Modelling Socio-Technical Aspects of Organisational Security

TitleModelling Socio-Technical Aspects of Organisational Security
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsIvanova M.G
UniversityTechnical University of Denmark
Thesis Typephd

Identification of threats to organisations and risk assessment often take into consideration the pure technical aspects, overlooking the vulnerabilities originating from attacks on a social level, for example social engineering, and abstracting away the physical infrastructure. However, attacks on organisations are far from being purely technical. After all, organisations consist of employees. Often the human factor appears to be the weakest point in the security of organisations. It may be easier to break through a system using a social engineering attack rather than a pure technological one. The StuxNet attack is only one of the many examples showing that vulnerabilities of organisations are increasingly exploited on different levels including the human factor. There is an urgent need for integration between the technical and social aspects of systems in assessing their security. Such an integration would close this gap, however, it would also result in complicating the formal treatment and automatic identification of attacks. This dissertation shows that applying a system modelling approach to sociotechnical systems can be used for identifying attacks on organisations, which exploit various levels of the vulnerabilities of the systems. In support of this claim we present a modelling framework, which combines many features. Based on a graph, the framework presents the physical infrastructure of an organisation, where actors and data are modelled as nodes in this graph. Based on the semantics of the underlying process calculus, we develop a formal analytical approach that generates attack trees from the model. The overall goal of the framework is to predict, prioritise and minimise the vulnerabilities in organisations by prohibiting the overall attack or at least increasing the difficulty and cost of fulfilling it. We validate our approach using scenarios from IPTV and Cloud Infrastructure case studies.