Army veteran appointed as first NY chief cyber officer
The Citizen, Auburn, N.Y. June 28, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — An Army veteran and cybersecurity expert has been tapped to serve as New York’s first chief cyber officer.
Gov. Kathy Hochul named Colin Ahern to the newly created position. According to the governor’s office, he will oversee the assessment, mitigation and response to cyber threats and work with top state agency executives to manage risks and prevent attacks.
Ahern will also lead the Joint Security Operations Center, a state-run hub that will detect cyber threats and respond to incidents. The center will partner with other governments, including New York and federal agencies.
Hochul said Ahern’s appointment is part of the state’s cyber commitment. The annual state budget included $62 million for cybersecurity infrastructure.
“New York state is taking an aggressive, nation-leading approach to transforming our cybersecurity infrastructure to combat emerging threats and fortify our information assets,” Hochul said in a statement, adding that Ahern’s expertise “will be critical to identifying cyber risks, enhancing our defense systems, preventing attacks, and ensuring that New Yorkers and our institutions remain protected.”
Ahern enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve after the Sept. 11 attacks and served two tours in Afghanistan. During his military career, he earned the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Unit Commendation with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, and the Knowlton Award, which recognizes contributions to the Military Intelligence Corps.
By the end of his stint with the Army, he was a company commander at the U.S. Army Cyber Brigade. He oversaw the establishment of a cyberspace operations organization, according to his biography.
His academic experience includes a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and a Master of Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a guest lecturer at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
He has experience working on cybersecurity matters in the public sector. He was the first deputy director of New York City Cyber Command and was the acting chief information security officer. He oversaw the expansion of the cyber unit during his tenure with the agency.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve New Yorkers and work with Governor Hochul and her team to continue to build and enhance our statewide cybersecurity infrastructure,” Ahern said. “This administration is committed to leading the nation on cybersecurity, and I am so excited to join the front lines of that effort.”
The appointment of a state chief cyber officer was praised by U.S. Rep. John Katko, a Syracuse-area congressman who is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Katko, who has advocated for cybersecurity infrastructure upgrades and the creation of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, highlighted the importance of state and local governments detecting and preventing cyber threats.
“With New York state’s appointment of a statewide chief cyber officer, I hope we can continue moving in a direction that makes our critical infrastructure systems safer, promotes partnership and coordination with federal authorities, and raises cybersecurity awareness among New York’s families and businesses,” Katko said.