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Protection of Critical Infrastructures against High Power Microwave Threats

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Protecting public assets against electromagnetic attacks

There is a crucial need to step up efforts and raise the level of protection for critical infrastructure (CI) against the growing threat from electromagnetic (EM) attacks. An EU initiative is exploring such threats and their possible effects in order to deliver appropriate mitigation techniques.

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The military uses non-nuclear electromagnetic pulses/high-power microwaves (NNEMPs/HPMs) and other radio frequency devices as potential weapons for various combat and terrorist applications aimed at inflicting significant damage to devices and circuits. However, the potential threat from NNEMPs/HPMs remains at troubling levels because of criminals and terrorists who have the ability to cause serious damage, from taking out power grids to destroying electronics networks. To address the protection of CI against threats from EM radiation, the EU-funded HIPOW (Protection of critical infrastructures against high power microwave threats) project seeks to develop a prototype sensor that removes radiation as well as a handbook and other reference documents proposing detection and protective measures. A knowledge database containing unclassified information on NNEMP/HPM risks and protection measures for CI will also be set up. During the first reporting period, project partners performed threat analysis and risk assessment of NNEMP/HPM incidents. They studied the effect of NNEMPs/HPMs on assets that are essential for the functioning of a society and its economy. These include facilities for public infrastructure, electricity generation, transportation systems, financial services, telecommunication and wireless communication. Some of these civil assets were selected and tested to determine whether they can endure NNEMPs/HMPs. The team also assessed the effectiveness of hardening architectures – one of two major protection strategies at present – and the feasibility of hardening measures that support current protection regimes and standards. Findings led to two classified reports on NNEMP/HPM threats and capabilities, CI vulnerabilities and preparedness, as well as relevant NNEMP/HPM regulatory frameworks and hardening architectures. HIPOW is providing a clear view on and solutions to NNEMP/HPM threats against CI for policymakers and other key stakeholders. This will considerably reduce the fragmentation in awareness and preparedness for NNEMP/HPM attacks throughout Europe.


Electromagnetic attacks, critical infrastructure, non-nuclear electromagnetic pulses, high-power microwaves

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