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MassCyberCenter Announces New Director With FBI Roots

John Petrozzelli takes over after Stephanie Helm stepped down from the director position in January. He brings cybersecurity experience from his time in the Air Force, FBI and private sector.

There’s a new director at the MassCyberCenter, a public entity charged with fostering cybersecurity throughout Massachusetts. The center oversees efforts aimed at improving public- and private-sector cyber resiliency, building the cybersecurity talent pipeline and developing economic opportunities in the cybersecurity space.

John Petrozzelli is taking up the leadership role, the state announced. He brings with him private-sector cybersecurity experience with managed service provider (MSP) Magna5, as well as experience with the FBI and the military. He holds an M.S. in Information Security from Boston University.

Petrozzelli is the second person to head the organization. His predecessor, Stephanie Helm, stepped down in January for personal reasons.

His first year will focus on “extend[ing] the great work that Stephanie Helm did,” including helping municipalities build their cyber resilience, Petrozzelli told Government Technology.

Petrozzelli and his predecessor both served in the military. He was an Air Force intelligence officer, while Helm counts nearly three decades with the Navy and taught at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Petrozzelli also brings a new perspective and skill set to the CyberCenter.

“Stephanie’s got an incredible wealth of knowledge … Her abilities to teach people how to implement incident response plans and how to war game: those are really powerful strengths of hers,” Petrozzelli said. “My skill set is more geared towards the current threats that are out there, as far as my time in the field dealing with direct response to threat actors and trying to mitigate threats [for] our cities, towns and private-sector clients that we had at the MSP. So I hope to really bring some of the day-to-day incident response tactics and techniques that we utilized to be able to really harden our cybersecurity stack for Massachusetts.”

Ransomware is currently the biggest threat facing entities in the state, Petrozzelli said. Bad actors are drawn to this attack by the high profits and the ease with which they can conduct it, using ransomware-as-a-service models even if they themselves have limited cybersecurity skills.

Carolyn Kirk is the executive director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech) the state economic development agency that houses the CyberCenter. She said Petrozzelli’s cross-sector background will be an asset.

“John’s mix of experience from the federal level, the military and the private sector shows he has the ability to create strong partnerships, which is a critical need given the CyberCenter’s dual mission and work with stakeholders at the local, state and national levels,” Kirk said in a press release statement. “His career experiences, including work with business clients and his outstanding cybersecurity credentials, will be a big benefit to the CyberCenter’s programs and to Massachusetts as a whole.”

Petrozzelli has 17 years of experience with the FBI, starting in New Haven, Conn., before transferring to Boston, Mass., and ultimately becoming the Boston office’s chief security officer. While with the FBI in New Haven, he was involved with establishing the Connecticut Intelligence Center Fusion Center and with the InfraGard program. The latter program sees the FBI partner with critical infrastructure owners and operators to provide supports like threat information sharing and education.

After Helm stepped down in January, the CyberCenter was led by Ben Linville-Engler, MassTech’s chief investment strategist.
Jule Pattison-Gordon is a senior staff writer for Government Technology. She previously wrote for PYMNTS and The Bay State Banner, and holds a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon. She’s based outside Boston.