Mike Russo has led a remarkably productive career despite Florida’s spotty history with IT centralization. In 2012, the government defunded the state CIO’s office for the second time in seven years. The previous occurrence happened in 2005.
But the lack of consistent support hasn’t crippled Russo’s effectiveness. He’s been a tireless advocate for stronger cybersecurity. Russo currently leads information security efforts for a 4,500-person agency that includes the state’s Highway Patrol and Department of Motor Vehicles. His business unit also partners with Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement to ensure that local agencies share cyberintelligence with federal agencies via the state’s fusion centers to understand current threats.
Russo says lack of a central IT organization complicates his task, but he collaborates with decision-makers in other state departments regardless. Over the past decade, department security managers have voluntarily met regularly to discuss cybersecurity issues and priorities. “We’ve been able to adapt to the threat landscape,” Russo said.
Russo speaks from experience. He was Florida’s chief information security officer (CISO) for 10 years before he took his current job in 2012. He developed the state’s cybersecurity policy when he was CISO, and he’s worked vigilantly ever since to secure state networks and data despite internal political battles. Collaboration with other IT leaders has been crucial to progress.
“That collaborative approach has allowed us to move cybersecurity a lot further along than many other states, despite some of the drawbacks we’ve had,” he said.