Critical infrastructure

Updates

The US administration publicly blamed Russia for a campaign of cyber-attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted power grid including nuclear facilities. The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have issued a joint Technical Alert which provides information on Russian government cyber activity targeting energy and other critical infrastructure sectors. The Technical Alert claims that Russian government cyber actors targeted small commercial facilities’ networks where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks, after which they conducted network reconnaissance, moved laterally, and collected information pertaining to Industrial Control Systems (ICS). National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center and the FBI believe that the ultimate objective of the actors is to compromise organizational networks. Cybersecurity experts estimate that this level of access could have given Russia the ability to turn off the power grid.

UN Secretary General António Guterres warned that cyber-attacks against military targets and critical infrastructure will likely initiate future wars, and called to minimise the impact of electronic warfare on civilians. During his address at the University of Lisbon, he raised concerns over the fact that there is no regulation for cyber-warfare which already exists among states, nor is it clear how existing international laws, such as the Geneva Convention, apply to cyberspace. Guterres suggested that the UN serve as a platform for various stakeholders to work on rules that can ensure a ‘more humane character’ of cyber-conflicts and a general use of Internet for good rather than for bad.

Some of the more prominent topics of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2018 were: Threats of disruptions caused by digital tools; the role of artificial intelligence;, fake news and threats undermining democracies; cyber-conflict and cyber-aggression. At the opening ceremony, UN Secretary General António Guterres warned about increased threats in cyberspace ‘When one looks at today’s cyberspace, it is clear that we are witnessing, in a more or less disguised way, cyberwars between States — episodes of cyberwar between States’. He called for serious discussions about the related international legal framework using the competence of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly as soon as possible. Several lead global IT companies - Siemens, IBM, Deutsche Telecom, Airbus and others - have presented their joint ‘Charter of Trust for a Secure Digital World’ calling for shared ownership of cyber and IT security by various stakeholders, responsibility throughout the supply chain, security by default, education, certification for critical infrastructure and solution, Transparency and response, regulatory framework, and joint initiatives. The final report of the MSC identifies cybersecurity among key threats, together with nuclear and environmental, and suggests key challenges in the field: difference in terminology, application  of the international law, attribution of attacks, sector-specific agreements, and the disagreements about which forum is best suited for further deliberations.

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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

Actors

(CCDCOE)

As a multinational and interdisciplinary hub of cyber defence expertise, the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre

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As a multinational and interdisciplinary hub of cyber defence expertise, the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence involves experts with military, government, and industry backgrounds and provides an international ‘360-degree’ look at cyber defence. The CCDCOE organises the world’s largest and most complex international technical cyber defence exercise –  Locked Shields, and the annual conference on cyber conflict – CyCon. The CCD COE's Tallinn Manual is a very detailed and elaborate study on how international law applies to cyberspace with regard to warfare.

(OECD)

Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation t

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Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation to the challenges this phenomenon brings on traditional markets, and the need for adequate policy and regulatory frameworks to address them. In 2008, the organisation issued a set of policy guidelines for regulators to take into account when addressing challenges posed by convergence. In 2016, a report issued in preparation for the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy included new recommendations for policy-makers. Digital convergence issues have been on the agenda of OECD Ministerial meetings since 2008, and are also tackled in the regular OECD Digital Economy Outlook report.

(ENISA)

As part of its mission to support EU and its member states in dealing with network and information security is

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As part of its mission to support EU and its member states in dealing with network and information security issues, ENISA has been paying attention to issues related to the protection of critical infrastructure and services. In 2015, it published a study on ‘Methodologies for the identifications of critical information infrastructure assets and services’. Another study on ‘Stocktacking, analysis and recommendations on the protection of CIIs’ was released in 2016, and it looks at the various approaches taken by member states to protect critical information infrastructures. ENISA also assessed the economic impact of incidents that affect CIIs, in a 2016 study.

(ICANN)

ICANN is responsible for coordinating the evolution and operation of the Domain Name System.

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ICANN is responsible for coordinating the evolution and operation of the Domain Name System. The organisation coordinates the allocation and assignment of names in the root zone of the DNS, and the development and implementation of policies concerning the registration of second-level domain names in generic top-level domains (gTLDs). It also facilitates the coordination and evolution of the DNS root name server system. When it comes to gTLDs, ICANN concludes agreements with registry operators (for the administration of each gTLD), and accredits registrars. In the case of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), ICANN only goes as far as (re)delegating them on the basis of some high-level guidelines.

(ITU, UIT)
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The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) develops international standards (called recommendations) covering information and communications technologies. Standards are developed on a consensus-based approach, by study groups composed of representatives of ITU members (both member states and companies). These groups focus on a wide range of topics: operational issues, economic and policy issues, broadband networks, Internet protocol based networks, future networks and cloud computing, multimedia, security, the Internet of Things and smart cities, and performance and quality of service. The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), held every four years, defines the next period of study for the ITU-T.

(EU)

In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense 

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In establishing its digital single market, the EU has progressively developed a dense copyright legislation corresponding to a set of ten directives, which harmonise essential rights of authors, performers, producers and broadcasters. To ensure EU copyright rules are fit for the digital age, the European Commission has recently presented legislative proposals to modernise the EU legal framework, in order to allow more cross-border access to content online and wider opportunities to use copyrighted materials in education, research and cultural heritage; and have a better functioning copyright marketplace.

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

The Proposal for a Digital Geneva Convention – Implications for Human Rights (2017)
Report for World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 (2017)

Processes

Session reports

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WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

IGF 2016

WSIS10HL

IGF 2015

 

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