About CPNI

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The national infrastructure

The UK's national infrastructure is defined by the Government as: “Those critical elements of infrastructure (namely assets, facilities, systems, networks or processes and the essential workers that operate and facilitate them), the loss or compromise of which could result in:

a) major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity or delivery of essential services – including those services, whose integrity, if compromised, could result in significant loss of life or casualties – taking into account significant economic or social impacts; and/or

b) significant impact on national security, national defence, or the functioning of the state.

The national infrastructure is categorised into thirteen sectors:

  • communications
  • emergency services
  • energy
  • financial services
  • food
  • government
  • health
  • transport
  • water
  • defence
  • civil nuclear
  • space
  • chemicals

There are some cross-sector themes such as technology wherein there may be infrastructure which supports the delivery of essential services across a number of sectors.

Critical national infrastructure

Infrastructure is categorised according to its value or “criticality” and the impact of its loss. This categorisation is done using the Government “Criticality Scale”, which assigns categories for different degrees of severity of impact.

Not everything within a national infrastructure sector is “critical”. Within the sectors there are certain “critical” elements of infrastructure, the loss or compromise of which would have a major detrimental impact on the availability or integrity of essential services, leading to severe economic or social consequences or to loss of life. These “critical” assets make up the nation's critical national infrastructure (CNI) and are referred to individually as “infrastructure assets”. Infrastructure assets may be physical (e.g. sites, installations, pieces of equipment) or logical (e.g. information networks, systems).

The Criticality Scale

The Criticality Scale includes three impact dimensions: impact on delivery of the nation's essential services; economic impact (arising from loss of essential service) and impact on life (arising from loss of essential service).

More details of the Criticality Scale can be found in Cabinet Office's Strategic Framework and Policy Statement.


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