Network of Excellence in Internet Science

The Internet as Critical Infrastructure

The Internet as Critical Infrastructure: socio-technical issues.

Half-day workshop, Nice, 27 May 2014

***For more information, please visit the workshop website***

This half-day workshop has developed out of some shared interests in the JRA7 workpackage: Internet as a Critical Infrastructure: Security, Resilience and Dependability Aspects.

As the Internet replaces specially deployed data networks to become the carrier for an increasing number of critical applications, such as financial data transactions or security operations, the impact of failures in its operation can become dramatic. Essentially, the Internet has become a critical infrastructure, though it was not designed for this purpose. It is therefore imperative that we engage in a systematic approach to address risk and resilience to random failures, human errors, software or hardware faults, as well as political decisions and orchestrated malicious attacks at a broader socio-technical level, jointly investigating how threats arise, and how resilience and dependability can be provisioned. This approach will combine social actors using and operating critical applications on the Internet with work on the security and resilience of the Internet itself. The EINS working group aims to integrate technical, economical, sociological, political and legal viewpoints and expertise in addressing the criticality of the Internet infrastructure and the challenges that may arise from usage patterns, technical faults, local political decisions or malicious attackers. As such we believe it should prove of interest to a number of COOP participants, as well as those with broad interests in CSCW and HCI.

The notion of a critical infrastructure concerns the idea that infrastructural services gas, electricity, water, transport, banking are highly interconnected and mutually dependent in various complex ways, being linked both physically and through important ICT systems, so that individual failures or breakdowns quickly escalate into whole infrastructure failure. Identifying, understanding, analyzing and monitoring these critical infrastructure interdependencies present significant challenges. These challenges are greatly magnified by the breadth and complexity of our critical national infrastructures. As Rinaldi et al (2001) argue: Identifying, understanding, and analyzing the interdependencies among infrastructures have taken on increasing importance during the past decade. Key technological, economic, and regulatory changes have dramatically altered the relationships among infrastructures, and the information technology revolution has led to substantially more interconnected and complex infrastructures with generally greater centralization of control.

The infrastructure provides a range of essential services such as the ability to move goods, people, and information safely and reliably - necessary to support a nation's economic and social life so it is essential that such infrastructural services continue in the face of various hazards. But making critical infrastructure systems inherently reliable and safer is more than a simple, or even a complex technical problem. What a range of studies of critical infrastructure failure has illustrated is that such complex systems also have important organizational and human components that need to be understood and integrated into design. Rinaldi et al (2001) identify six dimensions: the technical, economic, business, social/political, legal/regulatory, public policy, health and safety, and security concerns; that impact on critical infrastructure operations and have the potential to influence social well-being and aspects of everyday life. Accordingly we seek a mix and wide range of interdisciplinary, technical and social papers on the Internet as a critical infrastructure and invite papers that include:

  • Empirical studies of internet usage and their critical importance in particular personal, communal, or organizational circumstances
  • Studies and analyses of particular (historical) internet failures or breakdowns, their importance and the ways such problem might be analysed, understood and addressed
  • The impact of the internet as a critical infrastructure on our understanding of organization – particularly the notion of the high reliability organization or our understanding of normal accident theory and organizational life
  • The interaction between legal/regulatory frameworks and the notion of the internet as a critical infrastructure

Contributions are welcomed on such topics as:

  • Analysis and design of community and communal approaches to the internet as a critical infrastructure – for example in rural or other specific, identifiable communities
  • Ethnographic studies of organizational or household use of the internet and how this might constitute a critical infrastructure
  • Approaches to the design and evaluation of software systems and applications intended to support aspects of the internet as a critical infrastructure
  • Studies on the appropriation, use, modification and repair of internet facilities within communities and household environments
  • Security and Resilience for Internet technologies, smartgrid as well as automation and control systems
  • Analysis of resilience for networked systems - Trade-offs between resilience and other aspects like cost, privacy, energy efficiency
  • How input from other disciplines might contribute to understanding and resolving critical infrastructure problems

Workshop activities, goals and interaction

We intend that the half-day workshop should be a challenging but supportive place to gather researchers and professionals across different disciplines and research fields who are concerned with the internet as a critical infrastructure and are willing to discuss how this issue has emerged within their very different fields of study and research. We anticipate that some of the participants will come from within the EINS network of excellence but will issue a call for participation as well as create a website to ensure wide recruitment.

Funding will be made available through the EINS project to give travel grants to 2-3 young researchers who wish to present their papers.

In order to achieve the overall workshop goals, we will encourage discussion and interactions by sharing the papers among participants before the workshop and assigning a discussant to each paper who will either be one of the other authors or one of the workshop organisers. The workshop will mainly consist of short presentations followed by discussions: firstly by the nominated discussant and then a general discussion.

In the last phase of the workshop, the presentations and topics will be positioned on a common future research roadmap and future goals, themes and common activities will be planned and discussed. In particular we intend to submit an outline and call for a special issue of First Monday on the theme of The Internet as a Critical Infrastructure for which revised papers from the workshop will be eligible for submission. We also intend, as part of the EINS project, to develop a textbook on The Internet as a Critical Infrastructure and part of the final discussion will be to consider what this might look like, what form it could take and what individual chapters might be required and how workshop participants might contribute to such a textbook.


The maximum number of participants is 20. Potential participants are requested to submit workshop papers (as either simple 2 page position papers or 6 page short papers) and brief information on the background of the author(s) (not more than 100 words). Accepted short papers will be presented at the workshop. All submissions will be reviewed by two of the workshop organisers. Participants will be selected on the basis of the quality and relevance of their papers, and the extent (and diversity) of their backgrounds to foster an interdisciplinary participation.

Submissions should be in Word format or PDF based on the ECSCW template and should be sent to: Heiko Niedermayer or Mark Rouncefield

Deadline for submissions

Thursday 10 April 2014

Important Dates

  • 10th April 2014: Submission Deadline
  • 18th April: Notification of acceptance
  • 9th May 2014: Camera-Ready Papers due
  • 27th May 2014: Workshop