy, and extent, and we analyse the performance of interdependent systems with a wide range of possible coupling modes. We demonstrate that networks with directed dependencies are less robust than those with undirected dependencies, and that the degree of redundancy in inter-network dependencies can have a differential effect on robustness depending on the directionality of the dependencies. As interdependencies between many real-world systems exhibit these characteristics, it is likely that many such systems operate near their critical thresholds. The vulnerability of an interdependent network is shown to be reducible in a cost effective way, either by optimising inter-network connections, or by hardening high degree nodes. The results improve understanding of the influence of interdependencies on system performance and provide insight into how to mitigate associated risks.