Nation’s Critical Infrastructure Vulnerabilities: Cyber Attacks

power plant in the dark with a cooling plant and a tower with red lightsThe Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) organized a tabletop exercise (TTX) to address critical infrastructure vulnerabilities due to extensive reliance on integrated information and computer networks. The exercise examined the effectiveness of response and recovery mechanisms within multiple critical infrastructure sectors. In the particular scenario for this exercise, a cyber attack was directed at power companies in Baltimore, Maryland, resulting in significant cascading impacts on regional transportation infrastructure. The main objective was to “generate lessons and recommendations for improving responses to cyber attacks […] with an emphasis on the energy and transportation sectors.”

As a result, the exercise concluded with specific recommendations covering areas such as leadership, mitigation resources and processes, information sharing, public communication, planning, and exercising.

Several key points follow from observations and analysis of the TTX:

  • Lack of clear operational authority can hamper the collective effectiveness of mitigation and recovery organizations.
  • Organizations taking actions in emergency situations should be provided safe harbor provisions.
  • Regulatory and policy guidelines should be exercised regularly by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), state and local officials, and their private sector partners.
  • Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) should clarify and standardize information sharing processes among the public and private sectors.
  • In an effort to improve detection of cyber vulnerabilities, and to provide effective situational awareness during a cyber emergency, enhancements on monitoring these instances are necessary.
  • Additional solutions must highlight existing shortcomings in policies, procedures, and response mechanisms.

The full after-action report capturing the exercise’s findings and recommendations can be found here.

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