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As far as its security-related use is concerned, the word “critical” originated in the nuclear domain and it means the boundary between acceptable and non-acceptable conditions with regard to a given value scale. In most countries’ definitions, the word “critical” refers to infrastructure that provides an essential support for economic and social well-being, for public safety and for the functioning of key government responsibilities. For example, Canada’s definition of criticality involves “serious impact on the health, safety, security or the economic well-being of Canadians or the effective functioning of governments in Canada.” Germany refers to “significant disruptions to public order or other dramatic consequences.” The Netherlands’ critical infrastructure policy refers to infrastructure whose disruption would cause “major social disturbance,” tremendous loss of life and “economic damage”. Thus the word critical refers to infrastructure which, if disabled or destroyed, would result in catastrophic and far-reaching damage.
References#Dunn, M. & Wiegert, I.: Critical Information Infrastructure Protection. International IIP Handbook. Zurich: ETH Zuerich, 2004, p. 405.