15th Summer School on Telecommunications

Keynote speech at WAWC'05

The Unwired Society: Flexible and Robust but Dangerously Vulnerable

Author Jan A Audestad


  • Senior Advisor, Telenor Corporate Mangement
  • Adjunct professor in telematics (distributed processing and mobility), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
  • Adjunct professor information security (distributed networks and vulnerability), Gjøvik University College


One of the most significant trends in telecommunications is the evolution toward mobility everywhere and for all purposes. The traffic on fixed access lines is decreasing while that across mobile interfaces is increasing faster than the decrease in fixed access traffic. Ubiquitous mobility is also changing the competitive arena allowing a number of new companies offering mobile access services. The network is becoming more structurally complex and dynamic. Much of the mobile communication will take place between machines rather than people (sensors of all kinds).

The evolution leads to enormous flexibility for the users. During the last few years, the structure of what is called scale-free network structures has been analysed. The Web is such a network and so are e-mail and the internet. These networks are unusually robust against blind attacks. On the other hand, the networks are extremely vulnerable to attacks directed toward certain nodes and functions in the network. We may call this phenomenon structural vulnerability.

The speech will show what causes this seemingly contradictory network structure being both robust and vulnerable at the same time. There is no unique way in which we can protect such networks against malicious attacks. However, it helps to be aware of the causes of the new type of vulnerability in order to avoid system designs that may make life easier for the attacker.

Laboratory of Communications Engineering