Critical infrastructure

Updates

20 Jun 2017

The European Network for Cyber Security (ENCS) and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in order to increase the resilience of Europe’s power system against cyber-attacks. ENCS is to provide ENTSO-E with technical information and support on cybersecurity issues, while ENTSO-E is to bring insights into the challenges faced by the operators of the European transmission system. The MoU should result with improved cybersecurity regulation, practices and standards for the European power grid.

13 May 2017

[Update] Read: The WannaCry ransomware cyber attack in detail: dig.watch/wannacry

A new version of ransomware, dubbed WannaCry, has quickly spread worldwide and infected thousands of devices across many countries. The New York Times reported that WannaCry has hit the UK hospitals forcing public health system National Health Service to accept only the most urgent patients, and froze computers at the Russian Ministry of Interior, while MalwareTech security researcher reported almost 200,000 infected computers in all the continents. Similarly to other types of ransomware, WannaCry encrypts data on the infected device and demands a ransom of $300 in BitCoins to be paid to a given Bitcoin wallet within several days, otherwise the data will remain locked. Unlike other versions, however, WannaCry propagates through the network and infects computers like a worm - that is even if their users have not activated the infected file or link - allowing its massive effect. This was made possible by exploiting the vulnerability in Windows, called EternalBlue, which recently leaked from the NSA cyber-tools repository, Forbes reports. While Microsoft has issued a patch for this vulnerability in March already, many computers – especially in bigger systems that have complex procedures – have not yet installed the patches, and are being infected. The MalwareTech researcher realised that the WannaCry code demands infected computers to regularly contact a certain non-existing Internet domain, and registered such domain to create the map of infected computers. It appeared, however, that this served as a kill-switch for the malware spread, which was built in by the criminals to be able to abandon the infection process if needed. While the infection has been accidentally stopped, experts warn that a new form of ransomware will emerge very soon, and invite users, institutions and companies to update their Windows promptly.

11 May 2017

US President Trump signed the executive order aimed to strengthen the security of federal government institutions. The key part of the plan demands moving government services to a cloud, which should be implemented under the coordination of the director of the newly established American Technology Council of the White House. The executive order also calls the agencies to implement a set of best practices in cybersecurity developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology – known as NIST Framework – which has been praised globally and implemented by many industries, yet government institutions seem to have lagged behind. In addition, the Cabinet secretaries are requested to develop plans for protecting critical infrastructure. The voluntary anti-botnet campaign is also planned, involving industry to take actions to minimize DDoS attacks. During a briefing in White House, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert commented that the plans build on the efforts of the Obama administration in the same direction, and informed that the Trump’s budget blueprint sets aside USD 1.5 billion for cybersecurity. While experts agree that the executive order will likely strengthen national cybersecurity, some like Drew Mitnick from the Access Now organisation express disappointment that it doesn’t address some of the key security concerns like the security of Internet of Things devices, data breaches, or responsible disclosure of vulnerabilities.

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Critical infrastructures (CI) can be defined loosely as ‘systems that are so vital to a nation that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating effect on national security, the economy, or public health and safety’ (according to the IETF Security Glossary). And most countries have defined their own CI depending on their national context; in most cases, these include both core Internet and, more widely, ICT infrastructures (such as telecommunications networks), and transport, energy, and other key infrastructures that are more and more relying on ICTs.

 

Critical infrastructure protection

Critical (information) infrastructure protection (CIP) is ever more important because critical infrastructures depend increasingly on networks linked to Internet. Many vital parts of global society ‒ including industries such as energy, water, and finance ‒ are becoming more and more  dependent on the Internet and other computer networks as an information infrastructure. While allowing for resource optimisation, this also leaves them at the risk of a cyberattack or an Internet fallout.  

The history of the concept can be traced back to the 1998 US Presidential Decision Directive PDD-63 which set up a national programme of Critical Infrastructure Protection. The aim was to secure infrastructures of national importance from cybersecurity risks. Over the last 15 years the concept of CI has developed into a broader concept to include supply chain insurance to physical damage from natural hazards, as well as targeted physical attacks.

In 2007, the IETF added Critical Information Infrastructures to the Internet Security Glossary (RFC 4949). The definition adopted by IETF (presented in the beginning of this description) shows that while ICT can be a CI in itself, the implementation of ICTs in our daily activity has made it a transversal subject. In order to face cyber risks, many countries and even some larger institutions have developed teams of individuals that may respond in case of emergency. This type of team is often called a Computer Emergency Response Teams, but other variations are Computer Emergency Readiness Teams or Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT). In the case of nation states, these teams are often characterized by strong public-private partnerships (PPP) as many CIs are in the hands of the private sector. The policies pertaining to Information Infrastructure are often called Critical Information Infrastructure Protection (CIIP) policies.

The USA’s approach

The US Presidential Decision Directive PDD-63 was updated in 2003 through the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 for Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection. This update broadened the definition of infrastructure as the physical and virtual systems that are 'so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters'. In 2013, it was replaced by PPD21 - Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience with the intention of advancing national efforts to 'strengthen and maintain secure, functioning and resilient critical infrastructure'. The policy directive was accompanied by the Executive Order 13636 'Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity'. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity in February 2014. The document provides a generic guideline on how companies and institutions in charge of CI can organize, improve, mitigate and recover from a cyberattack.

The European Union’s approach

In the European Union, the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP), presented by the European Commission in 2006, outlined a series of principles, processes and instruments proposed to implement EPCIP. A complementing CIIP action plan was also set out, and it was built on five pillars: preparedness and prevention, detection and response, mitigation and recovery, international cooperation, and criteria for European Critical Infrastructures in the field of ICT. Directive 2008/114/EC on the identification and designation of European critical infrastructures followed, with the aim to set up a ‘procedure for the identification and designation of European critical infrastructures (‘ECIs’), and a common approach to the assessment of the need to improve the protection of such infrastructures in order to contribute to the protection of people’. The proposal for a Network and Information Security Directive (proposed by the European Commission in 2013 and agreed upon by Parliament, Council and Commission in December 2015), paired with the EU Cybersecurity Strategy, sets a more specific guidance to member states on the CIIP measures, including the setting up of CERTs. At the same time, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) is in charge of following up on the implementation of CIIP measures, and providing capacity-building measures and resources. ENISA works closely with national CERTs.

The OECD’s approach

The OECD Recommendations on CIIP (2008) provides a number of steps for the member states: at national level, states are invited to adopt policy objectives on high-level, develop national strategy, identify government agencies and organisations responsible for CIIP, develop organisational structure for prevention and response, including independent (CERTs), consult with private sector and build trusted public-private partnerships, facilitate information sharing with acknowledging the sensitivity of certain information, conduct risk assessment, etc. At the international level, states are encouraged to enhance information sharing and strengthen cooperation across institutions in charge of CIIP.

The approach of the Organization of American States

The Organization of American States (OAS), by General Assembly resolution AG/RES 1939 XXXIII-O/03 of 2003 has the Inter-American Cyber-Security Strategy which pools the efforts of three existing, related groupings of the organisation: the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), Ministers of Justice or Other Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas (REMJA), and Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL). These groups cooperate to implement programmes that will prevent cybercrime by, among other things, protecting the critical infrastructure by legislative and other procedural measures.

In 2007, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in cooperation with the Center for Security Studies of ETH Zurich, provided a generic national framework for CIIP, with a number of action pillars. ETH Zurich also published the International CIIP Handbook 2008/2009, with an inventory of 25 national and seven international CIIP policies.

Events

Instruments

Conventions

Resolutions & Declarations

Standards

Request for Comments (RFC) dealing with Critical Information Infrastructure (2015)

Recommendations

Other Instruments

Patriot Act (2001)

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Reports

Towards a secure cyberspace via regional co-operation (2017)
One Internet (2016)

GIP event reports

Report for World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 (2017)

Processes

In general, the workshops on infrastructure focused on specific areas, such as IXPs, spectrum, interconnection, and IPv6. The often technical discussions verged on other issues, such as sustainable development and security. In relation to other areas, few workshops on infrastructure were scheduled.

 

There must be a commercial rationale for IXPs to be more widely introduced and for actors to identify with. IXPs: Driving Connectivity and Local Economies (WS 171) served to showcase the success of some regions in establishing IXPs. Canada, for example, has 7 IXPs, whereas the Caribbean region has 11 IXPs. Accounting for this success, especially in the Caribbean, is the fact that regulators are not running them but simply playing a mediatory role. The discussion provided further insights into the current usage of IXPs in developed and developing countries, and offered suggestions for successful uptake. Among these are the fact that they should be community-led rather than having a top-down structure, they should have a reasonable governance structure, and they should be not-for-profit organisations. More case studies were presented during Ensuring Sustainability for IXPs in the Developing World (WS 201), which concluded that, as in many areas of Internet governance, one size does not fit all when it comes to the governance of IXPs.

The topic of protection of key Internet resources resurfaces in digital policy discussions from time to time. In The Global ‘Public Interest’ in Critical Internet Resources (WS 52), it was concluded that an open process of running the infrastructure of the Internet was crucial. The discussion centred on how the Internet, as a global resource, could be managed in an open and inclusive manner that serves the public interest.
It is interesting to note that the panellists could not agree on a definition of public interest in order to determine what this means with respect to critical Internet resources. In Spectrum Allocations: Challenges & Opportunities at the Edge (WS 188), panellists discussed how new technology - including geo-satellites, orbits, high-altitude platform services, drones, and ‘balloons’ - was putting pressure on the use of spectrum. There are various opportunities, including the development of software for spectrum management.
But just as software was introduced into the management of taxis, resulting in huge efficiencies but at the same time many social and economic downsides, we can either wait for the ‘Uberisation’ of spectrum management to happen, or regulate and manage the process in order to maximise the benefits of software.
In relation to the deployment of IPv6, further discussions on the persistent problem of the depletion of IPv4 numbers took place during the Best Practices Forum (BPF) on Creating an Enabling Environment for IPv6 Adoption. Although the pool of IPv4 is running out at an alarming rate, the panel agreed that the deployment of IPv6 is happening, albeit at its own pace. It was predicted that next year’s BPF will most likely focus on the economic aspects of IPv6 deployment.

 

 

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