This one in a series of profiles featuring 2012 U.S. Government Information Security Leadership Award (GISLA) winners. The winners received the awards in October from (ISC)2 a nonprofit serving certified information security professionals and administrators.

As chief information officer of the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Janet Stevens understands why cybersecurity isn’t just about firewalls and malware protection.

Stevens sees cybersecurity as a holistic exercise. But she has been particularly instrumental in recognizing the need for dedicated staff and formalizing process to bring maturity to FSIS’s cyber security program. Her efforts were recognized last month with a 2012 (ISC)2 U.S. Government Information Security Leadership Award (GISLA) in the Process/Policy Improvement category for her commitment to cyber security awareness using innovative forms of communication and organizational efficiencies.

Shortly after being elevated into the Information Assurance Division (IAD) within FSIS, Stevens created a chief information security officer (CISO) position and identified key “functional areas” for the IAD, establishing formal roles, responsibilities, processes, dashboard metrics and resources for each area.

But Stevens also recognized that it was equally important to improve outreach efforts with other departments and branches, both within FSIS and outside of the agency via social media and other innovative means of communication.

Social media is vital to cyber security,” said Janet Stevens. “We need to move away from asking ‘why do you need to use it [social media]?’ to asking ‘why shouldn’t you use it…?’”

Stevens also continually updates the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) community with news regarding the agency by contributing to Ping, the FSIS CIO newsletter. Each Ping newsletter has a cover story on cyber security issues.

But Stevens also demonstrates her commitment to the topic of cybersecurity through her blog, in which she addresses important security issues and provides updates on the latest news.

She also is a big proponent of social media as a means to promote information security and security awareness, and for sharing best practices, as a way of engaging members of the FSIS community as stakeholders in their agency’s security.

Stevens stresses that success on the cybersecurity front depends in part on ensuring that every member of the FSIS community, from security officers to office staff, has access to cybersecurity awareness information and updates. She also strives to reinforce the fact that cybersecurity is a factor that ties back to program results and achievements.

While Stevens also spends her time overseeing much of the technical work associated with advancing the deployment of systems, her efforts at department and agency-level projects and inter and intra-agency relationships and communication were seen as a model for other agencies by the GISLA awards committee.