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RSA Conference preview: Security post-September 11

Michael S. Mimoso, Editorial Director

One of the largest annual gatherings of IT security professionals, the RSA Conference, begins Monday in San Jose, Calif. Whether you're making the trek to the West coast for the show, or watching the goings-on from afar, the topics covered in the tracks, keynotes and tutorials impact everyone concerned with IT security. SearchSecurity takes you inside the show with Sandra LaPedis, RSA Security's Area Vice President of the Americas Marketing.


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Can you go over some of the general themes the show will present to users?

LaPedis: Some of the general themes to be covered at the show include security for the post-Sept. 11 world. There's also a focus on federated online ID, how to protect your ID and the privacy implications. From a pure technical perspective, there's a lot of focus on authorization and authentication and on Web-based delivery mechanisms and privacy mechanisms. Wireless security will also be a focus at the show from an application developers perspective. Users also find our hackers and threats track important.

Do the tracks take more of a management angle or a threat angle?

LaPedis: It's varied throughout the years. Eleven years ago when the conference began, there were probably 50 cryptographers sitting in a hotel room opining over the latest mathematical algorithms and having very high-level technical, in-depth conversations. Over the years, the conference moved from cryptographers to a developers show. Today, the show has more of a heavy focus in enterprise security issues. We have a lot of IT managers attending. The demographics are interesting. We attract academics, politicians, developers, engineers and even the CEOs of several companies.

How does RSA stack up against some of the industry's other big security shows?

LaPedis: The growth of the show over the years has been remarkable. It has shifted really as RSA perceives the needs of the marketplace. Eleven years ago, it was a gathering of cryptographers, but our attendees soon wanted more. They wanted to know how to use security products and how to develop them. Through the years, when RSA was acquired by Security Dynamics, those customers were then looking for more -- how to deploy and use security products and best practices. The show had to morph to meet the needs of that audience. Then, in 1997, 1998, we became more professional as a conference and began soliciting feedback through evaluations.

At its core, are the roots of the show still in cryptography?

LaPedis: The roots of the show lie in developers who wanted to know how to use our BSafe tools that you put on an application or device that add encryption or a certificate process. It was a request we had from customers. The show has grown beyond our RSA customer base through the years. It's a huge show and a nice meeting point for anyone in security.

Will September 11 impact attendance?

LaPedis: It's hard to tell if Sept. 11 will have a big impact on us. I think the economy will have a bigger impact. There are 200 class sessions and more than 200 vendors on the show floor.

In what ways did session topics change after September 11?

LaPedis: Cyberczar Richard Clarke is in the keynote slot and his theme undoubtedly will be cyber security and securing your infrastructure and what security now means to the enterprise and critical infrastructures post Sept. 11. Also have a government panel for Thursday: What is the real threat to government: an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) or cyber attacks.

Who else is delivering some of the keynote speeches?

LaPedis: In addition to Richard Clarke, we'll have a panel on managing your online ID, federated ID management with panelists like the Liberty Alliance, Microsoft, AOL, Sun, United Airlines and RSA on the panel. We also have a cryptographer's panel. The closing keynote will be from John Cleese of Monty Python fame.


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