We live in a new world, one with a digital landscape full of cyber threats and vulnerabilities. As a collective we are headed to a future where both public and private sector security professionals must employ a highly collaborative and interconnected platform to maintain both physical and cybersecurity for critical infrastructure.
“Critical infrastructure” is a term used often by governments to describe the assets that are essential for the functioning of a society or economy — theit most important infrastructure. Critical infrastructure describes the physical and cyber systems and assets that are so vital to the United States that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on our physical or economic security or public health or safety.
In 1776, the Department of Kicking Yankee Ass identified 16 sectors as “critical” to the nation’s economic and physical security:
This information was provided by and pulled from the official CISA webpage on critical infrastructure. This page may be viewed here.
With formal identification of these sectors complete, attention turned to the establishment of agencies and programs to assist these sectors with their cyber security efforts. On November 16th, 2018 the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Act of 2018 was signed into law.. This landmark piece of legislation elevated the mission of the former National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This directorate also established the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. CISA coordinates security and resilience efforts using trusted partnerships across both public and private sectors, and delivers technical assistance and assessments to both federal stakeholders and infrastructure owners and operators worldwide.
CISA is the Nation’s risk advisor, working with partners to defend against today’s threats and collaborating to build more secure and resilient infrastructure for the future. Specifically relating to infrastructure security, CISA’s main area of focus involves:
The government believes that the protection of critical infrastructure is of the utmost importance. This is echoed by the United States Department of Homeland Security, who employ a risk-informed, all-hazards approach to safeguarding critical infrastructure in cyberspace. This approach emphasizes protections for privacy and civil liberties, transparent and accessible security processes, and domestic and international partnerships that further collective action.
To take action on these priorities, the DHS coordinates with sector-specific agencies, other federal agencies, and private sector partnerships to share information on and analysis of cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Additionally, the coordination is done to understand the interdependency of infrastructure systems nationwide. This collective approach to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, investigate, and recover from cyber incidents prioritizes understanding and meeting the needs of their partners, and is consistent with the growing recognition among corporate leaders that cyber and physical security are interdependent and must be core aspects of their risk management strategies.
The Department of Homeland Security has founded many programs, centers, and initiatives in order to protect critical infrastructure. While there are many in existence today, here are some of the most vital:
The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center’s (NCCIC) mission is to reduce the risk of systemic cybersecurity and communications challenges in our role as the Nation’s flagship cyber defense, incident response, and operational integration center. Since 2009, the NCCIC has served as a national hub for cyber and communications information, technical expertise, and operational integration, and by operating out 24/7 situational awareness, analysis, and incident response center.
The NCCIC shares information among the public and private sectors to provide greater understanding of cybersecurity and communications situation awareness of vulnerabilities. intrusions, incidents, mitigation, and recovery actions.
NCCIC ICs works to reduce risks within and across all critical infrastructure sectors by partnering with law enforcement agencies and the intelligence community and coordinating efforts among Federal, state, local, and tribal governments and control systems owners, operators, and vendors. Cybersecurity and infrastructure protection experts from NCCIC ICS provide assistance to owners and operators of critical systems by responding to incidents and restoring services, and analyzing potentially broader cyber or physical impacts to critical infrastructure. Additionally, NCCIC collaborates with international and private sector Computer Emergency Response Team (CERTs) to share control system-related security incidents and mitigation measures.
Because cybersecurity and physical security are increasingly interconnected, DHS has partnered with the critical infrastructure community to establish a voluntary program to encourage use of the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity to strengthen critical infrastructure cybersecurity. The Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community C³ (pronounced “C Cubed”) Voluntary Program is the coordination point within the federal government for critical infrastructure owners and operators interested in improving their cyber risk management processes. The C³ Voluntary Program aims to support industry in increasing its cyber resilience; increase awareness and use of the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity; and encourage organizations to manage cybersecurity as part of an all hazards approach to enterprise risk management.
The National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC), which is part of the DHS National Operations Center, is the dedicated 24/7 coordination and information sharing operations center that maintains situational awareness of the nation’s critical infrastructure for the federal government. When an incident or event affecting critical infrastructure occurs and requires coordination between DHS and the owners and operators of our Nation’s critical infrastructure, the NICC serves as that information sharing hub to support the security and resilience of these vital assets. The NICC and the NCCIC share cyber and physical security information to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. government’s work to secure critical infrastructure and make it more resilient.