After a telecommunications outage that disrupted cell service nationwide, two West Virginia University Experts are once again calling for concerted efforts to improve overall U.S. cyber resilience.

Christopher Ramezanassistant professor, Management information systems And Internet security, WVU John Chambers College of Business and EconomicsAnd Anurag SrivastavaHead of department and professor, Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resourcesare available to discuss critical infrastructure vulnerabilities and potential threats to national security, economic stability and the overall well-being of the community.


“Firstly, it is important that people understand what critical infrastructure is. When most people hear the term critical infrastructure, they typically think of the power grid, transportation systems, and water treatment plants. However, critical infrastructure is a much broader term that can include healthcare facilities, agriculture, financial services and telecommunications systems, among others. Critical infrastructure essentially refers to the systems, sectors and processes that are crucial to the functioning of our modern society. The U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors, including government facilities, critical manufacturing facilities, nuclear industries, information technology and even commercial facilities such as stadiums, shopping centers and parks.

“When a critical infrastructure sector is affected by a non-malicious incident or malicious cyberattack, there is often widespread disruption to citizens’ everyday lives. This reliance on critical infrastructure is one of the primary reasons modern warfare tactics are focused on disrupting critical infrastructure. As we saw in Ukraine, one of Russia’s first goals was to target and gain control of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure in order to cause as much unrest in the country as possible.

“Based on reports so far, it appears that the AT&T outage was fortunately not caused by a cyberattack, but rather appeared to be an issue caused by a software update or incorrect implementation of a process, that impacted the network. However, it shows how quickly things can spiral out of control when critical services such as a major telecommunications provider fail. People tend to panic when services we rely on suddenly stop working. The good news is that on many smartphones, especially the newer models, even if there is a major failure and you go into SOS mode, you can still call emergency services like 911 or even your cell phone provider.

“For the security of our country, we must place special emphasis on the security of our national critical infrastructure. The good news is that many government agencies such as CISA, the FBI, and the U.S. Department of Defense pay close attention to our nation’s critical infrastructure and respond fairly quickly when an important sector is affected.

“Overall, it is absolutely essential that cybersecurity experts in the public and private sectors, academics, researchers and the defense community work together to improve the cyber resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure and industries, thereby contributing to the security of our nation and its citizens.” — Christopher Ramezan, assistant professor of management information systems and cybersecurity, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

“The impact of this incident mirrors previous cybersecurity events, such as: Ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which highlighted the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to malicious intrusions and the interdependencies of infrastructures in our society. This latest outage is a stark reminder of the indispensable role of telecommunications as a vital function to national security, economic stability and community well-being.

“Individuals’ heavy reliance on cell phones for vital tasks, including emergency communications and internet access, underscores the vulnerability of modern society to such disruptions.

“Recent cyberattacks on pharmacies and healthcare facilities have heightened concerns about the broader impact of such disruptions. In February, pharmacies and hospitals faced unprecedented challenges due to a sophisticated cyberattack believed to have been orchestrated by federal threat actors.

“Building on the lessons learned from this outage, critical infrastructure organizations are encouraged to prioritize investments in resilience and risk mitigation strategies. This requires rigorous testing of security protocols, timely remediation of vulnerabilities, and development of robust incident response plans. Additionally, proactive planning for operations in compromised communications environments and maintaining critical functions during outages are essential to protect against systemic shocks. By fostering a culture of preparedness and collaboration, stakeholders can strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure and minimize the societal impact of future disruptions.” – Anurag Srivastava, department head and professor, Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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