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The Consequences of Inaction: Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Domestic Terrorism is Vital

By Red & Sam Curry

The United States faces an evolving threat of domestic terrorism that poses a significant danger to the country's critical infrastructure industries. Domestic violent extremist groups with ideologies ranging from neo-Nazi and eco-fascist to racially and politically motivated violence see attacks on critical infrastructure as a way to spread chaos and promote their toxic beliefs. Recent attacks on power stations across the country have reignited concerns about the vulnerability of America's critical infrastructure, making it imperative for organizations and businesses around the world to join forces with the government to protect the nation's people, national security, and economic stability. This paper discusses the threat posed by domestic terrorism to critical infrastructure and explores the steps that can be taken to protect it.

Critical infrastructure, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), includes sectors so important to the country that their failure would have catastrophic consequences for national security, public health, the economy, or any combination of these. As authorities have warned, this infrastructure presents a growing target to extremists and saboteurs who seek to sow chaos and destruction. The potential impact of a successful attack on the electricity grid, water supply, oil and gas, agriculture, and more cannot be overstated: it could disrupt our way of life, endanger lives, and severely damage our economy.

The Threat of Domestic Terrorism to Critical Infrastructure

The threat of domestic terrorism in the US is constantly evolving and poses a significant danger to critical infrastructure. Terrorist groups such as the "Earth First!" groups, ELF and ALF, seek to cause property damage while supposedly avoiding human death and harm. Atomwaffen Division (AWD) has a campaign to attack the energy grid specifically and has used firearms to attack substations. Aryan Nation groups, which include neo-Nazi, alt-right, and eco-fascist ideologies, continue to recruit and are referred to as "racially motivated violent extremist (RMVE) and politically motivated violent extremist (PMVE) organizations." There are also "transnational" RMVE and PMVE organizations and state-sponsored terrorist organizations like the Russian Imperial Movement.

Since the 1980s, domestic terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure have been a constant threat to national security. However, after the devastating attacks on September 11, 2001, the US government made preventing future attacks on critical infrastructure a top priority. The USA PATRIOT Act, passed later that same year, provided the current standard definition of critical infrastructure and expanded the government's ability to investigate and prosecute terrorism-related crimes.

In the years since, the government has worked to better define and protect critical infrastructure, with the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) breaking these sectors down into 16 categories. These sectors include communications, energy, transportation, healthcare, and others that are vital to the functioning of society. By breaking these sectors down into specific categories, CISA can more effectively allocate resources to protect them.

However, the threat of domestic terrorism to critical infrastructure continues to evolve and adapt. Domestic violent extremist groups are constantly finding new ways to target these sectors, making it imperative that the government remains vigilant and continues to update its strategies for protecting critical infrastructure. By working together with organizations and businesses around the world, the government can take bold action to strengthen defenses and protect against these threats.

Protecting Critical Infrastructure

It's time for companies to take large responsibility and a comprehensive approach to defending critical infrastructure for safety, reliability, and security, following CISA guidelines. The government has laid out the first eight critical infrastructure sectors, with the list expanding to include emerging sectors like nuclear reactors, materials, and waste, as well as critical manufacturing, defense, and chemical sectors. However, the threat of domestic terrorism to critical infrastructure is dynamic and evolves every day. To protect against these threats, it's important to plan for the worst, work in an "all-of-society" manner to prevent recruitment, radicalization, and work to de-radicalize, work within the rule of law to get early warning, and coordinate to protect the Homeland and the rule of law internationally, and take steps to instrument and protect critical infrastructure against cyber, physical, and the convergence of the two in "CyPhy."

Fortifying Our Foundation: A Deep Dive into Infrastructure Protection

Critical infrastructure has made leaps and bounds in the last 100 years, evolving to encompass a wide range of vital sectors. However, it's important to remain vigilant and work together to prevent attacks on critical infrastructure. Let's take a deeper look at what we can do to bolster and protect our infrastructure.

1. Technology and Innovation: With the rapid advancement of technology and innovation, critical infrastructure systems have become more complex, interconnected, and dependent on the internet. This has created new vulnerabilities that terrorists can exploit to cause disruptions and chaos. To mitigate these risks, it's important for critical infrastructure operators to adopt new and advanced technologies that can help detect and prevent attacks. This could include artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics, which can provide better insights into potential threats and improve response times.

2. Training and Awareness: One of the biggest challenges in protecting critical infrastructure is the lack of awareness and training among employees and stakeholders. It's important to educate workers and stakeholders about the risks associated with cyber threats and domestic terrorism and provide them with the necessary training and tools to recognize and respond to threats. This could include regular drills and simulations to help workers understand how to respond in different situations, as well as cybersecurity awareness training to help them identify and prevent cyber attacks.

3. Public-Private Partnership: The protection of critical infrastructure requires a coordinated effort between government agencies and the private sector. This is because many critical infrastructure systems are owned and operated by private companies. Therefore, it's important for the government to work closely with these companies to identify potential risks and develop solutions to mitigate them. This could include information sharing, joint exercises, and the establishment of public-private partnerships that allow for greater collaboration and communication between the government and the private sector.

4. Resilience and Recovery: Despite the best efforts to prevent attacks on critical infrastructure, there is always a risk that an attack will occur. Therefore, it's important to focus on resilience and recovery in the event of an attack. This could include developing backup systems and redundancies to ensure that critical infrastructure can continue to operate even if one system fails. It could also include developing plans for recovery and restoration of services in the aftermath of an attack.

5. International Cooperation: Domestic terrorism is not just a national problem, but also a global one. Many of the groups that pose a threat to critical infrastructure in the US have international connections and are inspired by extremist ideologies from around the world. Therefore, it's important for the US government to work with international partners to share intelligence, coordinate responses, and develop strategies for preventing attacks. By collaborating with other countries and international organizations, the US can gain valuable insights into emerging threats and best practices for protecting critical infrastructure. This could include sharing information about domestic extremist groups that have international ties, as well as working together to develop global standards for protecting critical infrastructure. Ultimately, international cooperation is critical to preventing attacks on critical infrastructure and ensuring the safety and security of people around the world.


"Domestic Terrorism and Critical Infrastructure Protection: What Businesses Need to Know" by Security Magazine:

"Critical Infrastructure Protection: Challenges and Opportunities" by the Congressional Research Service:

"Protecting Critical Infrastructure: The Role of the Private Sector" by the Department of Homeland Security:

"Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection" by the Congressional Research Service:

"Terrorism and Critical Infrastructure: A Risk Analysis" by the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management:

"Terrorism and Critical Infrastructure Protection:

The Role of the Military" by the Strategic Studies Institute:

"Domestic Terrorism: An Overview" by the Congressional Research Service:

"Countering Violent Extremism: The Role of the Private Sector" by the Atlantic Council:

"Global Critical Infrastructure Protection Market Analysis, Drivers, Restraints, Opportunities, Threats, Trends, Applications, and Growth Forecast to 2025" by MarketWatch:

"Critical Infrastructure: The Inherently International Nature of the Problem" by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism:

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