Critical infrastructure is a vital aspect of operations for any country or organisation and as such, requires a deft hand in managing risks. Infrastructure security assessments have the potential to fulfil this requirement.

As critical infrastructure is generally exposed to a range of risks such as cyber-attacks, natural disasters, supply chain disruptions, human error, and communication failures among many others, having a clear strategy for risk management is mandatory.

In addition, vast amounts of individuals and organisations rely on the smooth operation of critical infrastructure in a country, further enhancing the need for an adequate risk assessment and mitigation procedure.

The Critical Infrastructure Risk Management Programme (CIRMP) presented as part of Part 2A of the SOCI Act of 2018 also plays a role here, as it presents obligations for certain CI assets to adopt, maintain, and comply with a Critical Infrastructure Risk Management Programme.

In this blog, we will explore some important considerations that need to be made when conducting security assessments for critical infrastructure as well as the techniques and strategies involved in this process.

Important considerations for infrastructure security assessments

Conducting security risk assessments in critical infrastructure can be simplified by following specific, standardised frameworks like fault tree analysis, probabilistic approaches, sectorial or asset-based approaches, resilience-based approaches, and more recently, the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP).

Fault tree analysis can be used to identify the possible causes of failure for CI systems and their consequences, probabilistic approaches can be used to estimate the likelihood of a risk event and its potential impact, and specific sectors/assets and their vulnerabilities can be assessed through sectorial or asset-based approaches.

Resilience-based approaches are particularly recommended as these can be used to gauge the ability of CI entities to withstand and recover from potential risks. In this approach, resilience must be considered at the asset, network, and Systems of Systems levels.

The AHP approach can be used to help decision-makers prioritise effective choices among alternatives by defining a hierarchical structure for risk that takes multiple classes of hazards and their associated threats into account.

Furthermore, potential risks in the supply chain must also be considered for CI security, as recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and various geopolitical tensions have clearly showcased a vast amount of bottlenecks in the global supply chain.

Taking a comprehensive approach to infrastructure security assessments is vital as it allows for the consideration of interdependencies between multiple CI entities, the environment they operate in, their geographical locations, and a slew of other effects that can compromise their security.

More on the techniques and strategies associated with infrastructure security assessments

Let’s take a closer look at the risk assessment methodologies above and how they contribute to more comprehensive security risk assessments in critical infrastructure.

Fault tree analysis
Involving a tree-like diagram to visualise the potential risks and their consequences, this analysis method facilitates the development of targeted strategies for risk mitigation and improves the overall security of the infrastructure entity.

Probabilistic approaches
This method can be used to estimate and quantify the likelihood of a risk event occurring and its impact on the critical infrastructure in question. The insights extracted from these methodologies can be used to predict future risk events and their potential impacts as well—improving long-term risk resilience.

Sectorial or asset-based approaches
If an organisation needs to gauge the threats, vulnerabilities, and risks associated with a particular sector or CI asset, this method is ideal. With these approaches, particular elements of a CI asset can be analysed to identify its particular weaknesses and develop strategies for mitigation.

Resilience-based approaches
This method is vital when gauging the ability of a particular CI entity to withstand risks and recover from them effectively. This allows for adaptive mitigation strategies that facilitate a higher level of risk resilience.

By applying it at a Systems of Systems level, CI entities that are interdependent on each other to function can be identified. This facilitates the development of mitigation strategies that will take the cascading effects of disruptions in one entity into account, improving the quality of risk management further.

The Analytics Hierarchy Process (AHP)
The AHP allows decision-makers to take multiple classes of hazards due to several threats such as physical attacks, cyberattacks, and cyber-physical attacks into account, helping them prioritise the most important decisions among their alternatives. 

This method involves breaking down a complex decision problem into a hierarchy of smaller, more manageable sub-problems. This hierarchy is composed of a goal, criteria, and alternatives. The goal is the overall objective of the decision problem, the criteria are the factors that contribute to goal achievement, and the alternatives are the options available to achieve the goal.

Once CI risks are identified and broken down into smaller ones like physical security risks, cybersecurity risks, and human factor risks, the relative importance of each risk can be determined and prioritised based on their potential impact on critical infrastructure.

Elevate your critical infrastructure entity’s risk resilience with SECTARA’s risk management solutions

With the major techniques and strategies for comprehensive critical infrastructure security assessments understood, you may be wondering how you can actually conduct these assessments effectively. This is where SECTARA comes in.

Our risk management software is made to be simple, precise, and accessible to all practitioners so that any level of risk practitioner can conduct effective risk assessments for critical infrastructure through the platform.

We are also in compliance with industry standards and best practices for risk management like ISO 31000 to ensure the highest level of risk management for our clients.

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