COVID-19 pandemic highlights submarine cables as critical infrastructure

“Submarine cables are crucial infrastructure and have been vital in helping us get through this pandemic together,” said Keith Schofield, General Manager, International Cable Protection Committee.

For many years now, the submarine cable industry has been at the heart of international connectivity, providing data avenues that span continents and unrivalled capacity. Despite this, the industry’s fundamental contribution to the telecoms sphere is often overlooked.

But now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the critical nature of the subsea cable industry has come to the fore, proving once and for all that they are undeniably critical infrastructure all over the world. But responding to the demands of the crisis has not been easy.

[Source: Total Telecom]

Nigeria declares telecoms facilities critical national Infrastructure

In response to the yearnings of industry stakeholders to declare telecom facilities Critical National Infrastructure, President Muhammadu Buhari, has finally approved and also directed that necessary physical protective measures be put in place to safeguard telecommunications infrastructure deployed across the country.

This followed a proposal by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ibrahim Pantami, to the President to identify telecommunications infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure, with a view to protecting them from vandalization and theft, amongst other things.

Recall that telecom operators and industry players had over the years been consistent in their demand for the Federal government to declare all telecoms facilities across the country critical national infrastructure but their request was never heeded to, leading to frequent vandalization of telecoms infrastructure in various parts of the country.

The Nigerian telecommunications industry, depends on a number of infrastructure that play a critical role in the smooth delivery of telecoms services.

These are part of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) because of the important role they play, in ensuring security and in the delivery of other essential services.

As part of the policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Minister of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, decided to champion the efforts to identify telecommunications infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure, with a view to protecting them from vandalization and theft, amongst other things.

With the presidential directive, the Minister said the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Department of State Security Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), have been notified of Mr President’s directive and are expected to enforce same as directed.

While, appreciating the security institutions, and commending them for their commitment in securing these infrastructure, he noted that the ministry are also working towards the reinforcement of the directives through appropriate regulatory instruments.

“The implementation of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, both unveiled by Mr. President, have repositioned the ICT sector.

“This is evident by the recent ‘Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product Report’ released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which showed that the ICT sector contributed an unprecedented 14.07% to the total real GDP in the first quarter of 2020.

“The Minister is truly grateful for the timely approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, and we are confident that this will address the challenge of vandalism of our Critical National Infrastructure.

“It will also go a long way in supporting the implementation of the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025),” the Minister said.

He however, urged the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to ensure that they further reduce the price of data and calls for citizens to reciprocate the government gesture.

He also advised them to submit a comprehensive list of their facility locations all over the country.

[Source: Today Nigeria]

Synectics Awarded Critical-Infrastructure Contract To Protect Vital Power Network

Synectics has secured a multi-site protection contract for a customer whose infrastructure assets are considered critical to national security. Responsible for maintaining an energy network that supplies over 3.9 million homes and businesses, the customer required a centralized system to guard against both physical and cyber threats at five key sites – each recognized as a national asset with corresponding levels of access clearance.

The Synectics solution, driven by its Synergy 3 command and control platform, integrates third-party sensors, analytics, cameras, systems, personnel databases, and edge devices. The resulting level of situational awareness gives the team – based at the customer’s state-of-the-art Alarm Receiving Center (ARC) – complete oversight and control of security, safety, and site-management systems at each facility.

Electrified Perimeter-Fence Systems
As part of the contract, Synectics will also provide a redundant ARC solution for failover scenarios. The core integrations included as part of the project ensure alerts and responses are linked to, and can implement direct control of, door-access systems, intrusion-detection systems, intercom technology, and the electrified perimeter-fence systems deployed at each location.

Synectics will conduct a complete system FAT, which includes all specified third-party software and hardware, at its dedicated UK testing facilities. Given the high-risk, high-security nature of the project, the provider’s ability to system-test at such scale was a crucial factor in the contract being awarded. The five locations to be monitored from the ARC are government-authorized to trigger armed response units to deal with imminent or actual threats.

Command And Control System
The solution will, therefore, employ customized workflows to support incident (alarm) validation and protocol-compliant responsive action. The solution will also see each site equipped with its localised command and control system for on-site management, with the ability to manually and automatically escalate incidents to the ARC team as required. Cybersecurity was a specific focus of the brief.

Videalert Hosted Bus Lane Enforcement Systems Certified by Transport London

Videalert, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of intelligent traffic management and enforcement solutions, has achieved Approved Devices certification from Transport Scotland for the deployment of its hosted digital video platform to enforce bus lanes. As one of the only manufacturers to have achieved this certification, Videalert’s hosted platform provides local authorities across Scotland with a quicker and easier way to implement unattended CCTV enforcement of bus lanes to speed up journey times and encourage people to use public transport.

According to Tim Daniels, Client Development Director at Videalert: “Videalert’s hosted enforcement solution enables councils to meet their compliance objectives by delivering a consistently higher level of performance and availability at a significantly lower cost than traditional systems. Importantly, the flexible hosted platform makes it a quick and cost effective process to deploy CCTV enforcement as it does not require the installation of any IT at council offices.”

Videalert’s digital video platform provides councils with unrivalled flexibility as it supports multiple civil traffic enforcement, traffic management, community safety and low emission zone applications from a single CCTV infrastructure. It has an open architecture and can be integrated in any environment and offers high levels of future proofing and additional camera assets and enforcement applications can be cost effectively added as required. The system is also used as a front end by most of the leading providers of back office PCN processing systems.

National Grid Welcomed to European CNI Forum

The European Network for Cyber Security (ENCS) has welcomed National Grid as its first UK member, saying the UK’s transmission system operator (TSO) is among Europe’s “most sophisticated” in terms of cybersecurity posture, and its membership will boost knowledge sharing.

The ENCS is a member-led organisation that works to boost the security of EU energy grids and infrastructure in the face of hyperactive probing by bad actors, and, arguably, distinctly half-baked regulation that fails to penalise manufacturers for insecure components.

Among other efforts, ENCS has baked security requirement guidance into procurement cycles across its membership base and developed testing capabilities to risk-assess things like smart metres; this has now expanded to other areas of the grid, like distribution automation and other tools.

Paul Lee, an engineering manager for cyber and control systems at National Grid said in a statement shared by ENCS: “We have robust cybersecurity measures in place across all our operational infrastructure and IT to protect against cyber threats, but our membership will help us to benefit from ENCS knowledge base as we share information with other members, contributing to increased protection across all critical infrastructure”.

ENCS’s MD Nijk said, “Grid infrastructure has evolved with dramatic speed. Partnering with domain operators to build an expert pool is vital to our members need to be fast and effective [in building up their security] instead of waiting for regulations”.

“National Grid already ranks among the most sophisticated TSOs in terms of cyber security, and by joining ENCS, it demonstrates its commitment to that improving even further” he said in a canned statement.

[Source: Computer Business Review]

World Economic Forum report recognizes key critical infrastructure innovations from Smart Wires, ABB and Siemens

The World Economic Forum's International Energy Community has highlighted Smart Wires SmartValveTM as one of the energy sector's influential innovations during the last decade. Winners were chosen based on several criteria including their benefit to society and contribution to accelerating the energy transition.

"Smart Wires is honored that our solutions were included on a very short and prestigious list of technologies recognized as critical enablers of the energy transition," said Gregg Rotenberg, Smart Wires CEO.

Suleman Alli, director of strategy at UK Power Networks, said: "As the first network operator in the UK to trial the Smart Wires' power flow control technology, we are delighted to see it recognised by this World Economic Forum report. Trialling smart solutions like load balancing highlights our commitment to unlocking new capacity for renewable energy safely, cost effectively and quickly."

Smart Wires was recognized for its ability to maximize the grid's transfer capacity which is necessary to enable rapid, low-cost and large-scale connections of new renewables.

Rotenberg reflected, "It is remarkable how much spare capacity exists on today's grids. We regularly find projects where we can release several gigawatts of capacity in under a year without disturbing communities or the environment."

"SmartValve is our solution to maximize the grid's transfer capacity. This technology is causing leading utilities across Europe, Australia and the Americas to change the way they think about future investments in critical infrastructure," Rotenberg said.

Red Cross Calls for Halt to Cyberattacks on Healthcare Infrastructure

The Red Cross has called on hackers and scammers to end their cyber-attacks on health facilities in a letter published.

The letter, also signed by a group of political and business figures, said that attacks endanger human lives, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, and governments should take more “immediate and decisive action” to stop them.

Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, are among the 42 co-signers of the letter, which was initiated by the CyberPeace Institute.

In the letter, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said: “We are hoping that the world’s governments will step up to affirm their commitments to the international rules that prohibit such actions.”

The calls come after an increase in cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure and healthcare facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic, with hackers and scammers eyeing an opportunity to take advantage of a complicated situation.

In April, Interpol warned that cybercriminals have been increasing attacks on healthcare systems, increasing ransomware attacks to hold hospitals to ransom during the spread of Covid-19, despite the work these facilities carry out to save lives.

Interpol Secretary-General, Jürgen Stock, commented: “As hospitals and medical organisations around the world are working non-stop to preserve the well-being of individuals stricken with the coronavirus, they have become targets for ruthless cybercriminals who are looking to make a profit at the expense of sick patients

“Locking hospitals out of their critical systems will not only delay the swift medical response required during these unprecedented times, but it could also directly lead to deaths.

“Interpol continues to stand by its member countries and provide any assistance necessary to ensure our vital healthcare systems remain untouched and the criminals targeting them held accountable.”

Only 36% of critical infrastructures have a high level of cyber resilience

Greenbone Networks revealed the findings of a research assessing critical infrastructure providers’ ability to operate during or in the wake of a cyberattack.

The research investigated the cyber resilience of organizations operating in the energy, finance, health, telecommunications, transport and water industries, located in the world’s five largest economies: UK, US, Germany, France and Japan. Of the 370 companies surveyed, only 36 percent had achieved a high level of cyber resilience.

To benchmark the cyber resilience of these critical infrastructures, the researchers assessed a number of criteria. These included their ability to manage a major cyberattack, their ability to mitigate the impact of an attack, whether they had the necessary skills to recover after an incident, as well as their best practices, policies and corporate culture.

Infrastructure providers in the US were the most likely to score highly, with 50 percent of companies considered highly resilient. In Europe, the figure was lower at 36 percent. In Japan, is was just 22 percent.


[Source: HelpNetSecurity]

Statement from Attorney General William P. Barr Regarding the U.S. Department of State Global CTO Roundtable on 5G Integrated and Open Networks

Attorney General Barr issued the following statement:

“The United States and our partners are in an urgent race against the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to develop and build 5G infrastructure around the world.  Our national security and the flourishing of our liberal democratic values here and around the world depend on our winning it.  Future 5G networks will be a critical piece of global infrastructure, the central nervous system of the global economy.  Unfortunately, the PRC is well on its way to seizing a decisive 5G advantage.  If the PRC wins the 5G race, the geopolitical, economic, and national security consequences will be staggering.

The PRC knows this, which explains why it is using every lever of power to expand its 5G market share around the globe.  The community of free and democratic nations must do the same.

To compete and win against the PRC juggernaut, the United States and its partners must work closely with trusted vendors to pursue practical and realistic strategies that can turn the tide now.  Although the ‘Open RAN’ approach is not a solution to our immediate problem, the concept of Integrated and Open Networks (ION), which was the topic of yesterday’s roundtable, holds promise and should be explored.  We can win the race, but we must act now.”

Health should become EU ‘critical infrastructure’

Senior officials are now calling for the EU's disparate healthcare systems to be included as "critical infrastructure" in the light of the interdependencies between member states exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of officials argue in a new white paper that the existing European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) could now play a key role in EU's public health emergency preparedness.

The signatories include former MEPs, top officials from the EU's External Action Service and former heads of Intelligence Service.

The EPCIP is currently focused on protecting national and European energy and transport infrastructure, although health infrastructure is - in theory - included too.

Critical infrastructures are complex systems - such as pipelines, power plants, stock markets, railways - whose destruction or disruption could lead to significant loss of life or material damage.

However, hospital facilities, laboratories or emergency stockpiles of medical equipment also fit this description - especially when the coronavirus pandemic has shown how some EU countries were forced to rely on others for protective equipment, test and other types of resources.

Full report >>

[Source: EU Observer]

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