3 Takeaways from RSA Conference 2017

Feb 23, 2017 Tiffany Darmetko

By now, we’re on the road to recovery from the exhaustion that comes with RSA Conference week. It’s time to recap. 

Some say there were too many trending topics to pick an obvious standout. Others say Russia meddling in U.S. affairs, botnet wipeouts and ransomware were the most discussed topics at the show. And with new and more severe threats facing security pros, Gartner’s Avivah Litan says “the threat level is now ‘Code Red’.”  

With this in mind, here’s a rundown of three big takeaways from the event:

The Trump Effect

As InkHouse EVP and Chief Content Officer Tina Cassidy explains, “The media is preoccupied with one story: Trump. Investigative journalism and leaks are gaining traction. But reporters who cover almost any beat -- the environment, healthcare, education, law, business, real estate, technology, arts, the economy, cybersecurity -- heck, even footwear! -- have been sucked into the Washington vortex.”

The timing of RSA 2017 – happening so closely on the heels of such a divisive U.S. Presidential election riddled with Russian hacking allegations and the subsequent resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – makes it no surprise that election- and Trump-related conversations carried over to the event. 

  • This Dark Reading article gives a good rundown of the various RSA speakers who “not only tackled recent hacking events specifically, but discussed how they exacerbate the weaknesses of an already fragmented, lightly regulated voting system with highly irregular security practices.”
  • USA Today reports on the noticeable lack of participation in the conference by officials from the Trump administration, which is a break from tradition. Not only RSA attendees but the broader population too are awaiting the administration’s Executive Order on Cybersecurity, which has yet to be released.
  • TechTarget addresses the potential impact a Trump travel ban would have on the tech – and infosec – community, and cites the many tech companies, organizations and conferences that spoke up against the ban.

Comms takeaway: From a communications standpoint, the current media and political environment affects your business, your organization, your campaign and your PR and marketing goals. In this blog post, InkHouse’s Tina Cassidy share guidelines through which you should review your communications strategy in the “Post-Truth Era.”

Cybersecurity’s Growing Influence

“Cybersecurity threats are now a household worry, putting the thousands of professionals who flock to the annual RSA cybersecurity conference here in an unusually influential position,” says USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise.  

No question the cybersecurity industry continues to burgeon both in size and influence. Worldwide spending on cybersecurity is predicted to top $1 trillion for the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, and the 550 exhibiting companies who showcased their wares at RSA this year were “bent on convincing potential corporate customers that without their products and services designed to prevent or discover hacks they are vulnerable to attack,” Weise reports.  

In recent cybersecurity news, several pieces have touched on ways security leaders can strengthen and expand influence, namely through innovation and collaboration.

  • From an innovation perspective, Bill Phelps, an EVP at Booz Allan, predicts the types of companies that will win and lose. The “security supermarkets” as he calls the “big companies… which acquire a mish-mash of smaller security firms, but fail to integrate them into a single platform” will not fare well, according to Phelps, as “the result is a big bucket of products that don't play well together—and annoy their customers.” On the other hand, Phelps sees companies “which are building platforms around their core key product, as better poised to win.”
  • This Network World article about the “RSAC Innovation Sandbox winners: one year later” talks about how all 10 security startups selected as finalists in last year’s Innovation Sandbox competition have attracted new funding, won new customers and delivered new products.
  • From a collaboration standpoint, Microsoft President David Smith called for the world’s governments to come together for a “Digital Geneva Convention” to stop state-sponsored hacking; Network World Contributor John Oltsik talks about momentum for the Cyber Threat Alliance and its cyber intelligence sharing; and Writer John Shinal discusses the relationship between industry and government here, as it relates to influencing cybersecurity policy.

Comms takeaway: From a communications standpoint, the use of strategic storytelling certainly has the power to persuade and influence. At InkHouse, our IT security team works year-round to showcase the industry innovation and collaboration that’s happening – reaching the right audience, at the right time with the right story.

AI Takes Center Stage

From DevSecOps to mobile security, Internet of Things and ransomware, RSA 2017 gave us a plethora of trends to choose from. For the purpose of this blog post, we’ll focus on artificial intelligence as the buzz around AI is gaining steam.

  • Rick Grinnell, founder and managing partner of Glasswing Ventures told CRN he expects to see growing emphasis on artificial intelligence solutions. “Helping drive that shift to artificial intelligence-based offerings is a growing talent shortage in cybersecurity, which is pushing companies to embrace offerings that can lessen the need for human analysts.”
  • Forbes Contributor Jason Bloomberg explains, “One area where vendors are successfully applying AI… is to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and furthermore, to tell the good guys from the bots simply by analyzing their behavior.”
  • At IDC’s annual RSA Conference security breakfast, Sean Pike, program vice president of security products at IDC talked about AI’s role in informing the integrity of IT assets. “AI and machine learning are helpful in improving decision-making accuracy,” eWeek’s Sean Michael Kerner writes. “Pike said that AI can help inform integrity, with data helping to make a deterministic assessment about who someone is or what something is.”

Comms takeaway: From a communications standpoint, we strike a balance between talking about present day, real-world applications of AI and machine learning in cybersecurity, and looking further out into the future with novel points of view on AI’s power to shape and disrupt infosec. We keep a close eye on AI advances specific to the communications field as well. Check out this blog post as my InkHouse colleague Rachael Tucker talks about how AI breathes new life into the newsroom.   

For more insights into top security trends coming out of RSA Conference 2017, check out this Forrester webinar scheduled for February 27, 2017. Next year it’s back to April for RSA. The 2018 dates are April 16 - 20, taking place as usual at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Thanks to our clients, colleagues and industry friends for contributing to such a successful and fun 2017 event!
Topics: PR, Security, cybersecurity, RSA, RSAC 2017
Tiffany Darmetko

For the past 13 years, Tiffany has helped tech innovators – both emerging-growth and established companies – to differentiate themselves and succeed in competitive markets through targeted and aggressive integrated communications programs. Her expertise spans markets such as cyber security, cloud computing, enterprise software and renewable energy. Tiffany has led the PR efforts of more than a dozen IT security companies, leading to numerous acquisitions. She has a B.S. in Public Relations from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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