Critical Infrastructure: A Critique of the Concept

Network Safety and Security
By Jean-Pierre Galland

Since about fifteen years, particularly since 9-11-2001 terrorist attack against New York World Wide Centre, industrial countries have progressively made an inventory of their respective critical infrastructures, in order to protect them. At the same time, a growing number of academic articles on the subject of critical infrastructures where published, mainly inside Anglo-Saxon reviews. So, this new subject became quickly imperative, both in the USA and in Europe, as at a practical level as at a theoretical one; and it contributed to a large extent to bring new thoughts about industrialised society vulnerability. Nevertheless, beyond the idea that critical infrastructures are essential and vital for the nations and their populations, the concept has never had a precise and shared definition. On the contrary, it has had and still has diverse meanings and implicit or explicit definitions, whether it is used inside a country or another, or even whether it is used by a researcher or one another. One of the reasons of this fact is that the ways risks for the populations (terrorist threats, natural or technological risks, disruptions inside networks, etc.) are classified into variable hierarchies would lead to variables lists of critical infrastructures, and also to different solutions to protect them. This is why the general concept of critical infrastructure must be criticized, so as to clarify a few misunderstandings about its meanings on the one hand, and so as to show on the other hand the innovations it brought however, particularly when speaking of new networks vulnerabilities.

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