This week is quite arguably the biggest week in the US sports calendar with its culminating event, the Super Bowl, taking place on Sunday. As the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to face off in a few days, many don’t realize that Sunday will also be “game day” for the State of Arizona.
Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will be making their way to the Phoenix-Glendale area for the Super Bowl and other related events. On Sunday evening, over 112 million viewers will tune in to watch the largest NFL game of the year. For an event of this magnitude, the State of Arizona is charged to ensure the physical safety of the public and harden network infrastructure as cyber attacks are one of the top safety concerns.
“With an influx of people to the Phoenix area, a cyber attack on our critical infrastructure sectors such as water, power, energy, and communication can result in pure pandemonium,” said Ryan Murray, Deputy Director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security and Deputy State Chief Information Officer. Murray and his team are focused on cyber safety and ensuring critical services continue to function throughout the duration of the Super Bowl.
While special preparations for Sunday’s game have been underway for more than a year, the State of Arizona has had the foundational cyber infrastructure in place for several years. The old sports adage, “offense wins games, but defense wins championships” certainly applies here.
Former Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey, prioritized defense in its cyber security game plan. In 2018, he sought to foster a culture of security across the state, which continues today. (You can learn more about that by watching our interview with AZ here. It’s free to watch.) The state instilled mandatory cyber training for its employees and implemented capabilities to include advanced endpoint protection, multi-factor authentication, and web application firewalling. In addition, they rolled out the Statewide Cyber Readiness Program which utilizes grant funding to provide cyber resources to local and tribal government entities in Arizona.
“Even without the Super Bowl, the state’s cyber infrastructure is attacked millions of times a day,” says Murray. “Bad guys only have to be right once, and we have to be right every single time in our defense. We’re seeing that being played out every day across the state… For us, every day is game day.”
Arizona’s organizational structure is a key part of their game strategy. With Murray as the Deputy State CISO, and serving as the Deputy Director for the Arizona DHS, this has enabled the State to have greater visibility into the needs, requirements, and cyber security initiatives at a local level, allowing the state to better support their progress forward. This integration has built foundational bridges of communication between the state and counties and local governments which was leveraged in Super Bowl preparations.
For the Super Bowl, the cyber security team roster is completely stacked and consists of members from Arizona’s state, city, and county entities; the NFL; various federal agencies to include the FBI, CISA, and DHS; numerous law enforcement teams; and thousands of security personnel who will be deployed to the stadium and to locations where ancillary events will be held. With the sheer amount of parties involved, communication and coordination in real-time is crucial.
We’re proud that Virtru is part of Arizona’s cyber security “team,” with its ability to offer data-centric protections for collaboration workflows including email, files, SaaS applications, and more. While Virtru’s playing time to specifically support Super Bowl Sunday preparations was minimal, we are honored that the State of Arizona continues to trust Virtru to help them send secure messages to parties inside and outside of their organization with confidence the data is always protected and in their control.
With rich experience in the public sector, Carissa serves as Virtru’s Director of Field Marketing crafting creative strategies that drive adoption of data-centric security. She produces Virtru’s Voice of the Customer Webinar and podcast “Hash It Out.”View more posts by Carissa Nee
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