Critical Infrastructure—Why It Needs to Be Secured

Explore the vital role of various security solutions in safeguarding critical infrastructure.

Last Updated:
February 21, 2024
| ~
min Read
James Wang
Marketing Writer

The moment our alarms wake us up and we trudge through our morning routines, we are counting on a series of things to miraculously work. Everything from the water we shower with, to the electricity that percolates our coffee, to the gas that heats our homes, to the trains and roads that get us to our jobs or appointments, to our Wi-Fi or cellular networks that allow us to read the latest “Swelce” news (that’s a mashup between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce ‘s names for the uninitiated - no need to thank me). It all happens because our critical infrastructure is secure and in good working order.

It's a complicated and interdependent tapestry of industries that is critical to our nation’s ability to maintain national security, provide essential services, and keep us all connected with one another. As with any network that has as much importance and reach, it is essential that it is protected from any kind of nefarious activity—whether physical or cyber—that could compromise its ability to function. 

According to the latest stats from research firm, Gartner, the cost of “downtime”—when a business or network is interrupted and not functional—averages anywhere between $5,000 - $10,000 per minute.

It’s a staggering figure that many experts say is a conservative number. That’s because so much of our critical infrastructure is interconnected in that if one entity is compromised, multiple other entities can also be potentially affected. Interruption to any piece of critical infrastructure can cause ripple effects and disrupt financial systems, necessary services, and cause severe risk to the population’s health and well-being. 

The U.S. government has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors that play a vital role in the nation’s economy, well-being, and ability to operate. Most of those sectors are owned and operated privately; however, many are owned by the local, state, and federal governments as well.  As a result, critical infrastructure security is paramount for everyone to safeguard and requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. 

Below are several key critical infrastructure sectors that can have major impacts on our lives if compromised.



The communications sector includes infrastructure essential for us to connect with one another and disseminate information between each other. This can include satellites, radar, cell towers, the internet, media channels, and hard-wired cables that patch information and data. The communications sector is vital to almost every other sector as it is the backbone for each industry’s ability to transfer data for various routing and operational purposes, to exchanging information, to calculating real-time results. This can involve shipping, transportation, manufacturing, internet, telecommunications and more. 


There are 90,000 dams in the U.S. We rely on the system of dams to provide and regulate adequate water supplies that we use for various agricultural and basic needs, such as clean water and hydroelectric power. Dams irrigate at least 10% of croplands in the U.S. and provide about 60% of electricity in the Pacific Northwest. 


The energy sector includes any number of resources that supply a power source such as electricity, natural gas, oil, and other renewable and non-renewable assets that help drive production and maintain services across the country. More than 80% of the energy sector is privately owned and helps fuel power plants, transportation, manufacturing, and other industries that are pivotal to keeping the country running and growing.


The Financial Services sector represents an important cog in our nation’s critical infrastructure. It consists of financial institutions like banks, stock markets, insurance, and other lending institutions. The reach of the financial sectors spans from entire government economies to the largest global companies to your local municipal bank or credit union.  Any disruption in the financial services sector would limit the ability for people to have access to money or conduct financial transactions. Disruptions either physical or through cyberattacks can potentially cripple companies, entire industries, or even potentially damage world economies.


The Food and Agriculture sector accounts for approximately one-fifth of the United States’ economic activity. It’s comprised of food manufacturing and processing facilities, farms, restaurants, and storage compounds. Almost the entirety of this sector is privately owned which includes over 2.1 million farms that produce crops and livestock. The Food and Agricultural sector are heavily dependent on other sectors like dams for water, the chemical sector for fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the energy and transportation sectors.


The combination of aviation, maritime, rail, and roadways are responsible for moving millions of people across the country every day as well as the transportation of goods.  Pipelines carrying gas, various chemicals, agriculture, as well as postal and shipping routes that deliver our mail and packages are also reliant on the transportation system. Any disruption could wreak havoc on our ability to travel and our ability to transport natural resources as well as essential materials needed for energy and manufacturing. 

So many of us rely on critical infrastructure to provide services that help us navigate our lives. With so many people reliant on the goods and services provided by critical infrastructure, it’s become a target of interest for criminals looking for profit. 



Many critical infrastructures are in remote locations and are largely automated which can amount to less personnel and security onsite. It can give criminals a sense of anonymity because it is less populated and can create slower reaction times for detection or intervention.


Many critical infrastructure sites have valuable materials exposed that can be attractive to those looking to make off with a profitable haul. Things like expensive machinery, goods, and raw materials are often in abundance. Pipelines and telecommunications industries often utilize and have materials like copper and steel available (and sometimes out in the open) that have value on the secondary market and prime targets for theft. 


Where there is money, there is crime. Terrorism – both physical and cyber – is something that is a constant threat when it comes to financial institutions and other critical infrastructure. Often terrorist groups or hackers look to infiltrate systems for a myriad of reasons ranging from bragging rights to more sinister intents to wreak havoc on financial systems. A growing trend for criminals looking to breach networks is to infiltrate the system, take it over, and hold it hostage for ransom.

In 2021, the Colonial Pipeline was infiltrated by a group of hackers who installed ransomware into the company’s software which infected the company’s servers.

The company shut down the pipeline to try to mitigate any damage done by the ransomware. As a result, the Colonial Pipeline was closed for several days affecting over 5,500 miles of pipeline that supplied approximately half the fuel for the entire East Coast.  Ultimately, the Colonial Pipeline paid the hackers a ransom to get the encryption key allowing them to regain access to their systems. To this day, the Colonial Pipeline breach remains the largest disclosed attack against critical infrastructure in the U.S.

With so much at stake, there needs to be a comprehensive approach to safeguarding our critical infrastructure by both private and public sectors. Experts cite the importance of running risk assessments to identify weaknesses in security and implementing layered security protocols. This can include enterprise and jobsite surveillance cameras, mobile surveillance units, and artificial intelligence technology. It requires utilization of multi-faceted technologies with a cooperative dedication to security by professionals at all levels. 

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