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11
A Note on the Interfacial Vulnerabilities of Transportation Systems

George Bugliarello, Polytechnic University and National Academy of Engineering


Some of the most insidious vulnerabilities of a system often are encountered at the interfaces within the system and between the system and other systems. In transportation systems these vulnerabilities are aggravated by a situation in which not all their components and interfaces are being paid equal attention. For instance, there are today no agent-based models that incorporate realistically the human component of the system and can predict the emergency response of individuals.

The components of a transportation system range from individuals in the system—a biological component—to its social components, such as its organization and practices, to its machines, that is, in the broadest sense, its engineered artifacts, as described in Table 11-1. Thus, transportation systems are complex bio-socio-machines, or, for short, biosoma systems, in which their biological, social, and machine components are indissolubly interconnected (see Figure 11-1) (Bugliarello, 2000; Bugliarello, 2003). Also, biosomic1 is the range of modalities of potential attacks on such systems and so are many of their interfacial vulnerabilities and their resilience.



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11 A Note on the Interfacial Vulnerabilities of Transportation Systems George Bugliarello, Polytechnic University and National Academy of Engineering Some of the most insidious vulnerabilities of a system often are encountered at the interfaces within the system and between the system and other systems. In transportation systems these vulnerabilities are aggravated by a situation in which not all their components and interfaces are being paid equal attention. For instance, there are today no agent-based models that incorporate realistically the human component of the system and can predict the emergency response of individuals. The components of a transportation system range from individuals in the system—a biological component—to its social components, such as its organiza- tion and practices, to its machines, that is, in the broadest sense, its engineered artifacts, as described in Table 11-1. Thus, transportation systems are complex bio-socio-machines, or, for short, biosoma systems, in which their biological, so- cial, and machine components are indissolubly interconnected (see Figure 11-1) (Bugliarello, 2000; Bugliarello, 2003). Also, biosomic1 is the range of modalities of potential attacks on such systems and so are many of their interfacial vulner- abilities and their resilience. 

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 COUNTERING TERRORISM TABLE 11-1 Biosoma Components of a Transportation System Bio So Ma Individual operators Organizations operating systems Vehicles Managers Security forces Platforms (roads, rails, pipelines, etc.) Security personnel Government Access facilities (station, harbor, Local airport, etc.) Regional National Individual users International compacts Power and fuel supply Working animals Community Sensors, command-and-control devices Bio So Ma Modern Humans Evolution Bio So Ma FIGURE 11-1 The biosoma. Fig 11-1.eps ATTACKS AND VULNERABILITIES Attacks on transportation systems can occur from individuals acting indepen- dently, such as hackers or some suicide bombers, or can be organized by social entities, such as terrorist groups of various degrees of sophistication, for example, those responsible for the September 11, 2001, attack in New York City and the attacks on trains in Madrid, London, and Mumbai. The attacks can be carried out by different kinds of machines, from conventional explosives to poisonous chemicals, nuclear or radiological devices, vehicles, airplanes, and generators of electromagnetic pulses. In general, the tighter the interconnections among the biosoma components of an attack, the more effective the attack is likely to be.

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 A NOTE ON THE INTERFACIAL VULNERABILITIES OF TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS VULNERABILITIES WITHIN A TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM The interfacial vulnerabilities within a transportation system are those at the interfaces between components of the biosoma—between individuals and orga- nizations, between individuals and machines, or among all three biosoma com- ponents. The individual-organization vulnerabilities could be due, for example, to vulnerabilities in the relation between a conductor and the management of the system, such as failures to communicate with each other, to alert each other, to supervise, or to accept supervision. The vulnerabilities often occur because of psychological conditions, such as that of a disaffected individual or organiza- tion; of an individual fearing for his or her family; language barriers that may lead to misinterpretations; or physiological conditions, such as the health of the individual or, for that matter, the gestalt of an organization that is dysfunctional or not performing at its best. Examples of vulnerabilities at the individual-ma- chine interface are inadequate operational knowledge of an individual operating a machine, machine failures, or sabotage of a machine by an ill-intentioned individual. An example involving the interfaces among all three biosoma components within the system is failures of the traffic light command-and-control system involving incident commanders, the organization that operates the traffic lights, and the traffic lights themselves. Critical and choke points of a transportation system, such as locks, canals, traffic light control centers, and other command- and-control centers, are particularly vulnerable to biosomic attacks that may involve individual sabotage, organized attacks, and the use of machines to destroy critical components of the system. One of the recent examples of vulnerabilities involving all biosomic components and the disconnects at their interfaces was the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in New Orleans. There were failures of individuals to take action—both decision makers in positions of leadership and victims unwilling to evacuate; failures of organizations such as the emergency response systems; and failures of machines, such as levees, houses, and bridges that collapsed. The most egregious failure, however, was the lack of coordination across the multiple interfaces among these components, for example, coordina- tion among evacuation organizations, the viability of bridges, and the availability of vehicles. This exacerbated the individual failures of the components. KEY SYSTEMS INTERDEPENDENCIES The vulnerabilities of a transportation system are also affected by those of other systems with which it interfaces. The multiple interfaces of transportation systems are summarized in Box 11-1. The telecommunications system enables a transportation system to communicate within itself and with other systems; the energy system provides the power and fuel the transportation systems require; the financial systems are involved in collection of revenues, payment of salaries,

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 COUNTERING TERRORISM Box 11-1 Transportation Systems’ Interfaces • Interfaces Within a System – ndividuals (BIO); organizations, regulations, practices, etc. (SO); and ma- I chines: vehicles, infrastructure (roads, docks, power, communications, sen- sors, etc.) (MA) • Interfaces With Other Systems – Other Transportation Systems (land, water, and air) – ther Systems (power, telecommunications, security, finance, international O trade agreements, etc.) • Jurisdictional Interfaces – Municipal – Regional – National – International • Private-Public Interfaces financing of construction and repair, and so forth; and security systems help pro- vide protection. Furthermore, transportation systems may be affected by the sys- tems of international trade agreements, which affect, for instance, the inspections at the source or point of shipment of merchandise coming from other countries. Transportation systems, in turn, have an impact on other systems—on their human resources and on their flow of needed supplies. The impacts on human resources may stem from the possible inability in an emergency for a transporta- tion system to convey the first responders to their assigned locations, as well as to convey personnel necessary for the operation of business, industry, education, health care, and security systems. The impact on supplies occurs when the trans- portation system cannot deliver food, materials required by energy systems and industry, and other supplies needed by businesses and service systems. These interfacial interactions may involve all three components of the bio- soma—the individuals (for example, the conductors and the managers), the or- ganizations (such as the transportation system itself, the telecommunications systems, or the system of first responders), and the machines (such as trains, pipelines, and information systems). Figure 11-2 exemplifies some of these intra- and intersystem interactions. Some important vulnerabilities of transportation systems occur at intermodal interconnections, for example, within or among road systems, rapid transit sys- tems, railroad systems, water transport systems, and air transport. Vulnerabilities can arise, for example, when there are disconnects between freight in harbors

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 A NOTE ON THE INTERFACIAL VULNERABILITIES OF TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS Bio So Ma Conductors Organization Machines Managers . . . Transportation . . . Telecom system . . . Transportation . . . First Responders FIGURE 11-2 Examples of patterns of system interactions. Fig 11-2.eps and freight at freight terminals, as containers are landed and then transferred to rail or truck. In addition to the vulnerabilities at each of these interconnections, there are issues of coordination of the overall transportation system and of fea- sibility of substitutions if one component of the system, for example, a railroad segment, fails. Transportation systems are particularly vulnerable at their people access points: at stations, such as ticket offices, waiting rooms, and platforms that often gather crowds; at bus and street car stops; at taxi stands; and at airports, where long lines typically precede the access to security. Identifying the vulnerabilities of the points of contact among the organi- zational components of the transportation system and its interfaces with other organizations and jurisdictions is particularly important. There is a need to con- sider the potential vulnerabilities of individuals involved in the organizational interfaces (vulnerabilities that might arise from their state of health or mind, or language barriers that may lead to misinterpretations), as well as the potential organizational vulnerabilities that may stem from different practices or views in different organizations of what is correct practice. These interorganizational vulnerabilities are exemplified by the recent case of a traveler diagnosed with a highly infective case of tuberculosis who was cleared to cross the border from Canada to the United States in spite of an all-points border alert. However, in all these cases judgment and the avoidance of paranoia are also needed. There is also a need to consider the vulnerabilities arising from the interfaces among different jurisdictions. A transportation system usually spans different

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100 COUNTERING TERRORISM jurisdictions, as is seen in railroads, pipelines, or international airlines operating across several national borderlines or of commuter railroads crossing boundaries between municipal jurisdictions. Jurisdictional problems have obvious implica- tions for security, for example, when an incident calls for the involvement of mul- tiple jurisdictions. A frequent issue is the lack of coordination, when jurisdictions that should have intervened immediately defer to other jurisdictions, for example, to local entities, that may not have the capacity to take preventive measures or to mitigate the consequences of the disaster. Some vulnerabilities of transportation systems stem from economics and financial issues. One such set of issues involves the trade-off between security and efficiency; that is, whether the system should become more centralized or less centralized, whether several systems, such as pipelines and telecommunications lines, should be colocated, whether the organizational structure of the systems may or may not be geared to optimally deal with a major disaster, and whether, as is increasingly the case, the system relies on using the public Internet with its cy- bervulnerabilities rather than dedicated communications, which are less efficient but more secure. A second set of issues stems from the interfaces between public and private components. In the United States, the ownership of transportation systems, as that of most infrastructural systems, is to a very large extent private, hence, introducing vulnerabilities in their interactions with public systems. These trends are exacerbated by the growing internationalization of transportation sys- tems, which further complicates the assessment of vulnerabilities and the defense against them. An examination of the critical issues in transportation in the United States identified by the Transportation Research Board of the National Acad- emies—several of them in the economic and financial domains—would show that they require in most cases an interlaced biosomic approach, with its associated interfacial vulnerabilities (TRB, 2006). RESILIENCE, PREVENTION, AND MITIGATION When a disaster occurs, whether anthropogenic or natural, in which the vul- nerabilities of a system reduce its functionality, the system’s resilience, that is, the ability to recover its functionality fully or in part, within a reasonable time, is of paramount importance (see Figure 11-3). It is determined by the resilience of its individual components and by the effectiveness of their biosomic interactions. The first step in prevention is to identify all the interfaces of the system, both internal and external, assess for each the probability that an incident may hap- pen at each interface and determine its consequences—the extent to which the interface might be damaged or totally taken out of commission. That assessment of probabilities and consequences needs to focus not only on the most probable events but also on those of lower probability that may have much greater conse- quences. An important part of the assessment is the robustness of the interfaces, in order to guide decisions about preventive hardening, and about possible bypass-

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101 A NOTE ON THE INTERFACIAL VULNERABILITIES OF TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS Functionality Recovery Time FIGURE 11-3 Resilience. Fig 11-3.eps ing of the interfaces through connections with other components of the system or with other systems, for example, a different mode of transportation. VULNERABILITY MAPS Idealized computerized maps of a system can be useful in describing in a synoptic way different interfacial vulnerabilities, both within the system and where it interfaces with other systems (such as access points—stations and load- ing docks; supply points, where the system interfaces with the power and fuel supply systems; intermodal transfer points; maintenance and repair facilities) and where it interfaces with the environment surrounding the system (such as phone lines, viaducts, and so forth), which may be points of joint physical vulnerabilities with other systems (see Figure 11-4). The vulnerability of each of these interfacial points needs to be assessed for all the biosoma components of the interfacing systems. For instance, for a station, assessment should include the vulnerabilities of passengers to individual terrorists, the effectiveness of the station management organization, the robustness of the station’s structures, the vulnerabilities at the interfaces between the station, the vehicles in it and outside of it, and the com- munications system that will be informing the conductor of the vehicles. An assessment of the risks associated with a potential disruption at each of the vulnerability points on the map can be incorporated in a multidimensional representation of the risks throughout the system. This can make it possible to prioritize biosomic preventive measures and mitigating actions, including, if nec-

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102 COUNTERING TERRORISM System B INTERFACIAL Access Point Intermodal Maintenance and POINTS Supply Point (Station) Transfer Point Repair Point tunnel bridge A System Passengers Power/Fuel Passengers Security SYSTEMS Emergency Responders Freight INTERFACED Freight WITH Physical and Environmental Vulnerabilities FIGURE 11-4 A vulnerability map of a transportation system. Fig 11-4.eps essary, reconfiguration of the system to bypass disrupted interfaces. However, the process is not straightforward, as the assessment of risk depends on the realism of possible scenarios of disruption, on an estimate of their probabilities and of their consequences—a difficult problem for events for which there is no precedent. The assessments and the actions based on them can become further complicated if multiple simultaneous or sequential disruptions occur. CONCLUSIONS 1. The interfacial vulnerabilities of a transportation system are multiple and complex. 2. A view of transportation systems as bio-social-machine (biosoma) sys- tems helps identify systematically their interfacial vulnerabilities, both those internal to the systems and those in the systems’ interaction with other systems. 3. The effectiveness of terrorist attacks on a transportation system also de- pends on the coordination of their biosoma components and so does the system’s resilience. 4. Research is needed to go beyond empirical approaches and to develop a new body of knowledge that would help identify the vulnerability of interfaces, assess the probability and potential consequences of events at interfaces, study potential cascade effects, and develop strategies and technologies to bypass compromised interfacial points. All this requires more systematic and rigorous re- search to better understand the vulnerabilities of transportation systems and other infrastructural systems and to develop possible remedies. For example, a better understanding of the interactions of human and nonhuman biosoma components

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10 A NOTE ON THE INTERFACIAL VULNERABILITIES OF TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS of transportation systems could benefit from the emerging interdisciplinary field of social network analysis (Heyman, 2006). ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This research is supported in part by Sloan Foundation Grant number 2002- 10-12 to the Urban Security Initiative at Polytechnic University. NOTE Pertaining to the biosoma. 1. REFERENCES Bugliarello, G. 2000. The biosoma: The synthesis of biology, machines and society. Bulletin of Sci- ence, Technology & Society 20(6):452-464. Bugliarello, G. 2003. The Biosoma: Reflections on the Synthesis of Biology, Society and Machines. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Polytechnic University. Heyman, K. 2006. Making connections. Science 313:604-606. Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies. 2006. Critical Issues in Transpor- tation. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available online at onlinepubs.trb. org/Onlinepubs/general/CriticalIssues0.pdf. Accessed April 24, 2008.