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DIS Director Mark Myers on Arkansas’ Top Cybersecurity Threat

3 min read

Mark Myers, as DIS director, leads more than 250 information technology and other professionals responsible for the state network, telecommunications services and information systems.

Myers has over 18 years of experience in information operations, psychological operations, public relations and crisis management. As CTO, Myers is the chairman of the Arkansas State Technology Council and a member of the Cyberinfrastructure Task Force.

A major in the U.S. Army Reserves, Myers has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a postgraduate certificate in security, stability and development in complex operations from the Naval Postgraduate School.

What’s your role as Arkansas’ chief technology officer and director of the DIS?

As the state CTO, my main functions are to develop a state technology plan and a state-level mission, goals and objectives for the use of information technology; approve IT plans; establish an enterprise architecture (EA) approach to IT; enter into contracts to provide IT services and advise customers; develop EA policies, standards, procedures and solutions; initiate working groups.

As director of the Arkansas Department of Information Systems a chief function is to manage and maintain the state data infrastructure used by state agencies, boards and commissions, K-12 public schools and administrative and business components of higher education. The state network serves over 2,100 governmental sites. DIS works to ensure that the network is constantly available to ensure delivery of public services to the citizens of Arkansas. The director of DIS is also the state broadband manager to promote, develop and coordinate broadband expansion and appropriate broadband infrastructure for the state.

What is the most challenging role of DIS?

DIS is a unique, multifaceted agency. It is difficult to pinpoint one role as being the most challenging. With the rapidly changing pace of information technology, it’s especially challenging to identify gaps in the IT workforce and to fill those gaps by either providing training to our existing workforce or recruiting new talent. We are also seeing an increase in the number of our most experienced and knowledgeable employees retiring. Filling those vacancies can prove to be difficult. Salary rates, pay grade structures and fewer perks offered by state government make it difficult to compete with the private sector in attracting top IT talent.

What are the top threats to cybersecurity in the state?

Security is one of the key decision drivers at DIS. The state Cybersecurity Office at DIS serves as the front line of defense in keeping the state’s data safe. The cybersecurity threats we always maintain awareness of include physical security threats, internal security threats and external security threats. DIS leverages physical tools, software tools and people who work to ensure that citizen and government data flowing across the network is kept secure, private and confidential and is inaccessible to hackers. These tools help block over 400,000 spam emails and 75,000 attacks each day.

How have you prepared yourself for this position?

Three factors drive this role. First is IT itself. I was originally trained in the Army as a signal officer where I graduated fourth in my class. Second is public service. Public service is a calling, not a job. I worked on Capitol Hill in the 1990s and at the Secretary of State’s Office for the past four years. Third is leadership. To paraphrase Adm. John Paul Jones, he who would sail with me best sail fast because I intend to put myself in harm’s way. IT, because of the speed of change, carries with it the concept of putting oneself in harm’s way. Every IT leader has to accept that premise to be effective.

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