Critical infrastructure

Updates

2 Nov 2016

The UK has approved its new National Cyber Security Strategy 2016 to 2021 built around three main pillars: defending, deter and develop. In defending the government institutions, critical infrastructure such as energy and transport sectors, and the overall UK economy from cyber-attacks, the government envisages partnership with industry to enhance cyber defense capacities of all actors. Stronger law enforcement capabilities should deter criminal activities, while investments in offensive cyber-capabilities, including the ability to retaliate, should deter state-sponsored cyber-attacks against critical sectors. Finally, developing cyber-competences across the society, such as by creating research institute and investing in students, experts and companies, should support the economy and society to meet the threats. The new National Cyber Security Centre, based in central London, will act as a central authority for cyber and will subsume the UK national CERT as well. According to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, the entire strategy will be underpinned by 1.9 billion Pounds of transformational investment.

21 Oct 2016

A series of DDoS attacks against Dyn Inc, a large DNS hosting provider serving top online service providers, made many services including Twitter, PayPal, Reddit and Spotify temporarily unavailable, and have slowed down some Internet traffic across the globe. DDoS attacks overloaded the DNS servers with junk requests, thereby disabling the resolution of domain addresses of major clients into their IP addresses, and rendering these services unavailable. The attacks, believed to be based on the recently released "Mirai" malware that creates an Internet of Things (IoT) botnet by exploiting millions of unsecured connected devices such as cameras or printers, achieved a peak of over 1.2Tbps - double the volume of the 'Mirai'-driven attack against "Krebs on Security" website recorded last week. While global media covers the developments with great interest, and the hacking groups Anonymous commented that "someone literally tried to take down the Internet", there are numerous speculations who might be behind the attack: cyber-criminals testing the new weapons against the most resilient Internet segments such as Dyn DNS hosting; supporters of WikiLeaks; state-sponsored groups testing their cyber-capabilities to put down the Internet; or a hacker group New World Hackers from China and Russia that have allegedly taken the responsibility. One is certain: the attacks embody the fears that the mass distribution of the "insecure-by-design" IoT products (including by vendors such as Samsung and Toshiba) enables highly powerful cyber-weapons that can target even the most resilient components of the Internet, and eventually shut down its large segments, if not the Internet itself.

16 Oct 2016

Leaders of BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa - have emphasised the need to enhance international cooperation against terrorist and criminal misuse of ICTs. The Goa Declaration, adopted during the 8th BRICS Summit on 15-16 October, also recognises the 'leading role of states' in ensuring the stability and security in the use of ICTs, and reaffirms that the Internet is a global resource. States 'should participate on an equal footing in its evolution and functioning, taking into account the need to involve relevant stakeholders in their respective roles and responsibilities,' the leaders emphasised.

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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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