RSA 2012 – San Francisco

Derek Small 29/02/2012

I have been attending the RSA Conference in San Francisco (February 27-March 2nd) this week and found it to be a very worthwhile networking event.   The Nulli team having reviewed the conference sessions believed there was limited content focused on the area of Identity Management and thus we didn’t send any other participants to the conference this year.   In previous years we have had participants attend as there was a strong showing of Identity and Access Management (IAM) sessions of real interest to our team and clients. 
My time at RSA 2012 has been filled meeting with a variety of Identity and Security vendors to determine how well they fill niche or end-to-end IAM functions for our clients.  See following posts that elaborate on who I met with and my findings.

You can’t always get what you want…..sometimes you get what you need….

The Tuesday February 28 morning start to the conference was a marathon of keynotes as provided by RSA or key sponsors of the conference.  Arthur Coviello Jr. (EVP EMC Corp and Executive Chairman RSA) provided a passionate opening keynote address.  His session kicked off with a rousing rendition of the Rolling Stones – You can’t always get what you want …..but if you try sometimes, you get what you need” as sung by a wonderful local chorus of singers.   The lyrics were altered at times to reflect more RSA ‘ish’ concepts but overall was quite fun.

His talk touched on numerous points of concern but focused on the “bad guys” having the edge over security specialists as attackers share and collaborate better to exploit attack vectors.    To this end he went on to highlight that the RSA conference was a means by which security analysts could come together to collaborate on new defenses and paradigms for security.  I have to imagine that the RSA conferenced also provides a venue for “attackers” to view and determine how defenders are working to thwart them as well.  Mr. Coviello also spoke about how his own firm, RSA, was attacked and breached last March 2011.   He noted they were not alone in this attack as an attack on RSA was an “attack on us all” and we security professionals needed to band together to fight back.  Again he emphasized the need for an RSA conference to allow for better collaboration in thwarting the threats in cyber-space.

Another keynote, Scott Charney, EVP – Trustworthy Computing Security, Privacy and Reliability of Microsoft provided a very good overview of Trustworthy Computing TwC and the steps Microsoft has taken over the years to continue to enhance the reliability and trustworthiness of their operating systems and products.  He spoke about how Microsoft has adopted, amongst many practices, security warning messages that needed to follow the NEAT principles of being a security warning that was Necessary, Explained, Actionable and Tested.   This combined with rigorously testing for exposures and closing known issues with the OS had meant that Windows 7 and 8 were more secure then previous offerings and would continue to be so.

Charney also said that “Now is the time for industry and governments to develop and adopt strategies and policies that balance business and societal needs with individuals’ choices.”   How do we as citizens address the United States Constitution’s 4th Amendment that indicates that if you give your data to a 3rd party then you give up your reasonable expectation of privacy with todays endless gathering of data for use in accessing applications or services.   Since more and more organizations are collecting vast amounts of data, aka Big Data, then attackers are naturally going to focus on these cloud-based targets more and more. Charney indicated that government, citizens and industry needed to collaborate to put more emphasis on the collector of the data taking more responsibility for controlling it and using it in “ways consistent with individual and societal expectations”.

He also spoke about how ISPs could become more active in isolating and enforcing patching of systems that attach to their services.  He noted that a couple of countries today are reaping the benefits of reduced malware due to their ISPs enforcing malware prevention measures and evening walling off users that have systems infected until they are cleaned up.  They are following a protect detect, contain and repair approach to keeping their clients machines from spreading malware.

There was a panel discussion included in the keynote agenda as well as two other speakers that can be reviewed at the RSA conference content site.   Look for my other posts on other keynote from subsequent days and some more information on interesting vendors that I have met at RSA during the week.



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