Stylised image of a modern city

New Victoria University research reveals how information and communication technologies (ICT) which large cities increasingly rely on can be vulnerable to natural and man-made threats.

The study examined Melbourne as a ‘ubiquitous city or U-city’ that depends on ICT such as local and wide area networks and satellite systems to manage its commerce, education, health care, transportation, fire and security services, and more.

Using analytical hierarchical processing, the research estimated and ranked how vulnerable each system was to a range of man-made threats including cyber-attacks and facility vandalism. It also looked at the risk of natural hazards such as bushfires and floods.

It found that natural hazards most heavily affected technologies requiring physical infrastructure, with floods posing the most destructive risk to ICT under the climatic and infrastructure conditions of Melbourne. Systems using context awareness computing, and augmented or virtual reality were particularly vulnerable.

Floods were ranked at more than 25% for their level of potential destructive impact on Melbourne’s ICT systems, followed by hailstorms (13%), and heatwaves (11%) among the natural hazards.

The most severe man-made risk by far remained facility vandalism with an estimated impact of 42%, followed by the ICT induced risks of malware attacks with an impact level of about 24%, SQL injection (which injects malicious code into databases) at about 6%, and phishing attacks, which use fake emails or websites to target individuals or organisations (5%).

Research conducted by undergraduate student

The study was conducted by an undergraduate, Cheuk Yin Wai, under the supervision of Dr Muhammad Atiq Tariq and Dr Nitin Muttil of VU’s College of Engineering and Science.

This is the third research paper published in 2020 by undergraduate students in the College by the same supervisors, which is an extraordinary achievement.

Dr Atiq, who volunteers to mentor high-achieving undergraduate students toward a goal of publication, said VU’s block model of learning, which delivers courses one unit at a time, allows students the flexibility to focus on the extra demands of research publication.

The study,Vulnerability Assessment of Ubiquitous Cities Using the Analytic Hierarchy Process’ was recently published in the Q2 journal, Future Internet.