December 1, 2015 | Category: Cyber Security | Tags: , Views: 4146

Critical Infrastructure Cyber Security: Transportation Systems

This is another post in our series on the nation’s plans for securing critical infrastructures and the threats they face on a daily basis. This post concentrates on the Transportation sector. Explore the other sectors using the links below.


  • Chemical
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Communications
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Dams
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Emergency Service
  • Energy

  • Food and Agriculture
  • Financial Services
  • Government Facilities
  • Healthcare and Public Heath
  • Information Technology
  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste
  • Transportation
  • Water and Wastewater Systems

Transportation Systems: Critical Infrastructure

The transportation systems in America are intertwined, complex engineered maps that allow us to travel, transport goods and foods, and stay connected with the world through trade. The transportation systems are imperative to our way of life.

The transportation infrastructure is made up of several different modes:

  • Aviation
  • Freight / Rail
  • Highway
  • Maritime
  • Mass Transit and Passenger Rail
  • Pipelines

Even though these aspects of transit are entangled, most of them are privately owned. What needs to be stressed is the importance of realizing that they heavily rely on one another and are without a doubt codependent. This means that a threat to one is a threat to all.

Cyber Security Threats To The Transportation Sector

Cyber threats obviously pose risks to the transportation infrastructure. The difficulty with finding these threats is attributed to the interdependence evident between privately owned systems and publicly funded ones.

Homeland Security emphasizes the importance of open communication between all parties within the transportation sector to in order to locate and eliminate possible threats efficiently.

The U.S. government does not take these possible cyber security threats on the transportation systems lightly. Homeland Security has a risk management plan that encompasses each mode of transportation called the NICE Framework (click on the link below to learn more).

NICE Framework 

Cyber Security Defense in Transportation

The type of cyber systems in aviation transportation systems (ATSs) include air traffic control, tracking, and communication systems that are necessary for commerce and providing the capability to keep the transportation system operational and safe.

The objectives for cyber security within this mode of transportation are:

  1. To understand the risk associated with the cyber component of critical infrastructure within the ATS
  2. To share that information with aviation partners as a part of the overall risk management and decision making process
  3. To develop countermeasures and programs to address the growing threats

There is a similar plan for the other modes of transportation. Since the amount and level of technology used in each part of the transportation field varies significantly, it is hard to show how cyber security is utilized within every mode. It is even more difficult to define and strategize against potential cyber attacks, risk management frameworks and incident recovery protocols for transportation as a whole since every mode of transportation is unique.

The Future of the Transportation Sector

The transportation sector outlined four goals for the six modes of transportation: aviation, freight rail, highway and motor carriers, maritime, mass transit and passenger rail, and pipelines.

  • Goal 1: Prevent and deter acts of terrorism using, or against, the transportation system.
  • Goal 2: Enhance the all-hazard preparedness and resilience of the global transportation system to safeguard U.S. national interests.
  • Goal 3: Improve the effective use of resources for transportation security.
  • Goal 4: Improve sector situational awareness, understanding, and collaboration.

Do you work within a cyber security role in the transportation sector?

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