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Critical Infrastructure Cyber Incidents

Dale Wuokko, P.E.

The initial signs are a loss of lights, the internet, phones, television, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and traffic controls. As time passes the wide-spread loss of more electrical-powered devices and equipment become glaringly evident. Fuel stations are no longer be able to operate their fuel pumps for fueling autos or trucks, store registers and electronic payments are inoperable, and the banking system is severely challenged. Clean water and wastewater treatment plants begin to shut down. Hospitals, firefighting, and police authorities are severely hampered in performing their emergency response functions. Grocery store supplies are no longer readily replaced. A widespread loss of electrical power would debilitate the United States in a short time resulting in an economic catastrophe, a breakdown of public health and safety, and human suffering, including deaths. Electrical power is an engineered critical infrastructure that modern society has become critically dependent upon.

Electrical power is only one type of engineered critical infrastructure in the United States. Critical infrastructure includes those systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, 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. Critical infrastructure is addressed, in part, by engineering disciplines, including civil, electrical, mechanical, industrial, hydrological, environmental, computer, and others. Examples of critical infrastructure are tunnels serving as the primary conduit for transportation, water, electric communications, and natural gas lines; bridges; dams; water treatment plants; electric power generating plants; supply lines bringing power, communications, food, and water to a community; hospitals; and financial services underpinning our economic system.

Our well-being relies upon secure and resilient critical infrastructure - those assets, systems, and networks that underpin American society. However, today’s risk environment affecting critical infrastructure is complex and involves uncertainties due to evolving threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences. Critical infrastructure has long been subject to risks associated with physical threats and natural disasters and is now increasingly exposed to cyber risks. These risks are due to the integration of information and communication technologies with critical infrastructure operating technologies, and adversaries focused on exploiting the related cyber vulnerabilities. This course discusses a number of cyber incidents that have occurred affecting critical infrastructure. It also addresses fundamental cybersecurity practices to minimize exploitable weaknesses.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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