Topology aware adaptive security

Pasquale, Liliana; Ghezzi, Carlo; Menghi, Claudio; Tsigkanos, Christos and Nuseibeh, Bashar (2014). Topology aware adaptive security. In: Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium on Software Engineering for Adaptive and Self-Managing Systems, ACM, pp. 43–48.




Adaptive security systems aim to protect valuable assets in the face of changes in their operational environment. They do so by monitoring and analysing this environment, and deploying security functions that satisfy some protection (security, privacy, or forensic) requirements. In this paper, we suggest that a key characteristic for engineering adaptive security is the topology of the operational environment, which represents a physical and/or a digital space - including its structural relationships, such as containment, proximity, and reachability. For adaptive security, topology expresses a rich representation of context that can provide a system with both structural and semantic awareness of important contextual characteristics. These include the location of assets being protected or the proximity of potentially threatening agents that might harm them. Security-related actions, such as the physical movement of an actor from a room to another in a building, may be viewed as topological changes. The detection of a possible undesired topological change (such as an actor possessing a safe’s key entering the room where the safe is located) may lead to the decision to deploy a particular security control to protect the relevant asset. This position paper advocates topology awareness for more effective engineering of adaptive security. By monitoring changes in topology at runtime one can identify new or changing threats and attacks, and deploy adequate security controls accordingly. The paper elaborates on the notion of topology and provides a vision and research agenda on its role for systematically engineering adaptive security systems.

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