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Critical Infrastructure is the Front Line of the New Cold War

2015 October 27
by Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP

Increasingly, critical infrastructure is becoming the battleground for a global power struggle to see which country (or collective) will emerge as the superpower of the digital age.  The United States’ significant conventional military superiority remains a reality.  But our enemies seem willing to concede the might of the US military in favor of anonymous, targeted cyber attacks on critical infrastructure and key resources.  Today’s New York Times story on the activity of Russian naval vessels near undersea cables reminds us that there are many vulnerabilities in the global information infrastructure.

As in wars past, a focus of the next war will be the crippling of infrastructure.  The difference is that this can now be done remotely, without physical invasion, from cyberspace, or from international waters.  It can be done via drones.  It can be done by people that don’t exist, via groups you’ve never heard of, from places you’ll never find.  And it won’t be done to fortresses or government compounds built for resilience, but to private corporations and municipal utilities built for profit and service.

So what can we do to better protect critical infrastructure?  Here are five ideas:

  1. Provide grants to critical infrastructure owners and operators, directly, to protect their networks.
  2. Restore and fund the Buffer Zone Protection Program.
  3. Enable DHS Protective Security Advisers to initiate projects based on the results of vulnerability assessments they conduct, especially when they find critical vulnerabilities.
  4. Conduct random penetration testing of US infrastructure to find vulnerabilities and report them.
  5. Initiate a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of our vulnerabilities and assist the public in reporting threats to critical infrastructure.

We need to think about what, realistically, can be done that is MEASURABLE.


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