RSA CONFERENCE 2010 PREVIEW

SC editor Paul Fisher is in San Francisco for the annual information security beanfest. Here he gives a preview of some of the highlights that he will be reporting on.

Here we go again. Thousands of the world's data security specialists and the vendors desperate to sell to them are about to descend upon the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco for the RSA Conference, which is now in its 19th year. The first ever conference was held in 1991, in Redwood City, attracted 50 delegates and didn't even last a full day. Different now.

Much has changed, not least the scale and nature of the industry that we now call information security. The RSA Conference today has become big business itself - even my hotel keycard has been sponsored by RSA and Microsoft.

This is my third successive conference and I'm hoping that after a slightly flat affair last year, 2010 will see a return to some of the buzz that 2008 generated. Economic times are still tough and we are still going to be deprived of guest speakers of the calibre of Malcolm Gladwell or Al Gore. Some say they were an expensive diversion but I felt they added something to the conference.

So what can we expect? With some exceptions I don't think we can expect any more than well-rehearsed infomercials from many of the sponsors keynotes, they need something for their money after all. But there are those that still demand attention.

Having interviewed Symantec CEO Enrique Salem for SC last year I will be keen to see what's in his keynote opening on Tuesday. There may be news on availability of Symantec's new technologies that we detailed and the integration of MessageLabs into Symantec's service offerings. No doubt his guns blazing adversary Dave DeWalt at McAfee will make a lot of noise but will he say anything we don't already know about McAfee or the threat landscape?

On stuff we already know there's no doubt that the cloud is here to stay with all its implications for security. Art Coviello (RSA) and Philippe Courtot (Qualys) are both looking at the fluffy stuff - one with much to sell, the other less so.

Reflecting the Obama administration's interest in cyber matters (and vendors looking at lucrative government contracts) there are a good representation from government and law enforcement with no doubt lots of crime and terrorism stuff for us to chew on. Lined up on different days are Janet Napolitano, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, no less than the director of the FBI Robert S. Mueller and Howard Schmidt, the newly appointed White House Cybersecurity Coordinator for the National Security Council.

On Thursday I will be making a beeline for Dr. Peter Warren Singer's keynote. He is the senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. At a time when the Merseyside Police are deploying CCTV enabled drones to keep watch on the people of Liverpool, his talk: 'Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and 21st Century Conflict' sounds like required listening.

That's the highlights of the keynote program but RSA is also famous for the nuggets of information that comes from the track sessions. Only a superman could visit them all but I will be doing my best to seek out some of those nuggets in between keynotes, briefings and of course the odd networking event.

You can follow me @sceditor on Twitter for immediate reactions and for regular news and analysis on www.scmagazine.com/uk.

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