RSA Underway

April 22, 2009

 

The RSA Conference got going in full force Tuesday morning, with a slate of high-level keynotes followed by some interesting breakout sessions. Wednesday is already brimming with a lot of energy and activity around the Moscone Center.

As usual, yesterday morning was dominated by presentations from both high-ranking executives representing leading security vendors, along with security executives from high-profile vendors, and the government.

EMC President Art Coviello took the opportunity to kick off the massive, though seemingly smaller, industry confab owned and operated by his company’s RSA division, telling the assembled audience that network security providers need to partner more closely and work with the U.S. government to take on cybercrime, cyber-warfare and terrorists.

RSA2007 logo textWhile the RSA show was obviously founded to discuss issues of cryptography, and the annual Cryptographer’s Panel drew a pretty good crowd, it does seem that encryption is not one of the major themes on this year’s docket, as it has been in years past. Government security definitely is.

Next up was Enrique Salem, the newly appointed CEO of security software industry leader Symantec, whose talk on the failure of today’s existing IT security models focused primarily on security automation and integration of security features with other major IT platforms. Salem appears to share the same even-handed, confident approach to his role as a de facto face of the security industry as his predecessor John Thompson has maintained so well over his long tenure in leading Symantec.

Scott Charney, the former government intelligence agent who currently serves as corporate vice president of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing (TwC) Group, and that company’s top security spokesman, emphasized issues including Internet security and secure coding in his presentation, and cited the need for the software giant to focus its own attentions on encouraging more customers to upgrade to newer, more secure versions of its Windows OS.

The final keynote of the morning was presented by Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency. Like Coviello’s speech, Alexander’s presentation, which covered topics including a perceived turf war within the federal sector over issues of cyber-security, set the tone for what seems to be one of the emerging themes of this year’s show, that being, the U.S. government’s role in improving matter of cyber-crime, while still maintaining citizen privacy.

The big buzz on day three of the show is the build-up to the 2pm PST delivery of acting Cyber Czar Melissa Hathaway’s report on the Obama Administration’s 60 day IT security review. Hathaway is expected to speak on matters including improving FISMA and tightening the IT security of the U.S. critical grid infrastructure, and many people on the floor really do seem interested to see what the specifics will be.

We expect that our Vice President of Security Awareness, Tom Kellermann, who works on Capitol Hill, will be handling a lot of questions about the contents of Hathaway’s report.

The government flavor of the 2009 RSA show, and the expected shift in priorities compared to the Bush Administration, was a major topic of debate during Monday afternoon’s panel on government surveillance policies and citizen privacy.

Alexander Joel, a Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), did an admirable job of defending the government’s attempt to balance its efforts to use technology to track state enemies including terrorists while respecting matters of privacy. However, other panel members, including Deirdre Mulligan, Matt Blaze and Rebecca Bace, highlighted some of the significant errors in oversight that were carried out in this arena by the Bush Administration in the post 9/11 environment.

Other than the surprisingly national bent to the show thus far, other trends include a seemingly smaller crowd and trade show floor. Other experts have also noted that vendors appear to have resorted to more old school marketing tactics to get people into their booths. I guess only time will tell how all that works out.

Today is a big day for the industry, and for Core Security, as we hear more about the President’s cyber-security strategy, meet with customers and soak in the vibes of the year’s business security technology summit.

Stay tuned for further updates… and if you’re here in San Fran, enjoy the show.

-Matt Hines, Chief Blogger

 

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