Five questions with Mike Steinmetz

Mike Steinmetz | Cybersecurity officer, homeland security adviser, Rhode Island

1. What are your responsibilities as the state’s first cybersecurity officer? I will serve as the governor’s principal policy adviser on cybersecurity and will be charged with developing and implementing a comprehensive statewide cybersecurity strategy. It will be my job to foster partnerships with the federal government, departments and agencies, other cybersecurity officials at the state level and private-sector liaisons on cybersecurity-related initiatives.

2. How about as its homeland-security adviser? I am charged with developing and implementing a comprehensive statewide strategy to secure Rhode Island from both universal and localized threats, with a particular focus on terrorism and cybersecurity. I will be aiding in the establishment of the state’s first Homeland Security Advisory Board, which will include advisers with national-level expertise in homeland security, counter-terrorism and cybersecurity to support the new office.

3. What about your professional history qualifies you for such a role? I have led cyber and cybersecurity teams and paved the way for cybersecurity-related product lines in the private sector, domestically and internationally. I have also worked for the federal government within the U.S. Department of Defense and with the U.S. intelligence community.

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4. What are the most common ­cybersecurity issues facing governments, and how do you combat such threats? Security-aware cultures fare much better than those cultures that are not security aware. Users are really an organization’s – or in this case, a government entity’s – first line of defense. Typically, the threats are hidden within the technology. Addressing the complexity of that technology without also laying the proper groundwork for people in the organization to play a role in the overall cybersecurity strategy will not yield positive results.

5. How will the private sector benefit from your services? I have seen the entrepreneurial power of effective public-private partnerships succeed. I have also seen attempts that fail. … Part of my job will be pulling together the best of both worlds and finding common ground, which will lead to better defense from threats, more-advanced education on changing technology, and an avenue to produce jobs that matter in the 21st century.