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Toward a Formalism for Conservative Claims about the Dependability of Software-Based Systems

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5 Author(s)
Bishop, P. ; Centre for Software Reliability, City Univ., London, UK ; Bloomfield, R. ; Littlewood, Bev ; Povyakalo, A.
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In recent work, we have argued for a formal treatment of confidence about the claims made in dependability cases for software-based systems. The key idea underlying this work is "the inevitability of uncertainty": It is rarely possible to assert that a claim about safety or reliability is true with certainty. Much of this uncertainty is epistemic in nature, so it seems inevitable that expert judgment will continue to play an important role in dependability cases. Here, we consider a simple case where an expert makes a claim about the probability of failure on demand (pfd) of a subsystem of a wider system and is able to express his confidence about that claim probabilistically. An important, but difficult, problem then is how such subsystem (claim, confidence) pairs can be propagated through a dependability case for a wider system, of which the subsystems are components. An informal way forward is to justify, at high confidence, a strong claim, and then, conservatively, only claim something much weaker: "I'm 99 percent confident that the pfd is less than 10-5, so it's reasonable to be 100 percent confident that it is less than 10-3." These conservative pfds of subsystems can then be propagated simply through the dependability case of the wider system. In this paper, we provide formal support for such reasoning.

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Software Engineering, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:37 ,  Issue: 5 )