Will oversee newly established joint security operations center
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the appointment of Colin Ahern as the state's first chief cyber officer. A leading expert in cybersecurity, cyber resilience, and intelligence, Ahern will lead cross-agency efforts to protect New York from “increasingly prevalent and sophisticated cyber threats – working to ensure the security and cyber resilience of the state's information assets and critical infrastructure and integrity of the state's information assets.”
"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. "I am thrilled to appoint Colin Ahern as New York state's first-ever chief cyber officer. In an era of increasingly advanced cyber threats, Colin's proven expertise and experience in the military, the private sector and government will be critical to identifying cyber risks, enhancing our defense systems, preventing attacks, and ensuring that New Yorkers and our institutions remain protected."
Ahern will oversee all cyber threat assessment, mitigation, and response efforts – working with executive management at every state agency to manage cyber risks and prevent attacks. Ahern will also lead the recently announced joint security operations center, a hub for cyber threat detection and incident response. Formed by Hochul in February, JSOC “will be critical to cyber threat information sharing – effectively linking New York state, New York City, local and regional governments, critical infrastructure stakeholders, and federal partners.”
Ahern said, "I am honored to have this opportunity to serve New Yorkers and work with Gov. Hochul and her team to continue to build and enhance our statewide cybersecurity infrastructure. This administration is committed to leading the nation on cybersecurity, and I am so excited to join the front lines of that effort."
Ahern previously served as first deputy director of New York City Cyber Command and later as acting CISO, where he led the transformation of a small cyber unit into a vast agency with more than 100 departments and offices in its purview. At the height of the pandemic, Ahern created New York City's first ever cloud-based, zero trust security environment. That undertaking enabled Cyber Command to pivot to remote work while still defending against cyber threats. Before beginning work in city government, he worked in financial services as a security engineer and cyber threat researcher.
Ahern started his career as a U.S. Army officer after enlisting in the Army Reserves following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He served two year-long tours in Afghanistan, and was promoted to multiple leadership roles. Ahern concluded his Army career as a company commander at the U.S. Army Cyber Brigade, where he oversaw the creation of a specialized cyberspace operations organization. His military decorations include the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Unit Commendation with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 3 campaign stars, and the Knowlton Award.
Ahern currently serves as an adjunct associate professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a guest lecturer at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. He received a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and an MBA from the New York University's Stern School of Business.
New York State Chief Information Officer Angelo "Tony" Riddick said, "The governor's selection of Colin Ahern as New York's first chief cyber officer is the next step in our state's smart and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. In New York, we take every threat seriously, and know that a whole of state approach which recognizes the value of collaboration and timely intelligence sharing can make every level of government stronger, safer and more secure. Under Gov. Hochul's leadership, New York state is prioritizing cybersecurity, building out a first-of-its-kind joint security operations center, and going all-in to protect sensitive data and keep New Yorkers safe. ITS is proud to play a critical role in this important endeavor."
The fiscal year 2023 state budget includes $61.9 million for cybersecurity, doubling the previous investment. This budget also includes a $30 million shared services program to help local governments acquire and deploy high-quality cybersecurity services to bolster their cyber defenses.