This paper addresses the optimization of protection strategies in critical infrastructures within a complex network systems perspective. The focus is on cascading failures triggered by the intentional removal of a single network component. Three different protection strategies are proposed that minimize the consequences of cascading failures on the entire system, on predetermined areas or on both scales of protective intervention in a multi-objective optimization framework. We optimize the three protection strategies by devising a modified binary differential evolution scheme that overcomes the combinatorial complexity of this optimization problem. We exemplify our methodology with reference to the topology of an electricity infrastructure, i.e. the 380 kV Italian power transmission network. We only focus on the structure of this network as a test case for the suggested protection strategies, with no further reference on its physical and electrical properties.