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Critical infrastructure protection

Critical infrastructures include power grids, the transport network and information and communication systems. Protection of these infrastructures is vital for the security of the EU and the well-being of its citizens.

The power grid, the transport network and information and communication systems are among the so-called "critical infrastructures", which are essential to maintain vital societal functions. Damage or destruction of critical infrastructures by natural disasters, terrorism and criminal activity may have negative consequences for the security of the EU and the well-being of its citizens.

To reduce the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures, the European Commission has launched the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP). This is a package of measures aimed at improving the protection of critical infrastructure in Europe, across all EU States and in all relevant sectors of economic activity. The EU initiative on Critical Information Infrastructure Protection (CIIP) aims to strengthen the security and resilience of vital Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructures.

In support of EU efforts to protect critical infrastructures, the JRC coordinates the European Reference Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection (ERNCIP), provides technical support for the review of the Directive on European Critical Infrastructures and carries out different research activities such as the development of methods and tools for international cyber security exercises, the assessment of the vulnerability of networked infrastructures in case of extreme space weather events, and the evaluation of the resistance of buildings and transport systems against explosions.

More information

Directorate General for Home Affairs – Critical Infrastructure

European Reference Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection (ERNCIP)

The European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) is a framework under which various measures together aim to improve the protection of critical infrastructure in the EU. These measures include the establishment of the European Reference Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection (ERNCIP), coordinated by the JRC.

ERNCIP provides a framework within which experimental facilities and laboratories can share knowledge and expertise in order to better align test protocols throughout Europe, leading to better protection of critical infrastructures against all types of threats and hazards.

More information: European Reference Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection

Resilience analysis of critical infrastructures

Improving resilience of critical infrastructures has become a priority for the authorities around the globe. Emerging threats, as well as unconventional attacks to critical infrastructures have exposed the limits of traditional risk assessment and risk mitigation efforts. Some threats cannot be foreseen, while reducing all possible risks at the minimum possible level is not always cost effective. This has shifted the attention towards resilience in order to reassure service continuity in the aftermath of destructive events especially in cases when these can not be predicted.
In order to assess the performance of technological systems taking into account their interdependencies across sectors and across borders and quantify the economic impact of disruption of critical infrastructures on society, the JRC has developed several tools and methodologies and has published several scientific publications in these fields.

Protecting communications and navigation infrastructures

Global navigation systems, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Galileo in the coming years, have become primary source of precise position and timing information, critical to safe operation of a number of critical infrastructures like the power grid, telecom networks, financial systems, etc.

The JRC works on the detection and mitigation of radio frequency threats against jamming and spoofing of these navigation satellite systems, as well as unintentional interference of space weather events, such as solar storms, that can cripple critical infrastructures.

The JRC studies radio frequency threats, both intentional and unintentional, to communication and navigation infrastructures. New techniques in radio spectrum management are based on dynamic spectrum sensing, use of cognitive radio, and radio frequency interference detection and mitigation. Countermeasures to radio frequency threats are also essential to ensure security of the future Galileo services based on high-precision positioning, navigation and timing functions. The JRC develops models, measurement systems and tests-beds to support technical standards in the area of secure communication and navigation systems.

Combining modelling and simulation with experimental activities, the JRC evaluates the threats and vulnerabilities of critical information infrastructures with a particular focus to cyber-physical systems like electrical smart grids. As regards the protection of critical information infrastructures, the JRC develops methodologies for the reproduction of realistic internet contingency scenarios and tools for the observation and assessment of cyber exercises in a multinational context.

The JRC also explores the potential impact of space weather on global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers.

Space weather impact on critical infrastructure

The JRC explores the potential impact of space weather on global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers, which are used in a large number of critical networked infrastructure, such as fixed and wireless networks (including the internet), the power grid, and transport. In this context, the JRC is testing a broad range of commercial GNSS timing receivers to assess their resilience to various types of interference scenarios and has installed a monitoring station in Peru to record the intensity of severe ionospheric scintillation in the GNSS bands. This will allow the creation of an empirical scintillation library used to test the robustness of commercial receivers. The JRC is also collaborating with international partners to improve the understanding of the space-weather impact on critical infrastructure and raise awareness of the related potential risks.

Space weather effects on satellites

In 2011, the Council asked the Commission to develop an overview of natural and man-made disaster risks the EU may face in the future. Several member states identified Space Weather as one of those. In case of an intense solar storm, satellites would be among the infrastructures at a higher risk, since they are away from the protection that the Earth’s magnetic field offers. To assess this risk, the JRC initiated studies to evaluate the impact that adverse Space Weather would generate on European space assets. JRC scientists have modelled how extreme Space Weather events may look like, and which would be their impact on satellite subsystems in terms of ionizing dose, non-ionizing dose, solar array degradation, single event effects and internal charging.

Protecting buildings from explosions, impacts and blasts

The JRC works on the physical protection of critical infrastructures under certain types of intentional threats or accidents, such as explosions, impacts and blast waves. Vulnerabilities of buildings are identified and classified via proper material modelling, structural mechanics and numerical simulation techniques.

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