TRENTON, NJ — Cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) are the future of state IT, according to New Jersey Chief Technology Officer Dave Weinstein. While working in the executive branch to help modernize and secure critical systems, Weinstein admits that the state is generally still in a “fact-finding, data-gathering mode.”
While some argue that AI and machine learning still fall into the “exciting, but how can we use it?” category, New Jersey is forming its IT modernization strategy with the built-in assumption that automation will handle significantly more tasks that it is currently.
“We need to start thinking about [automation] not just as at a technical level, but from a strategic perspective. How are we going to embrace this or scale it across the enterprise?” he said. “In government, that means identifying those tasks that currently or in the near future can be automated. What it does not mean is layoffs.”
And it's no secret that the size of the workforce is going to shrink, he said at Government Technology's New Jersey Digital Government Summit, held last week in Trenton. "We need to automate as many tasks as possible, particularly as it relates to continuous monitoring. Don't be surprised if New Jersey is the first state to appoint a chief AI officer.”
With the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks and phishing malware, automation could potentially help public agencies deter this threat. “As a government that is resource-constrained, relatively speaking, we need automation in order to deal with the scope and scale of our enterprise … We don't have the resources to just apply a static framework."
Enhancing cybersecurity at the state level ties in with where New Jersey is headed in terms of automation. “Our IT modernization strategy is driven by a need to reduce risk and mature our cybersecurity program,” said Weinstein. “We need every decision to be driven by cyberthreat intelligence … as well as a risk-based methodology."
And Weinstein should know; he previously worked as chief information security officer and chief cybersecurity director for the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. Prior to this, he served in the Defense Department’s U.S. Cyber Command center, so he understands that the threat is not shrinking anytime soon, and public agencies will feel the brunt of cyberattacks.
“Having old legacy platforms is inherently risky,” he said. “A lot of platforms that are being built by industry are being built with artificial intelligence and machine learning in mind. So it's critical that we keep pace with that innovative trend.”
“We will never have enough staff to support the security operation that we ultimately want to get to,” Weinstein added. Through automation and its ability to provide continuous threat-monitoring, however, the state could stand a fighting chance.