The Telecoms Inclusion Principle: The Missing Link between Critical Infrastructure Protection and Critical Information Infrastructure Protection

The Telecoms Inclusion Principle: The Missing Link between Critical Infrastructure Protection and Critical Information Infrastructure Protection

Chris W. Johnson (University of Glasgow, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2964-6.ch014
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Communications and information technologies play an increasingly important role both within and between national critical infrastructures. From the food that we eat to the water that we drink, to the energy that we use across all modes of transportation to the systems that protect us when we travel in those systems; we rely on information infrastructures. These interdependencies will increase rapidly in coming years. For instance, the European SESAR programme and the US NextGen initiative are using computational systems to increase the efficiency and maintain the safety of air traffic management with increasing numbers of flights. Similarly, a range of ‘smart grid’ initiatives depend upon computational infrastructures to coordinate the supply and demand of renewable and conventional power sources. The benefits that are provided by telecommunications and information technologies also creates new vulnerabilities, for instance, it is increasingly difficult for national critical infrastructures to recover and reorganise their service provision in the aftermath of computational failures. It is for these reasons that this chapter proposes a telecoms inclusion principle. This states that it order to assess the resilience of any national critical infrastructure we must consider the failure modes and resilience capabilities of telecommunications infrastructures. A consequence of this principle is that the failure of telecommunications infrastructures must be considered in all contingency plans, in drills and exercises, as well as the recovery strategies that are used to mitigate the consequences of an adverse event.
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This chapter argues that communications and information technology should be considered during all stages of contingency planning across national critical infrastructures. In particular, we argue that the application of this principle should be guided by the N-2 criteria that have supported the wider development of safety and security critical systems. This assumes that the designers and managers of critical infrastructures are already well skilled at planning for the impact of single points of failure. However, many previous incidents have stemmed from complex problems across multiple infrastructures. For instance, the last decade has seen how floods across Europe, North America and Asia have imposed considerable demands on emergency and rescue services. They have also stretched the engineering resources that must be deployed to restore levels of service across critical infrastructures. These demands have been compounded by the failure of numerous communications systems. Similarly, the impact of terrorist attacks in London and Madrid extended across the transportation systems that were their intended targets. However, first responders also had to cope with the loss of communications systems. Network providers struggled to maintain levels of service with massive increases in demand both from emergency personnel and from the general public. Not only must we consider the impact of telecoms failures on other critical infrastructures but we must also consider the impact of wider infrastructure failures on the telecommunications systems. For example, the attacks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina had significant effects for ICT infrastructures in terms of physical damage and changes to the distribution of loading across those networks.

The aims of this chapter are to:

  • Motivate the use of the telecoms inclusion principle as a basis for contingency planning across critical information infrastructures.

  • Motivate the use of N-2 planning criteria to ensure that future drills and exercises consider that impact that ‘imperfect communications’ can have upon the response to other forms of contingency.

  • Introduce techniques for planning multi-party drills that include telecommunications failures during wider contingencies that affect national critical infrastructures.



A range of measures have been introduced to encourage and support contingency planning. For instance, the European Council Directive 2008/114/EC ‘On the identification and designation of European critical infrastructures and the assessment of the need to improve their protection’ states that “The Commission should receive generic information from the Member States concerning risks, threats and vulnerabilities in sectors where European Critical Infrastructures (ECIs) were identified, including where relevant information on possible improvements in the ECIs and cross-sector dependencies, which could be the basis for the development of specific proposals by the Commission on improving the protection of ECIs, where necessary”. The Directive defines critical infrastructures to include any asset, system or subsystem which is essential for the maintenance of ‘vital societal functions, health, safety, security, economic or social well-being of people, and the disruption or destruction of which would have a significant impact in a Member State as a result of the failure to maintain those functions. An appendix to the Directive enumerates eight critical infrastructures: electricity generation and transmission; oil production and transmission; gas production and transmission; road transport; rail transport; air transport; inland waterways transport; ocean and short-sea shipping and ports. Telecommunications infrastructures are not in the list of ECI sectors recognised by 2008/114/EC.

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