What is critical infrastructure?
When critical infrastructure goes down, the result can be catastrophic. Learn about why it’s so important for critical infrastructure to be resilient, and how software solutions can help.
Rows of boxes filled with critical supplies
What is critical infrastructure?

Critical infrastructure refers to the systems, facilities and assets that are vital for the functioning of society and the economy.

These infrastructures are considered essential because their disruption would impact public safety, security, economic stability or public health. Critical infrastructure includes both physical and virtual components that are interconnected and interdependent.

Most countries and governing bodies maintain rules around how critical infrastructure must be managed. For example, In the U.S., government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Department of Energy (DOE) define regulations and standards pertaining to critical infrastructure security and management. Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21) advances a national unity of effort to strengthen and maintain secure, functioning and resilient critical infrastructure.

It’s important for those who manage such systems to be aware of the latest regulations, best practices and technologies for managing the well-being of important infrastructure. Critical infrastructure sectors are all around us:

  • Energy sector: Nuclear reactors, electrical grids, oil and natural gas facilities, pipelines and fuel storage.

  • Chemical sector: Petrochemical manufacturing, agricultural chemical production and chemical distribution.

  • Transportation sector: Airports, seaports, railways, highways, bridges and public transit systems.

  • Water and Wastewater Systems: Water treatment plants, reservoirs, dams, pumping stations and sewer systems.

  • Communications sector: Telecommunication networks, internet service providers and satellite systems.

  • Financial services sector: Banks, stock exchanges, payment systems and clearinghouses.

  • Healthcare: Hospitals, clinics and medical supply chains.

  • Emergency Services: Police, fire departments and emergency management systems.

  • Food and Agriculture: Farms, food processing facilities, distribution networks and food safety systems.

  • Government: Defense industrial base, federal government facilities and national security systems.

  • Information Technology: Data centers, critical software and hardware, cybersecurity systems and internet infrastructure.

These infrastructures are often interconnected, and disruptions in one sector can have cascading effects on other sectors, leading to widespread consequences.

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Common threats to critical infrastructure

Critical infrastructure faces various threats that can disrupt its operations and pose risks to public safety, security and economic stability. Common threats include:

Cyber attacks

Attackers may target control systems, networks and software vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access, disrupt operations, steal sensitive information or cause physical damage.

Physical attacks

Sabotage, terrorism or vandalism can directly damage facilities, disrupt operations and endanger lives. These attacks can target commercial facilities, transportation systems, critical manufacturing operations or other assets.

Natural disasters

Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires and severe weather events can disrupt essential services. Systems based on historical climate patterns may face challenges due to increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Pandemics and health emergencies

Pandemics and disease outbreaks can cause workforce shortages, operational disruptions and increased demand for healthcare services that can strain public health responders and overall system resilience.

Supply chain vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities in the supply chain, such as compromised or counterfeit products, can introduce weaknesses that may be exploited to disrupt operations or compromise system integrity.

Technological dependencies

As critical infrastructure becomes more interconnected and reliant on advanced technologies, dependencies on complex systems and software increase.

How to manage critical infrastructure

Managing critical infrastructure involves implementing robust software solutions and systems to monitor, control and secure the various components of the infrastructure.


  • Asset management: Utilize software-based enterprise asset management (EAM) systems to keep track of all critical infrastructure assets, including physical equipment, software licenses and network devices. This enables efficient asset inventory, maintenance scheduling and lifecycle management.
  • SCADA and control systems: Implement Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems or similar control systems to monitor and control the physical processes of critical infrastructure. These systems allow operators to remotely monitor and manage the infrastructure, collect real-time data and make informed decisions.
  • Network monitoring and security: Deploy network monitoring tools and security solutions to continuously monitor the network infrastructure. This helps detect and respond to potential cyber threats, vulnerabilities or anomalies that may compromise the integrity and availability of critical infrastructure systems.
  • Risk-based approaches: These approaches involve assessing and prioritizing risks to infrastructure systems, implementing risk management measures and allocating resources based on the criticality of assets and potential impact of disruptions.
  • Data analytics and predictive maintenance: Utilize software analytics tools to analyze the data collected from critical infrastructure systems. By applying data analytics techniques, patterns and trends can be identified, enabling predictive maintenance practices that help prevent equipment failures and encourages mitigation of downtime.
  • Remote monitoring and control: Implement remote monitoring and control capabilities using software solutions. This allows operators to monitor and control critical infrastructure systems from a centralized location, enabling quick response to incidents and reducing the need for physical presence at every location.
  • Incident response and disaster recovery: Develop comprehensive incident response plans and disaster recovery strategies using software tools. These plans should outline step-by-step procedures to follow in the event of a cyberattack, natural disaster or other emergencies. Software-based incident management systems can help streamline the response and recovery processes.
  • Compliance and regulatory requirements: Ensure that the software systems used for managing critical infrastructure comply with relevant regulations and standards. This includes cybersecurity standards, data protection regulations and industry-specific compliance requirements.
  • Training and education: Provide training and education to personnel responsible for managing critical infrastructure with software. It is important to ensure that operators and administrators are well-versed in the software tools and systems used, as well as cybersecurity best practices and protocols.
  • Redundancy and backup systems: Implement redundancy and backup systems to ensure continuity of critical operations. This includes redundant servers, backup power supplies and data backup solutions. Regular testing of backup systems should be conducted to verify their effectiveness.
  • Collaboration and information sharing: Foster collaboration and information sharing among critical infrastructure stakeholders, including government agencies, industry partners and cybersecurity organizations. This helps to share threat intelligence, best practices and lessons learned, contributing to the overall security and resilience of critical infrastructure.
  • Public-private partnerships: Relationships between public and private-sector entities facilitate information sharing, resource allocation and coordinated responses to threats and disruptions.These trends highlight the evolving landscape of critical infrastructure management, emphasizing the need for innovative approaches, technological advancements, collaboration and a proactive stance towards risk and resilience.


Managing critical infrastructure with software requires a approach that encompasses monitoring, control, security, maintenance and compliance. By leveraging the power of software solutions, critical infrastructure can be effectively managed, ensuring its reliability, security and resilience.

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