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N.D. Recruits New CISO in Broadening Cybersecurity Effort

North Dakota's CISO, Sean Wiese, has been tapped to lead the new Cyber Operations Center initiative, vacating the position for Kevin Ford, a private-sector cybersecurity expert who will assume the role Nov. 20.

North Dakota has launched a dedicated Cyber Operations Center (CyOC) to safeguard residents’ data, joining a growing trend among state IT shops nationwide.

The state has tapped CISO Sean Wiese to take a new position overseeing the center's efforts. To fill Wiese's previous role, the Information Technology Office has recruited a new CISO, Kevin Ford, from CyberGRX, a cybersecurity startup based in Denver. While serving as CISO at CyberGRX, Ford was responsible for protecting the information of about 50,000 organizations, including Fortune 100 clients, according to a press release announcing his hire. Previously, Ford aided in the development of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)-compliant policies as a member of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework team and advised federal entities on safeguards to cyberthreats.

North Dakota CIO Shawn Riley said Ford’s experience in the public and private sector will enhance the state’s ability to protect its systems and its data.

“Kevin’s deep, holistic knowledge of enterprise security is a great asset to our team and we’re looking forward to welcoming him and continuing to grow our whole-of-government approach to cybersecurity,” Riley said in a prepared statement.

Ford said he is excited to join an IT shop that is actively expanding its cybersecurity capabilities, like the CyOC. His first day as the state’s CISO will be Nov. 20.

The center aims to take a proactive approach to cyberthreats by leveraging public and private partnerships to deploy a multi-state response, according to a press release. The initiative will position North Dakota to emulate states like Michigan, Georgia and Utah, which have created a dedicated space for cybersecurity stakeholders.

A leading model, if a state can afford it, is to build out a cyber-range like the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training. The $100 million facility sits on a 17-acre campus with more than 330,000 square feet where teams from government, law enforcement, academia and the private sector are pitted against popular cyberthreats in a controlled environment.

Patrick Groves was a staff writer for Government Technology from 2019 to 2020.