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Critical infrastructures are threatened in different ways:

Threats to critical infrastructures

How vulnerable the infrastructures of our modern society are has not only been shown by the terrorist attacks in New York (2001), Madrid (2004) or London (2005). Infrastructures are also endangered by natural disasters, e.g. the hurricane "Kyrill" (2007), the heat waves of recent years and the great floods on the Elbe and Oder. But also particularly serious accidents, operational disruptions or system errors such as in Fukushima (2011) have made it clear that private and public life is dependent on critical infrastructures. A basic distinction is made between natural and anthropogenic dangers. The former have natural causes (e.g. storms, earthquakes) the latter are caused by humans (e.g. war, terrorism).

The following table provides an overview of the various dangers that can threaten critical infrastructures:

Natural dangers

Anthropogenic hazards

Storms, tornadoesAccidents
Extreme precipitation, floodsSystem failure
DroughtsSabotage, malware
Epidemics / pandemicswar


Interdependencies (dependencies between individual sectors or branches) increase the risk of failure even more. Failures in one sector can lead to failures in other sectors and thus trigger a domino effect. Mutual dependencies are particularly sensitive, i.e. the failure of one infrastructure leads to the failure of another infrastructure, which in turn is a prerequisite for the trouble-free functioning of the infrastructure that failed first. Such a situation sometimes exists between information and communication technology and certain areas of the energy supply in the event of long-term failures. In special cases, a so-called cascade effect can arise from the domino effect, especially if the failure in another sector has stronger effects than the triggering failure or the previous failure. There is a particularly high dependency on the power supply or on information and telecommunication systems. If they are affected, other sectors are often also affected (e.g. water supply).
For the future, it can be expected that the importance of critical infrastructures for life in Germany will continue to grow. Upcoming energy systems, for example, are increasingly networked with information technology (e.g. intelligent power grids - so-called smart grids) and require reliable communication technology to function properly.