MITRE-Harris: U.S. public Is worried about the security of our critical infrastructure – SecurityInfoWatch

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In a new public opinion poll by MITRE and The Harris Poll, the U.S. public agrees, almost universally, that protecting our critical infrastructure is essential to our daily lives, national security, and having a global advantage. With temporary failures of critical infrastructure on the rise in the recent years, 8-in-10 U.S. residents (81%) are worried about how secure critical infrastructure may be.

The public considers cyberattacks to be of the greatest risk to critical infrastructure (78% are concerned about cyberattacks), and 51% are not confident that we are prepared to recover from an attack.

“Threats to our nation’s critical infrastructure have heightened dramatically as the Chinese Communist Party and others have accelerated their capacity to conduct cyberattacks on our systems,” said Charles Clancy, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief technology officer, MITRE. “The MITRE-Harris Poll shows that the public is worried about these threats to the vital services we depend on every day, and MITRE is in a unique position to connect government and critical infrastructure providers to take steps now to secure them.”

When it comes to who should bear responsibility for fixing and fortifying our critical infrastructure, 78% believe the federal government bears full or partial responsibility for fortifying it. Forty-nine percent say it’s the responsibility of both public and private entities, particularly among older generations (55% for Gen X and 60% for Baby Boomers+) and suburban and rural residents (52% and 54% respectively). Twenty-nine percent believe the federal government is solely responsible, with 35% of urban residents holding this opinion.

“The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and other government agencies have been beating the drum to wake up critical infrastructure operators and Congress as to the potential threats on our energy, water, communications, and transportation systems,” added Yosry Barsoum, vice president, MITRE. “CISA offers numerous resources to help operators prepare for attacks, but more support is needed to counter the increased frequency and sophistication of these threats.”

In addition, the MITRE-Harris Poll survey found that although most residents (64%) believe that the U.S. has one of the safest and most secure critical infrastructures in the world, 81% are still worried about its safety and security. Concern about critical infrastructure is consistently high across all regions of the U.S., but homeowners, urban residents, and people over the age of 27 (Millennials and older) are the most concerned.

“In this poll, Gen Z stands out based on substantially lower levels of concerns about security and safety of critical infrastructure vs. any other demographic group,” noted Rob Jekielek, managing director, The Harris Poll. “This insight is key reinforcement of Gen Z’s ambivalence to many cybersecurity issues. Although, and likely because, Gen Z are digital natives, they treat privacy and security threats much more lightly than other generations.”

The U.S. public considers cyberattacks, terrorism, and aging/failing infrastructure to be the greatest risks to our critical infrastructure. While 51% of the public are concerned that our critical infrastructure may not recover from an attack, those numbers rise with older generations (59% for Gen X and 56% for Baby Boomers+) and rural residents (59%).

In collaboration with public and private operators, MITRE is working across and with critical infrastructure sectors to test, identify, and remedy their cyber vulnerabilities. The general public can prepare for attacks on critical infrastructure much like they do for storms and other natural disasters.

To learn more about MITRE’s work in homeland security and the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute, the federally funded R&D center sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, visit mitre.org/focus-areas/homeland-security. To learn more about MITRE’s independent work in securing critical infrastructure, visit mitre.org/cipic.

About the Survey

This survey was conducted online February 13-15, 2024, among 2,046 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over) by The Harris Poll via its Harris On Demand omnibus product on behalf of MITRE. For the survey, MITRE and The Harris Poll described critical infrastructure as “the systems, facilities, and services that are vital for the functioning of our society and economy such as energy, water, transportation, communications, healthcare, and financial systems.”

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