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Survivable Networks Systems
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Survivability In Network Systems

Contemporary large-scale networked systems that are highly distributed improve the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations by permitting whole new levels of organizational integration. However, such integration is accompanied by elevated risks of intrusion and compromise. These risks can be mitigated by incorporating survivability capabilities into an organization's systems. As an emerging discipline, survivability builds on related fields of study (e.g., security, fault tolerance, safety, reliability, reuse, performance, verification, and testing) and introduces new concepts and principles. Survivability focuses on preserving essential services in unbounded environments, even when systems in such environments are penetrated and compromised.

The New Network Paradigm: Organizational Integration

From their modest beginnings some 20 years ago, computer networks have become a critical element of modern society. These networks not only have global reach, they also have impact on virtually every aspect of human endeavor. Network systems are principal enabling agents in business, industry, government, and defense. Major economic sectors, including defense, energy, transportation, telecommunications, manufacturing, financial services, health care, and education, all depend on a vast array of networks operating on local, national, and global scales. This pervasive societal dependency on networks magnifies the consequences of intrusions, accidents, and failures, and amplifies the critical importance of ensuring network survivability.

As organizations seek to improve efficiency and competitiveness, a new network paradigm is emerging. Networks are being used to achieve radical new levels of organizational integration. This integration obliterates traditional organizational boundaries and transforms local operations into components of comprehensive, network-resident business processes. For example, commercial organizations are integrating operations with business units, suppliers, and customers through large-scale networks that enhance communication and services.

These networks combine previously fragmented operations into coherent processes open to many organizational participants. This new paradigm represents a shift from bounded networks with central control to unbounded networks. Unbounded networks are characterized by distributed administrative control without central authority, limited visibility beyond the boundaries of local administration, and lack of complete information about the network. At the same time, organizational dependencies on networks are increasing and risks and consequences of intrusions and compromises are amplified.

The Definition of Survivability

We define survivability as the capability of a system to fulfill its mission, in a timely manner, in the presence of attacks, failures, or accidents. We use the term system in the broadest possible sense, including networks and large-scale systems of systems. The term mission refers to a set of very high-level (i.e., abstract) requirements or goals.

Missions are not limited to military settings since any successful organization or project must have a vision of its objectives whether expressed implicitly or as a formal mission statement. Judgments as to whether or not a mission has been successfully fulfilled are typically made in the context of external conditions that may affect the achievement of that mission. For example, assume that a financial system shuts down for 12 hours during a period of widespread power outages caused by a hurricane.

If the system preserves the integrity and confidentiality of its data and resumes its essential services after the period of environmental stress is over, the system can reasonably be judged to have fulfilled its mission. However, if the same system shuts down unexpectedly for 12 hours under normal conditions (or under relatively minor environmental stress) and deprives its users of essential financial services, the system can reasonably be judged to have failed its mission, even if data integrity and confidentiality are preserved.

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