Gatherings like the annual RSA Conference are usually good indicators of what pressing issues IT administrators and security officers are dealing with.
This year's show begins April 13 in San Francisco, and organizers are expecting more than 10,000 people to attend for the usual training, education and networking. The United States' war with Iraq will certainly be on their minds, as will the threat of terrorism -- both the digital and physical kind.
On a less global and social scale, attendees will be on the hunt for more information and education about securing Web services, patching Microsoft products and contending with the threats posed by online attackers to enterprise networks and systems.
This year's show features 20 session tracks, including two hacker and threat tracks, and tracks on securing Web services, policy, development, government and standards, among others. The agenda also includes keynotes from former Clinton administration national security advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger; the annual cryptographer's panel, moderated by Bruce Schneier; a CIO roundtable moderated by RSA CEO Art Coviello; and a hacker panel featuring convicted computer criminal Kevin Mitnick, as well as Hewlett-Packard Co. chief security strategist Ira Winkler and others.
RSA has also partnered with ISC2 (International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium Inc.) to help attendees with their continuing education, specifically for the CISSP certification.
"Attendees come for a combination of networking and education," said Sandra LaPedis, RSA Security's area vice president of marketing for the Americas. "Some of the hallway conversations at the conference are invaluable. Many of them have the same concerns, and they are there to network, share tips and best practices, in addition to attending the sessions."
Responding to demand, LaPedis said, RSA has expanded the hackers and threats track, adding a second set of sessions. It also has a new track focusing on securing Web services.
"This is a huge area, and people want to make sure they are securely developing Web services," LaPedis said. "They want to know about standards and to hear from early adopters to see what they are doing and what shape Web services security is in."
Microsoft will also make its presence felt at the show. The RSA agenda includes six Microsoft sessions, including a general session keynote on the Trustworthy Computing initiative hosted by Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Microsoft's security unit.
As security professionals invade San Francisco, they'll certainly need a strategy to get the most out of the show, LaPedis said.
"Divide and conquer," she said. LaPedis said that RSA offers an online agenda builder that allows attendees to map out the sessions, keynotes and training classes they plan to attend. She added that, in case of conflicts, RSA will be selling audio tapes of every session for attendees. Those can also be brought home as a learning tool for colleagues, she said.
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