Black Hole Search in Dynamic Rings: The Scattered Case

Authors Giuseppe A. Di Luna, Paola Flocchini, Giuseppe Prencipe, Nicola Santoro

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Author Details

Giuseppe A. Di Luna
  • DIAG, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Paola Flocchini
  • School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Ottawa, Canada
Giuseppe Prencipe
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Pisa, Italy
Nicola Santoro
  • School of Computer Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

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Giuseppe A. Di Luna, Paola Flocchini, Giuseppe Prencipe, and Nicola Santoro. Black Hole Search in Dynamic Rings: The Scattered Case. In 27th International Conference on Principles of Distributed Systems (OPODIS 2023). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 286, pp. 33:1-33:18, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2024)


In this paper we investigate the problem of searching for a black hole in a dynamic graph by a set of scattered agents (i.e., the agents start from arbitrary locations of the graph). The black hole is a node that silently destroys any agent visiting it. This kind of malicious node nicely models network failures such as a crashed host or a virus that erases the visiting agents. The black hole search problem is solved when at least one agent survives, and it has the entire map of the graph with the location of the black hole. We consider the case in which the underlining graph is a dynamic 1-interval connected ring: a ring graph in which at each round at most one edge can be missing. We first show that the problem cannot be solved if the agents can only communicate by using a face-to-face mechanism: this holds for any set of agents of constant size, with respect to the size n of the ring. To circumvent this impossibility we consider agents equipped with movable pebbles that can be left on nodes as a form of communication with other agents. When pebbles are available, three agents can localize the black hole in O(n²) moves. We show that such a number of agents is optimal. We also show that the complexity is tight, that is Ω(n²) moves are required for any algorithm solving the problem with three agents, even with stronger communication mechanisms (e.g., a whiteboard on each node on which agents can write messages of unlimited size). To the best of our knowledge this is the first paper examining the problem of searching a black hole in a dynamic environment with scattered agents.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Computing methodologies → Distributed algorithms
  • Theory of computation → Self-organization
  • Black hole search
  • mobile agents
  • dynamic graph


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