What defines infrastructure as being “critical”? Technically, these are systems and assets, either physical or virtual, which are so vital that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic stability, public health and safety or any combination of those matters.In short, these are resources we rely on every day that enable our way of life. Educational institutions clearly meet that criteria and deserve the same attention.
Identifying the Threat
According to a recent article published by Campus Safety, colleges and universities are rich targets with infrastructure, research labs, medical facilities, art collections and historic buildings. High concentrations of faculty and students fill outside venues at regular intervals during class changes. In addition, most campuses are open and have few security measures, making them ideal soft targets.
Over the last decade, advances in technology have rendered public and private sectors heavily reliant on support services associated with critical infrastructure. While this has created efficiencies in areas like energy conservation, it has also created vulnerabilities. The demand for interconnectivity requires the addition of nodes linking communication and power networks. As a result, the cyber and physical security of connected safety resources controlling, communicating and protecting students and faculty can be targeted in malicious attacks.
Threats to critical infrastructure come in many forms, each with varying intent. For example, some recorded incidents have been linked to terrorist organizations while others are associated with nation states working to steal intellectual property. Either of these scenarios could happen in a campus environment. For example, the Nov. 2016 attack on the Ohio State University campus which resulted in twelve injuries is an unfortunate example of an increasing trend seen throughout college campuses worldwide. One thing is for certain – the threat of an attack is both persistent and highly disruptive and campus security must be prepared with a thorough protection plan.
Meeting the Need
Some experts feel we are entering an unprecedented period of time due to the growing number of these public attacks – and educational campuses are not the only likely targets. Even if a campus is fortunate enough to avoid injuries or fatalities as a result of a malicious attack, there is still substantial loss of time and resources to consider. In addition, the residual impact felt on student enrollment, and trickle-down effect on things such as the opportunity to receive research funding.
To meet the unique security needs of a campus environment, critical infrastructure owners and operators should seek out a consulting organization that can assist with the planning and implementation of a robust protection plan, made up of solutions and resources to help you prepare for any threat or attack.