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HLSC 720 Everest College Chicago Critical Infrastructures Discussion

HLSC 720 Everest College Chicago Critical Infrastructures Discussion


what does critical infrastructure (CI) mean?  What are soft and hard targets?  What does the term cascading effects mean?  What is the most important CI where you live or work?  Why do you say this?

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Based on the Read items thus far, what does critical infrastructure (CI) mean? What are soft and hard targets? What does the term cascading effects mean? What is the most important CI where you live or work? Why do you say this?

Defining critical infrastructure is as tricky as defining terrorism. That is to say, the changing dynamics of the world coupled with how the word critical is interpreted can lead to some arbitrary definitions. Moteff and Parfomak (2006) state that infrastructure in the mid-1990s was commonly defined as the nation’s public works. Moteff and Parfomak continue to say that because of September 11, the United States went on to create the Patriot Act, which, among other things, set out to refine the definition of critical infrastructure.

The assigned textbook for the class understanding, assessing, and responding to terrorism by Bennett (2018) states the current running definition of critical infrastructure as system and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that incapacity or destruction would lead problems with national security and public safety. The definition provided by Bennett (2018) is pulled straight from the USA Patriot ACT. When referring to critical infrastructure, there are soft targets and hard targets. Soft targets are vital resources and assets that are usually privately owned, have a lack of proper security, and are difficult to defend and protect (Bennett, 2018). Some examples of soft targets could be cellular towers littered throughout the states, some public transit systems, and hospitals.

Hard targets are those assets that have at least sufficient security, some degree of limited or restricted access to the public, and have some form of countermeasures to deter or mitigate potential attacks (Bennett, 2018). While hard targets are much more difficult to damage or destroy, they are often sought by terrorists because, if damaged, the results are much more catastrophic to a country than soft targets. For example, even though most nuclear power plants are well protected in the United States if attacked and left crippled, thousands of people and other critical industries would be left vulnerable and useless. Without power, hospitals can only run for so long on generators. In addition, transportation services, fuel stations, and many other vital components would be affected.

The above example of an affected power plant is also known as cascading events. Haes Alhelou et al. (2019) discuss cascading events in their journal article, a survey on power system blackout and cascading events: research motivations and challenges. Cascading events in critical infrastructure, according to Haes Alhelou et al. (2019), are those situations in which a constant failure of other systems results from an attack on a primary structure. The example of the electricity grid used previously is a great example. As the electrical grid is attacked, other secondary and tertiary systems in the critical infrastructure system start to fail. In turn, those secondary and tertiary failures start causing other shortcomings in the system.

I live in the general vicinity of Houston, where there is a plethora of oil refineries, hospitals, and airports. Probably, the critical infrastructure that would have the most significant impact is the refineries in the Channelview and LaPorte areas. I say this because the site is so vast and filled with dangerous chemicals that if a well-carried out attack occurred, it would severely cripple movement in the port, affect tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people, and the effects would trickle to the rest of the United States in the lost production of fuels. In addition, the cleanup and time needed to restore the area would take considerable time and money. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, The Holy Bible, English Standard Edition).


Bennett, B. T. (2018). Understanding, assessing, and responding to terrorism: Protecting critical infrastructure and personnel. John Wiley & Sons.

Haes Alhelou, H., Hamedani-Golshan, M. E., Njenda, T. C., & Siano, P. (2019). A survey on power system blackout and cascading events: Research motivations and challenges. Energies, 12(4), 682.

Moteff, J., & Parfomak, P. (2004). Critical infrastructure and key assets: definition and identification. Library of Congress Washington DC Congressional Research Service.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version: containing the Old and New Testament. (2022)

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