The Lead

Shapiro administration hires cyber-security chief to oversee defense of state computer systems

By: - November 3, 2023 2:27 pm

James Sipe

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office has hired a cybersecurity expert who previously worked with Amazon Web Services to oversee the defense of Pennsylvania’s information technology systems. 

James Sipe will serve as the state’s next chief information security officer leading the team that protects state IT systems and data from cyberattacks and maintains cybersecurity strategy and standards for agencies in the executive branch, Secretary of Administration Neil Weaver announced. 

“James is a widely respected IT leader who has managed cybersecurity and compliance for companies doing business across the globe and here in Pennsylvania,” Weaver said.

Sipe most recently worked as security practice leader for strategic accounts at Amazon Web Services, which provides cloud computing platforms for more than 1 million customers. Before that, Sipe was an IT security executive for MessageBird, a digital communications and marketing company with over 29,000 customers worldwide, including Google, Facebook, and Uber. He also worked as director of IT security and compliance for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, according to a news release.

“His broad experience in a variety of industries has prepared James for the job of protecting the Commonwealth’s data and securing the technology infrastructure that supports 80,000 state employees and thousands of programs and services delivered each day by state agencies,” Weaver said.

The chief information security officer’s team also works with local governments to bolster their cybersecurity capabilities through shared services for security training, anti-phishing exercises, vulnerability testing, and network intrusion training. 

The office works with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, other state agencies and local government associations under a federal program to address cybersecurity risks and threats to information systems operated by state and local governments.

FBI data showed that in 2020 Pennsylvania led the nation in losses due to ransomware attacks, in which perpetrators lock users out of an organization’s network and demand a ransom to repair the damage.  

Government agencies have been among the victims. In September, the Chambersburg Area School District reported that access to its online systems had been disrupted by a cyberattack. In 2018, a cyberattack cost Allentown $1 million to restore its computer systems.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.