Methods Development for Defending against Adaptive Adversaries

Principal Investigator: Vicki Bier


The primary focus of the research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been to expand the existing tools and techniques of risk analysis to more effectively address security considerations, using the economic tool of game theory to take into account the fact that terrorists can observe our defenses and adapt their strategies accordingly.  In particular, the basic models developed in earlier years of this effort have been extended to account for defender uncertainty about attacker goals and objectives (as represented by a multi-attribute utility function), allowing for target attributes that are unknown to the defender but could be important to the attacker. Moreover, we explicitly consider the effects of attacker capabilities in addition to just attacker intent, since intelligence experts generally believe that adversary capabilities are at least as important as intent. One novel feature of this work is the use of contest success functions from economics to capture the extent to which the success of an attack is attributable to attacker capabilities (and the level of defensive investment) rather than pure luck. Moreover, our model accounts for multiple types of attacker capabilities (e.g., capital financing vs. personnel), and allows the effectiveness of a given type of capability to differ across targets (e.g., civilian versus military targets) and attack modes (e.g., attacks using improvised explosive devices versus nuclear weapons).