Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates may not find a friendly reception when delivers the opening keynote address at the RSA Conference next week in San Francisco.
IT administrators and security officers have had a rugged last 12 months keeping their Windows systems and networks safe from worms and serious programming flaws. At RSA, they will see Gates for the first time in front of a security-only audience and undoubtedly will greet his claims about Trustworthy Computing and a renewed commitment to security with skepticism.
In 2003, network-aware worms like Slammer and Blaster blew through gaping holes in services delivered by Microsoft products like SQL Server and Windows Remote Procedure Call. Already this year, the Doomjuice worm has spread via ports left open by the Mydoom worm, the first significant e-mail worm of the year.
These are the incidents that will hang over Gates' address which is expected to touch on securing corporate environments and helping customers manage their security operations, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.
"Security is a top priority for Microsoft. RSA is the most important event for the security industry," the spokeswoman said. "This is an indication of how much of a priority security is for Microsoft and the industry."
Gates' keynote is one of several presentations from industry luminaries. Also addressing general sessions are RSA will be RSA Security CEO Art Coviello, Symantec CTO Robert Clyde, Computer Associates senior vice president Ron Moritz, Sun software vice president Jonathan Schwartz, VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos, author P.J. O'Rourke and ABC News chief congressional analyst Cokie Roberts.
Attendees have 15 session tracks to choose from, with a heavy focus on identity and access management, according to Sandra LaPedis, general manager for the RSA Conference.
"Organizations are looking for relief from the administrative burdens of managing multiple identities on multiple systems," LaPedis said. She added that tracks will be offered that will focus on viruses, spam and patch management among other hot security issues.
Other tracks include the business of security, government, secure Web services, developers, cryptography, two hackers and threats tracks, a new applied security track and others.
Attendees can also earn credits toward their CISSP certification, or take the exam during the conference.
The highlight of last year's conference was a spirited general session on the value of hiring a reformed hacker for penetration testing in the enterprise. Hewlett-Packard Co. chief security strategist Ira Winkler and convicted hacker Kevin Mitnick squared off before a packed auditorium in an emotional debate that dissolved at times into personal attacks on both sides.
Though Winkler is scheduled to head a couple of sessions and participate on a panel, no similar showdowns are expected. Instead, some of the featured panels include gatherings on zero-day exploits, penetration testing, Sarbanes Oxley and lessons from the worm wars.
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