New Mexico’s new CIO says cybersecurity a focus amid state’s broadband rollout

As New Mexico strives to connect more of its rural residents with broadband, CIO Peter Mantos says a parallel cyber effort is underway.
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New Mexico Chief Information Officer Peter Mantos told StateScoop on Monday that cybersecurity is a focus of his office as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration pushes for greater broadband connectivity across the state. 

Efforts to expand the reach of high-speed internet connections are underway as the state applies for federal infrastructure funding. The state’s broadband office estimates that nearly 200,000 New Mexicans are without broadband. Mantos, whom Lujan Grisham appointed as CIO last month, said that new cybersecurity initiatives are already rolling out, spurred on by a January ransomware attack against Bernalillo County.

“It is a scary thing,” he said. “You read about private institutions as well as government institutions subject to ransomware, stealing sensitive data, a threat to identity theft. I wanted to make sure that we can keep what we have safe before we reach out, but that’s not going to happen. There are people who are starving for broadband, so we’re going to do both simultaneously.”

The ransomware attack against Bernalillo County, which surrounds Albuquerque, took major IT systems offline and disrupted operations, including forcing the local jail to keep its inmates locked in their cells all day. The attack also happened to come while Raja Sambandam, the state’s chief information security officer, was filling in as interim CIO.


“He got a hard lesson in just how important dual-factor authentication can [be],” Mantos said. “And so he told all the agencies, ‘We’re going to do this.’ And almost all of the agencies have. There are four stragglers and two of them are coming on board now, they’re in progress, and two more I think they’ve seen the light.”

Mantos said his office is also conducting security audits of each agency to give them suggestions of how to further shore up their defenses.

Beyond cybersecurity and broadband, Mantos said he’s also pursuing a greater focus on “customer-centric government.” Though CIOs often have many priorities — the National Association of State Chief Information Officers publishes an annual list of 10 — Mantos said he plans to limit his agenda to three items as he develops a new IT strategic plan.

“I hesitate to call them priorities,” he said. “And the reason I hesitate is not because they aren’t but because I want a very clear message to all those people that I support that we just have a few priorities and I want to make sure these are addressed well.”

Colin Wood

Written by Colin Wood

Colin Wood is the editor in chief of StateScoop and EdScoop. He's reported on government information technology policy for more than a decade, on topics including cybersecurity, IT governance and public safety.

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