Counter-Terrorism Lab (CT-Lab)

To Dan Lewin, a friend,
lost in the Towers.

Founded in February 2002, few months after the Twin Towers tragedy, the CT-Lab aims at studying the strategic and tactical aspects of possible terrorist attacks on critical infrastructures. More precisely, the CT-Lab research tries to employ modeling and complex systems analysis to the problem of analyzing strength and weaknesses of critical infrastructures, and how corresponding counter-measures can be successfully tackled.


Related Publications

Massimo Marchiori
``Light Analysis of Complex Systems''
In Proceedings of the 1998 ACM International Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC '98), Ada and Software Engineering Track, ACM Press, 1998. (pre-CT-Lab)
Massimo Marchiori, Vito Latora
``Harmony in the Small-World''
In Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, 2000. (pre-CT-Lab)
Vito Latora, Massimo Marchiori
``Efficient behavior of small-world networks"''
In Physical Review Letters, The American Physical Society, 2001. (pre-CT-Lab)
Vito Latora, Massimo Marchiori
``Is the Boston subway a small-world network?''
In Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, special issue on "Horizons in Complex Systems", Elsevier, 2002.
P. Crucitti, V. Latora, M. Marchiori, A. Rapisarda
``Complex Systems: Analysis and Models of Real-Networks"
In Proceedings of the International Conference on Energy Transfer in Biological Systems, World Scientific Press, 2002.
V. Latora, M.Marchiori
``The Architecture of Complex Systems''
Chapter of the book Studies of Complexity, Oxford University Press, 2002.
P. Crucitti, V. Latora, M. Marchiori, A. Rapisarda
``Efficiency of Scale-Free Networks: Error and Attack Tolerance''
In Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, 2003.
V. Latora, M.Marchiori,
``Economic small-world behaviour in weighted networks"
In The European Physical Journal, 2003.
P.Crucitti, V. Latora, M.Marchiori,
``A model for cascading failures in complex networks"
In Physical Review E, 2004.
V. Latora, M.Marchiori,
``How the science of complex networks can help developing strategies against terrorism"
In Chaos Solitons and Fractals, 2004.
P.Crucitti, V. Latora, M.Marchiori,
``Error and attack tolerance of complex networks"
In Physica A, 2004.
P.Crucitti, V. Latora, M.Marchiori,
``A topological analysis of the Italian electric power grid"
In Physica A, 2004.

Major Ongoing Projects

These are the major currenty active projects within the CT-Lab. A non-public status implies that most of the material on that project is stiil undisclosed to the public.


The following people are currently involved in the CT-Lab projects:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do you have a political standing? What about wars?
No! The CT-Lab is an academic laboratory, and as such has nothing to do with politics, and with judgements about wars. Just, there is some nifty mathematics into action here, raising incredibly challenging and interesting issues and techniques.
Do you just tackle terrorist attacks?
No, and in fact the name "counter-terrorism" might be misleading, in that the CT-lab scope is larger, including many kinds of "attacks" broadly defined (like, natural disasters for instance), that can be categorized within a certain common mathematical structure.
Does dissemination of your results imply an advantage for terrorists?
That is a tough question, and in fact a point that gave us food for thinking. The conclusion we had on this is that knowledge of weaknesses and of possible attacks are a plus for the whole community, and as such it shouldn't be kept secret. This is equivalent to many other situations, like virtual attacks for software: researchers who find bugs leading to potential malicious attacks don't keep them secret, but instead make such bugs known to the community, so that better countermeasures can be effectively developed.
Besides, the kind of analysis we are tackling usually works on abstraction models, which means that for somebody to practically apply these techniques in the most effective way, there is the need for a good knowledge of the system structure. So, this means that it is very easy for the maintainer of a critical infrastructure to actually analyze the worst-case scenarios, and provide the corresponding countermeasures; but, it is harder for a terrorist to actually identify the absolutely best critical spots to hit.
Do you actually disclose critical data?
No, we don't disclose critical data. As a working policy, the CT-Lab public output has no confidential information in it, and, most important, never contains critical information that is extracted from non-public information. So, to give an example, we will never make public the weakness of system X, if our analysis of system X has been conducted using non-public information.
What is the status of your research? And your best result?
As you might have noted, all our ongoing projects are kept under non-public status, for the simple reason that we don't want to advertise this before it is properly completed (see later). Each project listed above has a "progress" indicator, giving the percentage of completion: when 100%, this means the project is ready to go public.
Our so-far best (public) result is this article.
The next project that will go public, which will become our best public result, is the product of a still undisclosed research project (CRISPO), which has been collecting and processing massive amounts of data for a while (so, CRISPO will be the first really big CT-lab project whose outcome will go public). We believe it is more important to do things scientifically right, rather than fall within the "publish or perish" plague and publish ten intermediate snippets just to have more published papers in a cv (...). After all, our goal is not to publish, but to make progress in the field, so multi-publication is not the game we are interested in.