What Does Your Governor Know About Cyber Security?


By Tony Kontzer

The 2010 elections ushered in one of the biggest turnovers of governors in U.S. history. Sensing an unprecedented opportunity to plant a seed, the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) late last month issued a call to action intended to get all 50 governors to make themselves aware of the threats to IT security their states face.

NASCIO's move comes just a few months after a survey of state chief information security officers it conducted with Deloitte found that states lacked effective security policies and procedures. The survey also revealed that state CIOs need to improve coordination with other levels of government, as well as the private sector, in order to protect consumer information.

The message is optimally timed, with the 2010 elections having swept 26 new governors into office. It was the biggest change in state leadership since 1938, and it offered a rare opportunity to influence gubernatorial priority lists.

"With 26 new administrations, it's imperative that new governors and other state policy leaders be aware of the cyber security threats that states face on a daily basis," Kyle Schafer, NASCIO president and West Virginia CIO, said in a statement announcing the organization's message. "This call to action is meant to assist state leaders in understanding the threats and developing appropriate process and policy to mitigate risks."

And apparently, it's not just state leaders who need to pay increased attention to IT security. A survey unveiled at the RSA 2011 conference in San Francisco in February reveals that CISOs at all levels of government feel that Washington, D.C., needs to show more leadership in this area.

NASCIO's call to action is a smart strategic move from an organization well positioned to become ever more influential. As evidenced by President Barack Obama's appointment last year of Vivek Kundra as the country's first CIO, IT is assuming a more prominent place on the federal government agenda.

In urging governors to open dialogs with their CIOs and CISOs now, NASCIO is attempting to help shape state agendas. For new governors charged with spending money more wisely -- even as many states endure crippling fiscal crises -- ensuring that they spend their IT security budgets effectively is undoubtedly a top priority. Finding out exactly what CIOs and CISOs need in their arsenal to combat cyber threats is a good place to start.


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