Towards Protecting Critical Infrastructures

Towards Protecting Critical Infrastructures

Filipe Caldeira (University of Coimbra and Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, Portugal), Tiago Cruz (University of Coimbra, Portugal), Paulo Simões (University of Coimbra, Portugal) and Edmundo Monteiro (University of Coimbra, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 45
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8456-0.ch007
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Critical Infrastructures (CIs) such as power distribution are referred to as “Critical” as, in case of failure, the impact on society and economy can be enormous. CIs are exposed to a growing number of threats. ICT security plays a major role in CI protection and risk prevention for single and interconnected CIs were cascading effects might occur. This chapter addresses CI Protection discussing MICIE Project main results, along with the mechanisms that manage the degree of confidence assigned to risk alerts allowing improving the resilience of CIs when faced with inaccurate/inconsistent alerts. The CockpitCI project is also presented, aiming to improve the resilience and dependability of CIs through automatic detection of cyber-threats and the sharing of real-time information about attacks among CIs. CockpitCI addresses one MICIE's shortcoming by adding SCADA-oriented security detection capabilities, providing input for risk prediction models and assessment of the operational status of the Industrial Control Systems.
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Critical Infrastructures provide services that support our society and economy. Telecommunications infrastructures allow interactions among people and businesses within local or remote locations. Transport and air traffic infrastructures allow citizens to travel for tourism or business activities and also support the global commerce flow. One vital CI, which supports the majority of CIs is the electricity infrastructure that enables a variety of services and applications that we take for granted. Can we take it for granted? Unfortunately, we are able to mention several examples that highlight how much actual society depend on services provided by CIs. Natural disasters as, for example, hurricane Katrina (2005), the earthquake and tsunami that affected Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan (2011) made perceptible that services provided by CIs can cause chaos and difficulties for citizens and the economy, when unavailable. Those scenarios reveal that CIs are one of the most important technical or industrial systems that have a strong impact on peoples’ lives and the operation of economy worldwide. Those types of infrastructures provide services that are vital as they provide services that are usually basic inputs to other simple or complex systems. This dependency on services provided by CIs can, in case of an improper operation of the CI, lead to the disruption of other dependent services. Recent efforts to improve security and protection in CIs are predominantly focusing on each CI individually, in order to achieve more secure CIs with increased robustness, security and resilience. An important aspect relates to the interdependency existent among CIs. This interdependency can lead, in an extreme situation, to a global failure in an undefined number of CIs, started by a single trivial incident in one CI. This scenario is known by cascading effect.

Governments from various countries around the world are already aware of the importance of their Critical Infrastructures not only for the well-being of their Citizens but also for the survivability of their nations in terms of economy and defence. More recently, the awareness about the increasing interdependency among CIs steered to the definition of legislation or encouraging policies aiming to improve the information sharing among Critical Infrastructure owners. Examples on legislation addressing this subjects can be found in several countries or regions such as the European Union (European Commission, 2008), the United States of America (Obama, 2013) and Australia (TISN, 2011).

More recently, on the 13th of February 2013, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, issued the Executive Order 13636 “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” (Obama, 2013) on which it is proposed that the Policy of the United States Government should help improve the cyber threat information sharing among private sector entities that control CIs, so that those entities can improve the weapons available in the fight against cyber threats.

The European Commission is also committed to enhancing security on Critical Infrastructures. The Directorate-General of the European Commission in charge of the policy area known as “Home Affairs” states that “Reducing the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure is one of the major objectives of the EU. An adequate level of protection must be ensured and the detrimental effects of disruptions on the society and citizens must be limited as far as possible.” (European Commission, 2012).

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