Gov. Asa Hutchinson has created the Arkansas Cyber Advisory Council to identify and manage the risk of cyberattacks and to enhance the state’s response to threats and attacks.

“The hacks of the Colonial pipeline and JBS Foods were an urgent reminder that cybercriminals are actively looking for targets,” Hutchinson said. “Many industries, such as agriculture, are ripe for attack. As farmers and ranchers move more of their business to computers, the risk of cyberattacks on our food supply grows. The Advisory Council will recommend a path to strengthen our defenses against high-tech attacks.”

The governor’s executive order directs the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to coordinate with the Arkansas Department of Transformation and Shared Services’ Division of Information Systems to create the Arkansas Cyber Advisory Council.

“Arkansas must demonstrate an effective cyber governance structure to support and enhance protections for governmental functions, private security, and economic development,” the order says.

In 2019, the 92nd General Assembly enacted the Arkansas Cyber Initiative Act, which authorizes the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to establish the Arkansas Cyber Initiative and to support cooperation among public and private entities to improve cybersecurity and the state’s economy.

Hutchinson’s 12 appointees to the council are:

• Jonathan Askins, director of the Division of Information Systems and Chief Technology Officer
• Gary Vance, state Chief Information Security Officer, Division of Information Systems
• Mike Preston, secretary of the Department of Commerce
• Jami Cook, secretary of the Department of Public Safety
• Dr. José Romero, secretary of the Department of Health
• Cindy Gillespie, secretary of the Department of Human Services
• Johnny Key, secretary of the Department of Education
• Major General Kendall Penn, secretary of the Arkansas Military Department
• Alan McClain, commissioner, Arkansas Insurance Department
• A.J. Gary, director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management
• Colonel (Retired) Steve Eggensperger, Governor’s Office Cybersecurity liaison
• Lee Watson, Forge Institute