In the digital age the concept of national infrastructure has significantly changed. Where once this would refer to transport networks, railways, and telephone lines, recent natural disasters have highlighted our dependence on mobile networks and the Internet as critical infrastructure.
Earlier this year, when the earthquakes hit Christchurch here in New Zealand, and the floods engulfed Brisbane in Australia, destroying or blocking transport networks, we turned to our mobile phones. When the mobile phone network failed we turned to the Internet (often still available on our smartphones) to contact family and friends.
So the nature of what constitutes national infrastructure has changed from something that was traditionally a physical structure, to something that has become critical to the way we communicate — socially and in the workplace. Research conducted in 11 countries as part of the Unisys Security Index™, asked the public’s opinion on what national infrastructure was vulnerable to malicious or terrorist attack.
Interestingly, New Zealand and Australia were the only two countries where the Internet was ranked by the public as being in the top three areas of national infrastructure most vulnerable to malicious or terrorist attack (it ranked #1 in New Zealand and #2 in Australia). Most other countries surveyed ranked airports/airlines, public transport, and large gatherings of people in their top three most vulnerable national infrastructures.
Perhaps it is our recent experience in local natural disasters. Or perhaps it is because we recognize that New Zealand and Australia are so far removed from the business and economic centers in Europe and North America that we are dependent on the Internet to be part of the global community. Or perhaps it is because of the spate of data breaches that have been reported in the media lately. Regardless, clearly the ability to communicate and access services — and the Internet’s critical role in enabling that — have made it publicly recognized as critical national infrastructure.
Of course the public’s perception of vulnerability may not match reality. However, such recognition is useful for governments and businesses looking to introduce new measures to protect the Internet and the data stored on it or transported through it. And let’s face it, we do like to be a little different to the rest of the world, just to remind you we’re here.