Saturday, October 22, 2016

US Elections System as Critical Infrastructure?

What is "Critical Infrastructure?"

According to the US Department of Homeland Security "Critical Infrastructure" includes those assets, systems, and networks whether physical or virtual, that are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.

Presidential Policy Directive-21 (PPD-21), "Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience," identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors.  These sectors include:

  • Chemical Sector
  • Commercial Facilities Sector
  • Communications Sector
  • Critical Manufacturing Sector
  • Dams Sector
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Emergency Services Sector
  • Energy Sector
  • Financial Services Sector
  • Food and Agriculture Sector
  • Government Facilities Sector
  • Healthcare and Public Health Sector
  • Information Technology Sector
  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector
  • Transportation Sector, and 
  • Water and Wastewater Sector

What About the US Elections System/Sector?

In the news these past six weeks there has been an elevated discussion regarding the US election system and whether or not it should be identified as "Critical Infrastructure" and thus protected in the same way and means as the other 16 identified infrastructures.  This is aggravated by Mr. Trump questioning the integrity of the US election system and elevated concerns raised by the media that our country's enemies may take action to negatively impact the results of the voting on Tuesday, November 8th.

In early August, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, observed:

"There's a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think we need to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others as critical infrastructure."  However ... 
 "There's no one federal election system. There are some 9,000 jurisdictions involved in the election process," Johnson said. (Link)

So, Johnson's perception is that there is no single "Election Infrastructure Sector" per se and it may be challenging to quickly and effectively identify it as "Critical Infrastructure."

I even heard of this issue at a recent conference held by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) where a "new" critical infrastructure sector could be the US election system.

With some investigation by this writer, an article published on September 13, 2016, in Fedscoop, was located noting DHS Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity, Andy Ozment, said that DHS will not classify election systems as critical infrastructure before the November 2016 presidential election.

Ozment's quote continued:

"This is not something we're looking to in the near future.  This is a conversation we're having in the long term with state and local government, who are responsible for voting infrastructure.  We're focused right now on what we can usefully offer that local and state government will find valuable.

"From our perspective, it gives us more ability to help.  It does not put DHS in charge."

It will be fascinating to see how this conversation progresses -- especially if Mr. Trump's noisy questioning of the integrity of the voting process continues through and after the presidential election.

At a minimum, perhaps the "Election System Sector" could be included under the auspices of the "Government Sector" Critical Infrastructure designation rather than adding "Number 17."


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review - WEF Global Competitiveness Report

This September 2016 the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its annual Global Competitiveness Report 2016-17.  This report is almost 400 pages of a fairly comprehensive analysis of each country in the world and its relative competitiveness based on 12 separate factors (shown below):

And based on these 12 factors, the factors themselves are broken down into key elements for:

  • Factor-Driven Economies
  • Efficiency-Driven Economies, and
  • Innovation-Driven Economies
For instance Institutions and Infrastructure are key "Basic" requirements necessary for an economy to thrive and compete.

The WEF analysis then used these factors to ascertain the competitiveness of a country relative to the rest of the world as well as to its geographic region in many cases.  For instance, the top 10 most competitive countries using this methodology are:

And the bottom 10 are:

Infrastructure Factor

The elements reviewed to calculate each factor are listed in the "Technical Notes and Sources" section at the end of the report.  Since this blog is focused on infrastructure there is interest on the elements included in this calculation.  These include the following:

  • Quality of overall infrastructure
  • Quality of roads
  • Quality of railroad infrastructure
  • Quality of port infrastructure
  • Quality of air transport infrastructure
  • Available airline seat kilometers
  • Quality of electricity supply
  • Mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions
  • Fixed telephone lines
At first glance, this list is missing such elements as fresh/potable water supply, food availability and distribution, etc.  However, the "Technological Readiness" factors include the following that could be considered part of the strength of a country's infrastructure:

  • Availability of latest technologies
  • Firm-level technology absorption
  • Foreign Direct Investment and technology transfer
  • Internet users
  • Fixed broadband Internet users
  • Internet bandwidth
  • Mobile broadband subscriptions


As usual, the quality and content of this report are very good.  It is compelling and interesting and a useful reference for country policy development.


Friday, July 29, 2016


In early July the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis (OCIA) published an analysis entitled Impact of Population Shifts on Critical Infrastructure.  The report is a very compelling and interesting read and gives you a sense of how hard it is to augment infrastructure when the population is increasing (such as in the areas where fracking is in progress) and, how difficult it is to maintain current infrastructure when your tax base -- i.e., population -- is leaving as in the Rust Belt of the US.

To give the reader a sense of those areas in the continental US where population increase and decline may contribute to stresses on installation and maintenance of critical infrastructure is shown in a map shown below:

The map does reflect population shifts from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West -- especially Texas, Georgia and Arizona/Nevada. According to the report, the new growth is in part because of high-technology magnet areas in the West and South, energy development of shale gas and shale oil in rural areas throughout the country, and regrowth in cities in the South and West with housing-led reversals. This growth is also partially because of lower costs of living, potentially including lower tax rates.

Rapidly increasing populations result in:

  • Increased demand for services
  • Increased infrastructure use
  • Increased rural roadway use requiring expensive reconstruction and repair
  • Reduced available downtime for infrastructure maintenance and repairs
  • Challenges in funding immediately needed infrastructure upgrades since available money may be delayed due to tax and revenue stream deferrals to later years.
  • Increased frequency and severity of disruptions to water and wastewater systems
Reduced populations result in:
  • Reduced tax base resulting in funding shortfalls for infrastructure maintenance and repairs
  • Uneven population densities within metro areas


The report does offer some approaches to address bot increasing and declining populations and the impacts on critical infrastructure.  The key recommendations for both cases are:
  1. Strategic Planning -- For rapidly increasing population growth, strategic planning is critical for meeting increases in demand -- especially because of the lead-time needed for financing; designing and planning projects; obtaining regulatory approvals; siting and constructing the infrastructure.
  2. Public-Private Partnerships -- These partnerships and their collective approach can be useful for infrastructure planning/development/maintenance during times of population growth or decline.  Don't forget, most of the critical infrastructure in the US is privately owned.  And because these private entities rely on state/local government approval to deploy large infrastructure projects their partnership and cooperation is critical.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


My full-time job is that of a security consultant, but I am also a hobbyist student of geopolitics.  My favorite (or is that favourite) publication in this regard is The Economist published weekly.  Unfortunately due to my consulting work along with other personal and professional obligations I often don't have the opportunity to really "read" the magazine from cover-to-cover.  But, rather than place the magazine on my notorious "to be read" stack, I have established a technique I'd like to share on how I can take some quality time to glean the contents of the magazine and at least add quickly to my geopolitical knowledge.
When I receive the magazine the first section I turn to is Contents.  Here I read the different titles of the articles but I'm especially sure to read the side-boxes (see below) since they offer a good sense of the themes covered in this week's issue.
Figure 1 - Read the Boxes
This is the most interesting and most effective part of my time with The Economist.  On these three pages, I get to view and digest the weekly cartoon and then get a good flavor of the world's news that I certainly don't obtain from the US television or newspapers.  For instance, in this week's issue, there is news from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Indonesia, Bangladesh besides the "normal" news sources of the US political scene, China, Paris and of course the UK.
PHASE III: LEADERS (~ Pages 13-17)
This part of the magazine is my favorite.  Here you can gain a sense of the pros/cons, plusses/minuses of the issues raised by the editors of the magazine.  I especially like the coverage of these editorial comments since they cover most of the world and, again, are not focused on the US.  Yes, there are comments on US politics (e.g., the 2016 election, Orlando, etc.) but the other editorial coverage is in areas that I am not familiar or often exposed.  
Finally, during my 15 minutes of quality time with the magazine, I'll skim through the different sections usually pausing on some of the editorials, reviewing any graphics/maps, and speeding through the different text boxes.
Of course, if I'm ready to get on a plane or have some added time then I'll be sure to read the magazine in more depth but my focal points will generally begin with my four phases above.
If you don't already subscribe to The EconomistI'd highly recommend you do.  You'll find that the view offered is so much more superior than US television and is more portable than my other favorite reads The New York Times or Washington Post.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Earthquake Risk and US Highway Infrastructure

Thanks to our friends at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) a recent Congressional Research Service report entitled Earthquake Risk and U.S. Highway Infrastructure: Frequently Asked Questions was posted.  This 11-page report is an excellent overview of the current state of natural and man-made (read - "Fracking") earthquake impact on the US highway system.

Two figures in the report are very telling as to the concentration of earthquakes and implications on "Shaking expected for Tall Structures Like Bridges" (below)...

as well as a graphic showing the chance of human-induced and natural earthquakes.  (Look at the concentration around Oklahoma presumably due to Fracking.)

Key Comments in the Report

The report approaches these issues in a FAQ, here are some quick highlights:

Q:  What Are the Components of Seismic Risk?

A:  Seismic risk to a highway system is determined by three factors:

  • Likelihood of seismic events of varying magnitudes, and related physical events, often referred to as the hazard;
  • Vulnerability of highway structures to damage from such events; and
  • Potential consequences of that vulnerability (e.g., lives lost, economic disruption, etc.)
Q: How Vulnerable Is the U.S. Highway System?

A:  "No national database exists on the seismic design and retrofit status of highway system components; thus, a perspective on vulnerability at the national level is unavailable.  However, many states with large seismic hazards have compiled data on the vulnerability of highway components within their borders..."

Q:  How Vulnerable are Highway Bridges?

A: Basically many of the most vulnerable older bridges -- particularly in the West Coast States -- have been retrofitted to improve seismic resilience; however, many older bridges (around 13,000) in the New Madrid seismic zone (AR, IL, IN, KY, MO, MS, TN) have not been retrofitted.

Q: How Costly is Retrofitting Highway Infrastructure?

A:  Because no national data exist on the status of retrofitting existing highway bridges or other infrastructure (e.g.,tunnels, highway systems), no national estimates exist.  


If you are involved in transportation policy or a student of infrastructure, this is a useful starting point to give you a sense of the daunting task of improving the resilience of highway structures against earthquakes.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"The Business of Hacking" -- Recommended Reading for CEOs, Boards of Directors, Governance Leadership

What is your view of the "hacking community?"  Is it one of masked computer operators working in a darkened room or that of a white-coated laboratory technician?  Well, your views of the hackers working on new products and "services" to steal your information may be substantially changed after your read the most recent document from Hewlett Packard Enterprise entitled The Business of Hacking:  Business Innovation Meets the Business of Hacking.  
This document is an easy and compelling read for Chief Executive Officers, Chief Information Officers, Boards of Directors, Risk Analysts and cyber security students.  The article does an excellent job giving a straight-forward discussion regarding the "reality" of the cybercrime community and their "business models."

The HP whitepaper does a nice job clearly identifying "who" the "Bad Guys" are with a simple chart (shown below):

This is extremely helpful to those trying to understand cybercrime and cyber "hacking" because it shows there are different types of hackers with different motivations and capabilities.

The article almost reads like a Gartner report with a "Magic Quadrant" depiction of where the attackers are working relative to Payout and Effort/Risk to their "business."  The quadrant analysis is shown below:

Although the report doesn't go into details on how organized cyber crime is used by Nation-States, analysis has shown that some countries may be using organized cyber crime to do their cyber attacks thus giving the Nation-State the ability to offer "plausible deniability."

Finally, this report will reinforce to the CEO's, et al that the cyber crime business is just that...a business...where the hackers want to maximize profit and minimize risk...where the hackers need to do research and development and they need to have a finance minister to run their economic shop.

On a parenthetical note, in 2006 I wrote Chapter 1A, "Cybercrime's Impact on Information Security,"  in Cybercrime & Security edited by Pauline C. Reich.  In my article I discussed cybercrime as a business -- albeit nefarious - but with a CEO, COO, HR manager, VP of R&D, CFO, etc. and that their motives are focused on "....profit maximization and risk management..."

Key Take-Aways

This white paper from HP is a great educational piece to get to your Board of Directors, CEO, COO, CFO, CIO and cyber security students who need to realize that one way to hamper cyber crime is to alter the criminal's business operations .... raise their expenses and increase their risk.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

WEBINAR: Climate-Resilient Infrastructure -- 28 April 2016


I've been rather swamped with a major project for the past few months so my Blog has been pretty quiet.  Anyway, I want to pass along this one Webinar my fellow infrastructure colleagues may be interested.




This FREE webinar will feature a panel of experts on infrastructure planning and climate change discussing new approaches to planning climate-resilient infrastructure.  The topics to be covered include:

  • How climate change affects infrastructure
  • How planners can respond to climate change by planning integrated and resilient infrastructure
  • Principles for re-thinking how we invest in infrastructure
  • How US Federal Agencies are adapting this approach to their grants and disaster relief programs, including information on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Resilience Challenge and the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Disaster Resilience Competition
Ms. Jill Sterrett, FAICP, Affiliate Instructor,  Department of Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington, Seattle, WA  USA

Mr. Rhys Roth, Faculty and Director of the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA USA

Mr. Steve Moddemeyer, Principal, CollinsWoerman Architects, Seattle, WA USA

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A View of the World's Infrastructure -- PBS Video "Humanity from Space"

I have been a student of global infrastructure for many years and even completed my Masters in Infrastructure Planning and Management from the University of Washington, Seattle, USA this past year.  This week I happened to view an absolutely fascinating video on the US Public Broadcasting System (PBS) called Humanity from Space. 
This video offers a terrific view of global infrastructure expansion and development from the early days of mankind up to the future views of expanded renewable energy, communications networks, highways, transportation, etc.

From the PBS page, here is a broader description of the video:

You can view the entire video at:

You may also be able to locate it on other alternative options such as Roku, Netflix, Amazon Prime.

Anyway, take time to view this phenomenal film....the graphics are thought provoking and the music is from one of my favorite composers, Thomas Bergersen/Two Steps from Hell.



Monday, February 8, 2016


As I began writing this blog post the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland is in progress.  In conjunction with this major meeting the WEF also produces its Global Risks Report.  One section of the report – shown below – is entitled “Global Risks of Highest Concern for Doing Business.”

As you look at this list, the eighth most important risk of concern is “Failure of Critical Infrastructure.” 

Wow, that is very disconcerting and it is important that critical infrastructure issues be addressed to help mitigate and alleviate these risks.  But even as you think about it, global infrastructure is strained even with issues #1 through #7 (and #9, of course).

But how?

Masters of Infrastructure Planning and Management

In August 2015 I successfully completed the Master’s Degree in Infrastructure Planning and Management at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington USA.  This program – entirely online, so you can take classes literally around the globe in various time zones – provided fantastic exposure to me as an infrastructure security professional on ways to manage and protect vital infrastructure systems from natural and man made threats.  The program curriculum is included below.

Figure 2

And as you can observe, the courses train the students on such fundamental topics as risk management, geographic information systems (GIS), and strategic planning.  The core courses include “soup to nuts” reviews of different infrastructure sectors such as energy, water, food, transportation, emergency management and public health.

At the end of the two-year program I believe you can be an adept contributor to critical infrastructure planning and management at the local, regional, national or international level.

By the way, the instructors are also accomplished, practical professionals in their areas.  For instance the infrastructure finance professor studied under Nobel Laureates at the University of California.  The instructors teaching the energy courses work for the regional utility in Seattle, and the public health professor is a physician with almost 40 year’s experience in international public health management.

Overall, the instructors “…really know their stuff…” from a practical, hand-on perspective and after a quarter with each one of them you have not only learned the details of the sector but you also know where to look for more information – a key value to me as a critical infrastructure protection professional.

Graduates and their Stories

Some of my fellow classmates have done very well with their MIPM credentials.  One grad continued in the Business Continuity/Planning space for a major health insurance provider and is now the Global Emergency Preparedness manager for a major, US West Coast university.  Another classmate continues as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army with expanded awareness of global infrastructure issues.  A third classmate is in a local city public utility doing planning work.

How Can I Get More Information?  Where Do I Sign Up?

If you want more details I’d first suggest you visit the University of Washington Master in Infrastructure Planning and Management web page.

Be sure to review the Admissions requirements and the Costs/Financial Aid page.  Overall, you’ll see that the entrance requirements are certainly those of a Top Tier University but within reason for the working professional.  Some of my classmates had their tuition covered by the GI Bill and my company reimbursed me for my courses.

Of note, each cohort starts at the end of September each year and the Application Deadline is June 1st.

Unique Training – Unique Opportunity

As the faculty and students can attest, this is one of the very few programs in the world offering Masters-level training on infrastructure planning and management.  And, it is ONLINE so you don’t need to attend classes and – as a working professional – I can tell you that class assignments can be completed even if you are on the road multiple time zones away from Seattle.

So, here are the key Links…..and remember, the Application Deadline is June 1st.


·         CURRICULUM:        

·         FACULTY:                  

·         ADMISSIONS:          

·         FINANCES:                



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Plan of Attack: Studying for the ASIS Physical Security Professional (PSP) Certification Test

I recently sat for the ASIS Physical Security Professional (PSP) certification exam.  The test is about 125 questions and you are allotted about three hours to complete the test at a testing facility (e.g., Prometrics).

This Blog is intended to offer a Plan of Attack on how to study for the exam; however, according to the rules of engagement, I am not permitted to offer example/actual questions, answers, etc.  Instead, this Blog is really a "How To" prepare for the test using a process I developed after searching the Internet and reviewing any ASIS resources that could offer ideas.

Be sure you take a look at the ASIS Board Certification Handbook as you prepare for this journey.


Collect/assemble all your resources to study for the test.  The first set of resources is listed on the ASIS site here.

These documents include:

* One book not listed but is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED is the ASIS book, Protection of Assets - Physical Security.  Yes, the PSP Reference does contain some repetitive information from the actual POA -- and you need the PSP Reference due to the chapter on high rise security -- the actual POA is and imperative read as you prepare for the test.


This first step will help you to gain a broad view of where your studying will take you.  By simply reading the Guidelines and outlining the various sections -- even just handwriting down the different sections/subsections in order -- you'll get a chance to see the flow of the organization of what is included in Physical Security.

In my case I did my outline in Microsoft PowerPoint with the slides highlighting the key concepts for each section/subsection.  (NOTE:  These outline PPT decks will be useful for review).

From these Guidelines I'd suggest you memorize the Business Continuity process flow first shown on page 10 of the ASIS Business Continuity Guideline and shown below:

BCP Process flow


This is now where the real work starts.  But, with the background you already have with the above outlining efforts and your own professional experience, this will be time-consuming but not daunting.

There is no right/wrong way to proceed but I essentially did the following steps on my reading:

If you have little or no practical field experience in the Physical Security space, take time to read and outline Introduction to Security,  This is the first thing you'll need to do to get a solid foundation for your studying.  Otherwise, if you have considerable physical and cyber security experience you can "jump into the pool" and start with the reading/studying list below:

Page 4, Design and Evaluation of Physical Protection Systems

  • Fourth:  Read and study Implementing Physical Protection Systems: A Practical Guide,  Be sure you understand the six phases of PPS life cycle planning and what goes into each one of the phases.  Overall this is a very helpful book in your future life as a security project manager and the words of wisdom offered by David Peterson are very helpful.
  • Fifth:  Read and study Effective Physical Security,  Each chapter offers a wealth of information on various technical topics you've already learned in the POA above and in Mary Lynn Garcia's work.  This book is also great for quick reference when you need a few more details when studying on such topics as locks, lighting, etc.
  • Sixth:  Read the remaining references in any order.  


Now comes the truly hard work.  Each of us have our own way of learning, but below I'll offer my own approach.

Each one of the books above I outlined the chapters using PowerPoint -- the same way I outlined the Guidelines.

Some people prefer to use Flash Cards; however, a wonderful and FREE system you can use is an online application called Quizlet.  Be sure to set up a FREE account and then conduct a search for any Quizes prepared for the PSP.  I located about four and also built a few myself -- which is great! 


You can use Quizlet to display Flashcards, develop tests (multiple choice, fill in the blank, match) and even play games using "Scatter" and "Gravity."  

Quizlet really helped me with Flashcard preparation (yes, you can print them) and took the boredom out of the review process.


Be sure to check the ASIS website and your own local chapter to see if they are offering any PSP study groups.  Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in any.


Here are some general guidelines to consider when preparing for the test:

1) Don't CRAM and expect to pass the test.  There is too much information.

2) Draw every diagram you see at least once.
3) Prepare a plan (like the above) and build upon what you are learning.  For instance, when reading a specific topic in the Protection of Assets - Physical Security -- e.g., Lighting -- then also read the section on Lighting in the Effective Physical Security, to complement and augment what you just learned.

4) Know your terms but also know the contents of the practical discussions in Garcia's and Fennelly's books -- as well as both POA references.

5) Get a good night's rest the night before the exam.  Review your outlines the day of the test and go for it!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

CRS Report - Vulnerability of Concentrated Critical Infrastructure

I was recently writing an article for the Hazar Strateji Enstitüsü / Caspian Strategy Institute (HASEN) on the subject of physical security of critical electric infrastructure.  During my research I came across a very interesting -- and I believe timely -- Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report entitled Vulnerability of Concentrated Critical Infrastructure: Background and Policy Options.  The report was prepared by Paul W. Parfomak and updated on September 12, 2008. 

(Hat tip to the Federation of American Scientists for posting this document in their publically available CRS library!)

I found this report to be an exceptional analysis of the vulnerabilities posed to the US with critical infrastructure concentrated in geographic areas.  Such concentration increases the vulnerability to events like natural disasters, epidemics, certain kinds of terrorist attacks, etc.

The report defines "Geographic Concentration" of critical infrastructure as:

"...the physical location of critical assets in sufficient proximity to each other that they are vulnerable to disruption by the same, or successive, regional events."

To give the reader a sense of the degree of geographic concentration (in 2008) here is an interesting list:
  • Energy (Refining) -- Approximately 43% of total US oil refining capacity is clustered along the Texas and Louisiana coasts
  • Banking and Finance (Securities Market) -- Almost 39% of US securities and options are traded on the floors of the NY and American Stock Exchanges in lower Manhattan
  • Chemicals (Chlorine) -- Over 38% of US chlorine production is located in coastal Louisiana
  • Transportation (Rail) -- Over 37% of US freight railcars pass through Illinois, primarily around Chicago.  Over 27% of freight railcars pass primarily through St. Louis
  • Transportation (Marine Cargo) -- Over 33% of US waterborne container shipments pass through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in Southern California (Note: a major tsunami in Southern California could close the Ports of Long Beach/Los Angeles for two months and cost $60B in economic losses)

  • Defense Industrial Base (Shipyards) -- Over 31% of US naval shipbuilding and repair capacity is in and around Norfolk, Virginia
  • Agriculture and Food (Livestock) -- Approximately 29% of US hog inventories are in Iowa; 15% in eastern North Carolina
  • Public Health and Healthcare (Pharmaceuticals) -- Approximately 25% of US pharmaceuticals are manufactured in Puerto Rico/San Juan metro area

In addition to the sobering numbers above, if you look at the combined geographical area of New York City and Northern New Jersey the US port capacity is 12% and airport capacity is 8%.


To the casual observer, geographic concentration of US critical infrastructure is nothing new.  For example, Chicago and Atlanta evolved from railroad hubs; Louisiana and the Coast of Texas are major players in oil and natural gas because that is where the natural resources are, etc.  However, there are some added influences cited by the CRS report.  They include:
  • Resource Location
  • Agglomeration Economies (i.e., spatial concentration itself creates favorable economic environment that supports further or continued concentration
  • Scale Economies (e.g., refineries, ports, etc. are growing larger and larger due to the driver of "economy of scale")
  • Community Preferences (this is more like the concentration of infrastructure in places where the local citizens are not opposed to such facilities)
  • Capital Efficiency (critical infrastructure is located where capital can be efficiently deployed)

Finally, for those who are planners or students of infrastructure planning and management here are some selected Federal policies to discourage geographic concentration:

  • Prescriptive Siting (e.g., In the early 1940s, the US Government financed a major steel plant in Utah as a precaution against shortages in the Western US in case of a Pacific Coast invasion by the Japanese or closure of the Panama Canal)
  • Economic Incentives
  • Environmental Regulation (e.g., Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Air Act, etc.)
  • Economic Regulation
Finally the report highlights policy options to reduce infrastructure vulnerability that can include:

  • Eliminating Policies Encouraging Concentration
  • Encouraging Geographic Dispersion
  • Ensuring Infrastructure Survivability
  • Ensuring Infrastructure Recovery Capabilities


Overall this is an excellent and thought-provoking report on the strengths and vulnerabilities posed by the concentration of infrastructure in the US economy.  This document is a useful discussion for students focused on urban planning, critical infrastructure planning and management, and those interested in reducing infrastructure vulnerabilities.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Seven Strategies to Defend Industrial Control Systems (ICS)

In December 2015 the US National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) -- often referred to as "EN-KICK" -- published a highly readable and brief white paper on Seven Strategies to Defend ICSs.  

This 7-page pdf offers a useful list of seven strategies a company can follow to better protect its industrial control systems.

Not only do they offer a quick, one or two paragraph description of the actions to be taken, but they also offer quick examples of events that could have been possibly prevented if the advice were followed.

The Seven Strategies include:

  1. Implement Application Whitelisting
  2. Ensure Proper Configuration/Patch Management
  3. Reduce Your Attack Surface Area
  4. Build a Dependable Environment
  5. Manage Authentication
  6. Implement Secure Remote Access
  7. Monitor and Respond


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Status of US Infrastructure - Infographic

Hat tip to Ms. Chrissy Gomez for passing along a link to a very interesting and in-depth Infographic discussing US infrastructure challenges and the impacts of the Infrastructure Bill.

The title of the article is The Infrastructure Bill: What it Means for Business and an excerpt of the Infographic is attached below. 

The Infographic does a nice job starting with a summary of the dismal and declining state of US infrastructure and then offers some scenarios of the impacts expected from the December 2015 Congressional Funding of $305B at $61B/year for the next 5 years.

Take a moment to look over the Infographic at the MBA Central website -- this is great information for those worried about US infrastructure and Infrastructure Planning and Management professionals.

Monday, January 11, 2016

CRS Insight - Electric Grid Physical Security: Recent Legislation (US)

(Another Hat Tip to our friends at the Federation of American Scientists for posting this CRS document!)

Last week a two-page summary of recent US government legislation focused on electric grid physical security was prepared by Paul W. Parfomak of the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The document is a quick read. Besides summarizing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)) / North American Electric Reliability corporation (NERC) efforts on the CIP-014, Physical Security Reliability Standard, the document summarizes some interesting electric grid physical security elements in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act - P.L. 114-94 and the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 - S. 2012.

Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act - P.L. 114-94
  • Became law on December 4, 2015
  • Contains provisions in two sections to facilitate recovery during electric grid emergencies due to physical damage and other causes.
  • Critical Electric Infrastructure Security (§1104) -- This section provides the Secretary of Energy additional authority to order emergency measures to protect or restore the reliability of critical electric infrastructure or defense critical electric infrastructure during a grid security emergency.  The identification of such a grid emergency would be made by written notice from the President with a concurrent notification from Congress.  This section also allows a) grid owners to recover prudent costs incurred under such emergency measures through rates regulated by FERC, and b) increases protection of critical electrical infrastructure information.
  • Strategic Transformer Reserve (§1105) -- This section requires the Secretary of Energy -- in consultation with other agencies, the military, and the utility industry -- to submit to Congress within one year a plan for a Strategic Transformer Reserve.
  • Includes two sections primarily directed at electric grid cybersecurity but with potential impacts on physical asset protection or recovery.
  • Cybersecurity Threats (§2001) -- Would provide the Secretary of Energy additional authority to order emergency measures to avert or mitigate a cybersecurity threat upon receiving notice from the President that such a threat exists.  This section is also intended to increase protection of critical electrical infrastructure information.
  • Cybersecurity Threats (§2002) -- This section would designate the Department of Energy (DOE) as the lead Sector-Specific Agency under Presidential Policy Directive 21 for energy sector cybersecurity.  This bill would require a) DOE to develop a program for modeling and assessing energy infrastructure risks in the face of natural and human-made (physical and cyber) threats, b) DOE to explore alternative structures and funding mechanisms to expand industry participation in the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC).

Thanks again to Mr. Parfomak for this CRS Insight.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

CRS Report - Data Security & Breach Notification Legislation: Selected Legal Issues

Thanks to our friends at the Federation of American Scientists, the recently issued Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled Data Security and Breach Notification Legislation: Selected Legal Issues has been made available.  (21 Pages)
This is a focused report providing a review of the following:

  • Proposed Legislation introduced in the 114th Congress on Data Security and Breach Notification
  • Discussion about State Data Breach Laws (very brief)
  • Legal Analysis of:
    • Preemption of State Laws, Regulations, and Claims should Federal Law(s) be Passed in this Area
    • Agency Enforcement of Data Security and Breach Notification Requirements
Some interesting takeaways from this report:

1) 47 US States, the District of Columbia, and three US territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands) have enacted data security laws.

2) Alabama, New Mexico, and South Dakota have not enacted breach notification laws.

3) Massachusetts has issued regulations requiring persons who own or license personal information about a Massachusetts resident to "...develop, implement, and maintain a comprehensive information security program..." (201 Mass. Code Regs. 17.03(1))  Such a program must be in writing and contain administrative, technical and physical safeguards appropriate to the size and type of business, available resources, and amount of stored data.  Businesses must also conduct an annual review of security measures.
4) (Excerpt on Federal Preemption of State Data Security Laws - Page 15 )

5) (Excerpt on Agency Enforcement - Page 19)

Overall, this is an interesting read on the implications of possible Federal legislation in the domain of data breach laws primarily addressed by US state laws.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Planning for Community Infrastructure Resilience - NIST Guidance

In 2015 the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)  began a process to produce guidance on approaches to aid communities in improving their resilience to prevailing natural and man made disasters that could affect their jurisdiction.  NIST began to produce various guides to offer some processes for community planners to follow including understanding and assessing their current risks as well as develop plans to implement to improve their resilience.  Using the "Guides" the community planners can better integrate their resilience efforts into their economic development, zoning, and other local planning activities impacting buildings, public utilities, and other infrastructure systems.

Currently there are three NIST Guide documents to be summarized below in this Blog:

Volume 1

The first document produced by NIST is Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems Volume 1.   (11MB Download, 125 pages).  Volume I describes the methodology and has an example illustrating the planning process for the fictional town of Riverbend, USA.

As part of this methodology, Volume 1 includes a "Six-Step" Process to Planning for Community Resilience." (Shown Below).  Although the graphic is offering an elementary project planning structure, the contents and discussion of Volume 1 on how to approach the challenges of assessing and improving the resilience of the community is useful.

Volume 1 continues to provide the basis for this approach and also ensures that the reader does not fall into the trap of looking exclusively at "THINGS" such as bridges, roads, public works facilities, but instead helps the reader realize that the THINGS are based on and affected by the social aspects.  A particularly good graphic showing this "cause and effect" so to speak is below:

Volume II

Volume II of this Guide provides details for the planners on issues ranging from Understanding and Characterizing the Social Community (Chapter 10) to Dependencies and Cascading Effects to detailed information for various Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) including:

  • Chapter 12 - Buildings
  • Chapter 13 - Transportation Systems
  • Chapter 14 - Energy Systems
  • Chapter 15 - Communications Systems
  • Chapter 16 - Water and Wastewater Systems
Each CIKR sector reviewed includes parallel analysis to include:
  • Introduction to the Sector
  • Infrastructure, Functions
  • Performance Goals for the Sector
  • Regulatory Environment
  • Standards and Codes for New Construction and Existing Construction
  • Strategies for Implementing Plans for Community Resilience
  • References for the Sector
Finally, Chapter 17 includes a discussion on "Community Resilience Metrics" to include such metrics as:
  • Time to Recover Function
  • Economic Vitality
  • Social Well-Being
  • Environmental Resilience
  • Hybrid Metrics

Economic Guide

The third Guide just issued in this series is focused on Economics and "Economic Decision Making."   Per the NIST announcement the Economic Guide "... provides a standard economic methodology for evaluating investment decisions aimed to improve the ability of communities to adapt to, withstand, and quickly recover from disasters."  The report is intended to frame the economic decision process by identifying and comparing the relevant present and future streams of costs and benefits with benefits realized through costs savings and damage loss avoidance.

As observed in the report benefits are primarily determined as the improvement in performance during a hazard event over the status quo, i.e., those obtained directly or indirectly by implementation of the new resilience strategy.

And for cost analysis, costs include all costs, including negative effects of implementing a resilience action. That specifically includes the initial costs, operation and maintenance costs, end-of-life costs, and replacement costs. In addition, any non-economic costs (e.g., deaths and injuries) and negative externalities need to be taken into account.

Who Are Served by These Reports?

These reports appear to be excellent resources for city, county, regional and national planners -- especially those examining disaster recovery and Continuity of Operations (COOP) policies, procedures and budgets.  Also, students of infrastructure management should find these reports to be very useful -- not only for their content but also for the references cited in the document and for each analyzed critical infrastructure in Volume II.