Two Worlds Collaborate to make Critical Infrastructure Safer

COLLEGE STATION – Breaking down barriers between physical and digital worlds and getting two disparate groups of security professionals to collaborate is the goal of a new course in critical infrastructure protection offered by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX).

Physical and Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure” brings together two groups of security professionals who have traditionally approached infrastructure protection from different perspectives.

“The goal of the course is to get them to talk to each other and develop an action plan as a team so when something happens, they are experienced in working and planning together,” said Rebecca Tate, Project Director with the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center at TEEX.

Both groups want to protect a community’s infrastructure from attack, but come at it from different angles, she said. That’s why TEEX pulled together subject matter experts from two different TEEX divisions to develop the new course — cybersecurity experts from Knowledge Engineering and physical security experts from Law Enforcement and Security Training. The course is jointly taught by instructors from each discipline.

Cyber attacks could shut down a power plant, water treatment plant or airport, or even disrupt telecommunications. “Critical infrastructure protection is a field that is changing rapidly,” Tate says. “Things that happen in the world of cybersecurity can cause serious consequences in the physical world. This course brings the two worlds together and gets them to collaborate to identify risks in their community and develop an action plan for improving infrastructure security and the resilience of the community and its organizations and businesses.

“The initial concept for the course stemmed from a 2013 request from the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection and the National Cybersecurity Division,” Tate said. “They saw a need for training to help bridge the gap between physical and cybersecurity disciplines. Knowing our reputation for developing high-quality curriculum, they called on TEEX and asked that we take on this venture.”

In January 2016, the course was certified by the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA and more than a dozen communities have already requested the training. The course was developed and is funded by the DHS/FEMA Homeland Security National Training Program Cooperative Agreement through the sponsorship of the DHS/FEMA National Training and Education Division. It is offered nationwide at no cost to qualified participants.

What Participants Are Saying:

“The additional information and resources included and discussed are an asset to those who are not into cybersecurity.”

“I’m glad that the physical security part was brought in to show how they balance each other.”

“This was an excellent course and I will recommend it highly to other colleagues.”