Chief Information Security Officer, Colorado
Deborah Blyth already had nearly 15 years of information technology experience under her belt when she took on her current role as Colorado’s chief information security officer in 2014. It was in the private sector where Blyth first learned what it takes to lead information technology security initiatives with limited resources. She previously led the Information Technology Security and Compliance programs at TeleTech for five years and Travelport for four years, and also worked for five years as an information security network engineer at Galileo International.
“I feel like cybersecurity is my career calling, so the opportunity to be able to do my calling in service to the residents of the state that I love,” she said, “I couldn’t think of anything more rewarding than that.”
When Blyth first took the helm in Colorado, she set out to identify security weaknesses that would put residents’ data at risk and modernize state agency systems with the personnel and funds she had at her disposal.
“There are not enough resources, there’s not enough money, there are competing priorities, and you have to sit down and create those relationships and articulate priorities,” she said, drawing connections between her work in the private and public sectors.
A major ransomware attack on the Colorado Department of Transportation hit when officials were working to rapidly adopt public cloud computing infrastructure in 2018. Blyth said the attack, which affected approximately 400 servers, all databases and 1,300 workstations, showed that innovation doesn’t come without risk. She was reminded of the importance of cooperation when she reached out to the Office of Emergency Management and the National Guard for logistical assistance. This allowed her department to focus on getting the agency’s systems back up and running.
Three years later, technology has played an increasingly important role in the day-to-day functions of government amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado recently streamlined its unemployment insurance system and has made extra efforts to bolster cybersecurity moving forward.
Blyth said the pandemic forced the state to speed up its modernization process.
“I think agencies really are understanding, with even more awareness, the value of technology,” she said.
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