The recent opening of a state-of-the-art facility to monitor state and local government cyber-threats marks the latest milestone in the career of William Pelgrin, a longtime advocate for locking down government systems and information. Over the past decade, it’s arguable that no one has done more than Pelgrin to strengthen the IT security posture of state and local agencies.
In 2003, as director of New York State’s Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination, Pelgrin created an innovative clearinghouse for governments to share cyber-threat information. Launched with just a handful of participants, that organization — known as the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) — now counts among its members all 50 states and a number of local governments.
Last year, the MS-ISAC — and Pelgrin himself — made another pioneering evolution. Pelgrin left New York state government in July to become president and CEO of the nonprofit Center for Internet Security, bringing with him operation of the MS-ISAC.
A few months later, Pelgrin cut the ribbon on the MS-ISAC’s new threat monitoring operations center, a first-of-its-kind facility that is staffed 24 hours a day, every day to guard against electronic attacks on government systems and information. Along with MS-ISAC staff, the center houses representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Secret Service and private-sector companies. By June, 14 states and seven local governments will rely on the center for active threat monitoring.
Pelgrin says moving the MS-ISAC to nonprofit status is crucial to the organization’s ability to broker information exchange between the private sector and multiple layers of government. The move dovetails with a recommendation in President Barack Obama’s 2009 cyber-security review calling for creation of a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization to serve as a trusted third party for sharing threat information between the public and private sectors.
For Pelgrin and his MS-ISAC, it’s the latest step in a long-running battle to safeguard government systems and the data they contain. "No matter how good you are, the bad guys are changing every single day," Pelgrin told Government Technology several years ago. "We’re never done. We’re absolutely never done."
The job may not be finished, but thanks to Pelgrin, government networks just got tougher for cyber-crooks to crack.