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New UWRF chief information security officer position introduced to improve campus information security

September 18, 2019

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is welcoming a new Campus Chief Information Security Officer, Ken Ries. Ken Ries has held this position at UWRF for about five weeks, however he has extensive experience within the field of information security. Ken Ries has a Bachelor of Science in technical education and a Masters in leadership and most recently completed a certificate in Cybersecurity and Privacy Law from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St.Paul, MN.

Ries splits his new position between here and University of Wisconsin-Stout doing similar work for both campuses. He is typically on the UWRF campus on Mondays and Wednesdays and works in the Department of Technology services (DoTS). Ries talked about some of the differences and similarities between UWRF and UW-Stout. He said “there is a bit of a cultural difference between the institutions, but as far as systems and services, students are the same. There is a tremendous amount of overlap.” Ries also has experience doing similar work at several other academic institutions.

Before starting this new position at UWRF, Ken Ries worked at many establishments throughout Minnesota. He has worked within the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, doing information security related practice. Ries also worked within the Minnesota State colleges and universities system for around 20 years as the chief information security officer at Pine Technical and Community college.

Ries talked about how all of his positions have focused mainly on the aspect of information security, he said “information security has always been a passion  of mine.” Ries also served on the state of Minnesota information security council and studied information security policy for the state of Minnesota. With his extensive background knowledge, he hopes to bring the passion he has into his work here at UWRF.

Ries talked about some of the challenges that this new position imposes such as the learning curve between the Wisconsin university systems compared to Minnesota university systems, Ries said, “There’s differences in state law and differences in state policy.” He also said that “every day is looking fairly different, but I came in at a very busy time and I think I came in at a very good time, right at the beginning of a new semester. ” There has been a lot of action developing in preparation for this fall the past few weeks for Ken Ries and for DoTS.

Joseph Kmiech, the Chief Information Officer for UWRF also explained some aspects of Ries’ job. He said, “Ken’s role is about the strategy surrounding information security which includes the question of ‘what are we doing with information security and are we doing the appropriate thing?’” Kmiech also talked about a recent assessment that had taken place which examined the university’s overall information security. This assessment relates to the work that Ken Ries does here at UWRF in his new position.  Kmiech said, “A third party vendor, funded through the UW system came in to evaluate, they ask questions such as ‘How do you handle certain situations?’ And ‘What’s you incident response plan?’” He mentioned that the initial assessment is that the university is doing a great job and that the official score from the assessment will be coming soon.

Ries explained overall what he does in this position, he said, “Part of my job is working with students and protecting their data and the other part is demonstrating to the board of regents, parents, and other stakeholders that are concerned that we are doing everything we can to make sure that our data is secure and that we are protecting our students safety.” Ken Ries will continue to work on information security and improve the overall protection within DoTS. If any students would like to contact Ken Ries with any questions he is located within the Department of Technology Services in 160 Davee Library and can be contacted via email: kenneth.ries@uwrf.edu