In our increasingly complex and interconnected world, we need to reconsider our perception of cyber risk and cyber threats. Traditional risk models rely heavily on probabilistic approaches. However, new advances in digital technologies are challenging traditional risk modelling.
Because of this, as part of the Hermeneut project, the Digital Catapult has proposed a new approach, the Benefit Harm Index (BHI). The BHI integrates ideas from economics and complexity science into a new approach to understanding dynamic and emergent threats.
In order to spread this new perspective on cyber risk, Digital Catapult has hosted at its Centre in London a dedicated “Benefit Harm Index Workshop on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs)” on the 21st of January 2019.

Highlights from the workshop

In January, Digital Catapult hosted a small workshop looking at potential cyber risks and the emerging complex ecosystem for supporting the deployment and management for Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs, aka Driverless Cars). Attendees came from a range of backgrounds, reflecting the different organisations within the CAV ecosystem. The event consisted of presentations, discussions and a hands-on experience of Digital Catapult’s proposed scenario exploration interactive tool.

Networks are becoming increasingly connected, and increasingly new advanced and disruptive technologies are being brought together. Therefore, we must recognise these interconnected and dynamic elements have the potential to generate an environment of significant uncertainty. Furthermore, as companies and governments entrust digital systems to monitor and deliver services, the total value embedded in these systems is growing. This is an essential consideration for CAVs, which are a future key critical national infrastructure.

The Benefit Harm Index (BHI)

The workshop began with an overview of Digital Catapult’s Benefit Harm Index (BHI). The BHI approach combines insights from cyber security, theories of uncertainty in economic thought and complexity modelling. Thus, it integrates the important contribution intangible assets have on growth (as well as some methods borrowed from physics). Quantifying growth of harm and benefit is achieved by classifying it into certain complexity classes respectively.

The BHI methodology details the different levels of vulnerability, a taxonomy of dynamic complexity in which systems sit, and what this means for mitigation and control. The focus is around system security, promoting greater interdisciplinary working and generating insights on new approaches to modelling uncertainty.

The key dimensions of the BHI are time, likelihood of events, and impacts, both positive and negative. In order to draw practical detail of these dimensions, Digital Catapult proposed using frameworks developed through ideas within studies of futurology, in particular the Implications Wheel.

The Implications Wheel

The Implications Wheel® has been developed over the last 30 years by futurist and business strategist Joel Barker. The technology combines advanced software with the collaborative group process. Therefore, this allows drawing on the group’s diverse knowledge, experience and insights to quickly generate a structured and connected map of the possible consequences of any change.

Attendees participated in an example Implications Wheel, based on a potential cyber breach within the CAV supply chain.
The process used to create an Implications Wheel goes through four primary stages. First, you draft the “centre” of the Wheel describing the issue, goal or change to study. In this case, the scenario was based on the introduction of a malevolent chip into a CAV circuitry. Then, you bring together a diverse group of stakeholders and present them the description. Third, the group identifies the first, second, third, and fourth-order events or things that might happen if the preceding event occurs. An interactive visualisation of the nodes of potential impacts allows graphing them. Finally, the participants rate the likelihood and impact (positive or negative) of each implication happening. You can also introduce the timings for these events, to enable the inclusion of the dynamics of emergent processes.

The activities within the workshop involved a scaled down approach for the Implications Wheel. However, it was an opportunity to demonstrate how it could help to populate the dimensions: emergent properties, likelihood, impact and dynamics, which are at the core of BHI. Future events will build on this initial agenda, drawing on feedback and learnings to refine and improve the process going forward.


For more information on the Benefit Harm Index and Implications Wheel approach, contact Brian MacAulay.


This article has been written by project member Digital Catapult. Digital Catapult is the UK’s leading advanced digital technology innovation centre. We drive early adoption, making UK businesses more competitive and productive, to help grow the UK economy.