Security Strategy, Plan, Budget

AT&T, Verizon join RSA exodus over Coronavirus fears


The worldwide Novel Coronavirus outbreak is putting industry event organizers and attendees in the difficult position of having to decide whether to hold or attend scheduled events with AT&T being the latest firm to pull out of RSA Conference 2020.

AT&T Cybersecurity and Verizon joined IBM Security and cancelled their appearance at RSA Conference 2020 that runs from February 23-28 in San Francisco over fears of the Coronavirus. Additionally, the organizers of Black Hat Asia on February 14 cancelled their Singapore event orignally scheduled to start on March 31 to later this year. Cisco and Mobile Word Congress Barcelona have announced the cancellation of their events.

AT&T and Verizon have not responded to an SC Media request for additional information.

RSA acknowledged AT&T's and Verizon's decisions, saying it respects their actions, but that booth construction has already started and that the show will go on as scheduled.

“Since our last update, the number of individuals, including those from AT&T Cybersecurity, who have canceled their registration is approximately 1.2 percent of the total number of expected attendees. The total number of exhibitors, including AT&T, that have canceled their participation as a sponsor or exhibitor is thirteen. As stated above, six of them are from China; six are from the U.S.A.,” RSA wrote.

RSA is anticipating about 40,000 attendees for this year's event.

IBM announced on February 15 that it would not attend in order to ensure its staff was not unduly exposed to the Coronavirus.

Last week the company tweeted, “The health of IBMers is our primary concern as we continue to monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). We are canceling our participation in this year's RSA conference.”

A source has told SC Media that RSA is informing exhibitors that they can pay Freeman, an event vendor, to disinfect their booths or the task can be handled by the attendees.

SC Media has obtained a copy of the latest communication sent to show attendees.

Welcome to Moscone Center and RSA Conference 2020! 
RSA Conference continues to pay close attention to new developments with the Novel Coronavirus and is providing updates on the RSA Conference website.  We continue to follow the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for advice on preventive actions.  Click here for the complete letter.

Colin Bastable, CEO of Lucy Security, said his company is still exhibiting, but he made attendance optional for his employees, of which one decided to stay home.

“I would think that every company should make attendance optional for staff – leadership have to go. Smaller companies can’t afford to forfeit their booth payments, so unless more of the big vendors pull out and force cancellation, as happened with the World Mobile Conference in Barcelona, we are all committed,” he said.

Black Hat Asia now has a cryptic pop up note on the show’s homepage indicating the event will not be held as planned, but gave no reason for the change.

“We are pleased to announce that Black Hat Asia 2020 will now take place September 29 – October 2 at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Registration will re-open for the event shortly.”

However, Black Hat Asia organizers said in their initial post, "After careful consideration of the health and safety of our attendees and partners, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Black Hat Asia 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. We understand the inconvenience this may cause and will follow up directly with all of those who are scheduled to attend and exhibit to determine appropriate next steps."

Cisco joined Mobile World Congress in simply cancelling its Cisco Live! Conference that was scheduled to open in Melbourne, Australia on March 3-6.

“Due to ongoing concerns about the current outbreak of Coronavirus, Cisco has made the difficult decision to cancel Cisco Live Melbourne scheduled for March 3-6, 2020 in Australia. Our customers, partners and employees are our top priority and we strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances. Our thoughts are with those directly impacted by this situation,” the company posted.

As of February 19, the Center for Disease Control reported 15 positive cases of the virus in the United States, 412 people have been tested and cleared and 52 are awaiting test results. Cases have been reported in California.

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