RSA Conference: Staying up to the challenge

In IT security, a lot can change in 15 years. Despite that growth, the requirements for IT security practitioners to stay informed, connect with colleagues and learn about new products and threats has remained constant.

With its attendee numbers rising each year, it seems the RSA Conference -- which launched solely for cryptographers in 1991 -- has kept current with the needs of the time.

"We don't focus on just one segment. It is the place you go to rub shoulders with the luminaries," says Sandra LaPedis, area vice president and general manager for RSA Conferences.

This year, its 15th anniversary, the conference will cover various issues of interest for which past attendees have requested help, adds LaPedis. Some 17 class tracks, 200 sessions, Birds-of-a-Feather gatherings, networking receptions and an exposition that will include over 275 exhibitors will cover the gamut of topics the expected 14,000 attendees will want to know more about.

"Security breaches continue to be a hot topic, in large part due to a lot of the state laws that are out [that make] breach notification necessary....It will continue to be big news as now the federal government is looking at preempting all the state laws. What will that preemption look like?" she says.

"It's a new frontier for security. Just protecting the endpoint from malware or monitoring the wire is not nearly enough....The world has moved on and become more subtle, interconnected and dangerous. The world has transitioned from disruptive attacks to outright fraud; moved from prevention of malicious code execution to surveillance, monitoring and prevention of any malicious activity, all in a regulated society," says Gary Bloom, vice chairman and president of Symantec, who will be one of the keynotes at RSA Conference.

To him, both the security risks and the necessity to find ways to tackle them have never been greater.

"It is not just about blocking what comes in and who connects. Protecting and securing information and understanding what goes on within an organization is just as important and expands the challenges ahead for the security industry," he says.

And, as corporate networks continue to become less centralized, confronting an ever-growing trend that sees a disappearing of the network perimeters, security professional will need to adhere to both reliable ways and newer, more manageable solutions to safeguard them, says another of RSA Conference's keynote speakers, Marc Willebeek-LeMair, chief technology officer, 3Com.

"As always, the best approach is a defense-in-depth, using a network-based intrusion prevention system complemented with an access control solution," he says. "We're seeing a plethora of competing endpoint access control technologies hitting the market. Currently, there is a lot of confusion, and these solutions will have to converge on a few standardized approaches before customers will be comfortable choosing one."

And things are not likely to change soon.

"It would be nice to say that in 15 years we will have solved the world's security concerns, but the reality is this war will continue," says Hank Cohen, director and security product manager for Hifn, a IT security company that will be exhibiting at the conference.

Over the next several years, industry practitioners also will need to buff up on their security needs as they integrate new technologies, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and mobile devices into their companies' operations, says Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Internet Security Systems, also an exhibitor at RSA.

"As hackers become increasingly skilled and financially motivated," he says, "security professionals will need to work harder to stay ahead of online threats."

This year the RSA Conference has the many companies and breadth of activities on tap to help IT security professionals get a handle on cybersecurity problems they are confronting now and will need to address in the immediate future, says RSA Conference Advisory Board member Burt Kaliski, vice president of research at RSA Security and chief scientist at RSA Laboratories.

"I just find myself overwhelmed ... looking at the list of things that one can take part in. There is a conference ecosystem ... and I think the industry needs something like that," he says.

NEW THIS YEAR: Working it

Featured Sessions Track
Classes in this track are presented by speakers from some of the most widely attended RSA Conference sessions in past years. These sessions are being lead by the people past conference attendees told organizers they wanted to hear speak about topics that are top-of-mind issues for the average IT security pro.

How to Work a Room: Schmooze or Lose
The RSA Conference is big, so where do you start and with whom do you speak? The ability to converse with ease is a key component of personal and professional success and leadership. Best-selling author and communications expert Susan RoAne will share her advice on how to network -- including "schmoozing," breaking the ice and how to work a room. Attendees will learn the ways to start conversations with confidence, use small talk to get to big topics, leave conversations graciously, and connect with colleagues, clients and co-workers.

Table for 10 Social Networking
This year, on February 15, attendees will get the chance to have dinner with nine other colleagues who have similar interests at one of five acclaimed restaurants in downtown San Jose. If you are the first person to sign-up for one of the five restaurants, you get to choose the hot topic of discussion for the evening. Then, others will sign up to join you. RSA Conference is taking care of the restaurant reservations, but each participant will be responsible for their own meal expenses. Sign-up is on a first-come, first-served basis.

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