Charles Leaver – What Happened At RSA 2018

Written By Logan Gilbert And Presented By Charles Leaver

 

After spending a couple of days with the Ziften group at the 2018 RSA Conference, my technology observation was: more of the same, the typical suspects and the typical buzzwords. Buzz words like – “AI”, “machine learning”, “predictive” were splendidly overused. Lots of attention paid to avoidance, everybody’s preferred attack vector – email, and everyone’s preferred vulnerability – ransomware.

The one surprise I encountered was seeing a small number of NetFlow analysis businesses – lots of smaller businesses attempting to make their mark utilizing a very rich, however tough to work with, data set. Extremely cool stuff! Find the little cubicles and you’ll discover tons of innovation. Now, in fairness to the bigger suppliers I understand there are some truly cool technologies therein, but RSA barely lends itself to cutting through the buzzwords to actual value.

RSA Buzz

I may have a biased view given that Ziften has actually been partnering with Microsoft for the last 6+ months, however Microsoft seemed to play a far more popular leadership role at RSA this year. Initially, on Monday, Microsoft announced it’s all new Intelligent Security Association combining their security partnerships “to concentrate on safeguarding clients in a world of increased threats”, and more notably – reinforcing that security through shared security intelligence throughout this ecosystem of partners. Ziften is naturally proud to be an establishing member in the Intelligent Security Association.

In addition, on Tuesday, Microsoft revealed a ground breaking partnership with many in the cyber security industry named the “Cybersecurity Tech Accord.” This accord requires a “digital Geneva Convention” that sets standards of behavior for cyberspace just as the Geneva Conventions set rules for the conduct of war in the physical world.

RSA Attendees

A true point of interest to me though was the different types included of the expo audience itself. As I was likewise an exhibitor at RSA, I noted that of my visitors, I saw more “suits” and less t-shirts.

Ok, maybe not suits as such, however more security Supervisors, Directors, VPs, CISOs, and security leaders than I remember seeing at previous events. I was encouraged to see what I think are the business decision makers checking out security companies first hand, rather than delegating that job to their security group. From this audience I often heard the very same overtones:

– This is overwhelming.
– I can’t discriminate between one innovation and another.

Those who were Absent from RSA

There were certainly less “technology trolls”. What, you might ask, are technology trolls? Well, as a vendor and security engineer, these are the individuals (constantly men) that appear five minutes before the close of the day and drag you into a technical due-diligence workout for an hour, or at least till the happy hour parties start. Their objective – absolutely nothing useful to anyone – and here I’m assuming that the troll in fact works for a company, so nothing helpful for the company that actually paid countless dollars for their attendance. The only thing gained is the troll’s self-affirmation that they have the ability to “beat down the supplier” with their technical expertise. I’m being severe, however I have actually experienced the trolls from both sides of the fence, both as a seller, and as a buyer – and back at the home office nobody is basing buying decisions based on troll recommendations. I can only presume that companies send out tech trolls to RSA and comparable expos since they do not desire them in their workplace.

Holistic Security Conversations

Which brings me back to the kind of people I did see a great deal of at RSA: security savvy (not just tech savvy) security leaders, who understand the corporate argument and choices behind security innovations. Not only are they influencers however in most cases business owners of security for their particular organizations. Now, apart from the aforementioned questions, these security leaders seemed less focused on a technology or specific use case, but rather a focus on a desire for “holistic” security. As we know, excellent security needs a collection of innovations, policy and practice. Security smart customers needed to know how our technology fitted into their holistic service, which is a refreshing change of dialog. As such, the types of concerns I would hear:

– How does your innovation partner with other solutions I currently utilize?
– More notably: Does your business actually buy into that collaboration?

That last concern is critical, basically asking if our partnerships are just fodder for a site, or, if we really have an acknowledgment with our partner that the sum is greater than the parts.

The latter is exactly what security experts are looking for and require.

To Conclude

Overall, RSA 2018 was great from my point of view. After you get past the lingo, much of the buzz focussed on things that matter to customers, our industry, and us as individuals – things like security partner ecosystems that add value, more holistic security through genuine collaboration and significant integrations, and face to face discussions with business security leaders, not technology trolls.

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