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Cybersecurity and CES 2016: A comedy of omissions

We’re doomed.

I try not to be too much of an alarmist when it comes to information security matters, because all things considered, the situation on a global level could be a lot worse. We could all be suffering from malware –induced power grid outages like the Ukraine, or experiencing stunning invasions of privacy like the poor souls who bought Internet-connected VTech toys for their kids and just didn’t know any better.

The latter situation is more troubling when viewed through the prism of the bright lights and drab histrionics of Las Vegas this week. The Consumer Electronics Show has never really been a home for information security companies, and having attended the show for several years in the past, I didn’t actually expect that to change this year despite the increasing number of enterprise data breaches. After all, CES is about gadgets and TVS and cool tech that people actually want, not need.

But I expected more than security highlights than an iris scan-enabled ATM from EyeLock, a wireless-enabled video security camera puzzlingly named the “Stick Up Cam,” and an Internet-connected home surveillance devices from – get this – VTech (!!!). When the most interesting infosec offering of the week is a “privacy guard” smartphone case that provides a Faraday cage around your beloved gadget, then that’s not exactly a great sign.

CES 2016 wasn’t a complete no-show for security. The show did, in fact, have an all-day cybersercurity forum this week with such speakers as AVG CEO Gary Kovacs, security reporter Brian Krebs and Trend Micro Chief Cybersecurity Officer Tom Kellerman. And with RSA Conference 2016 just around the corner, it may not have made sense for infosec companies to spend more time and money exhibiting at CES.

Still, a number of major tech manufacturers have made CES their launch pad for enterprise-focused offerings in the past, and that trend continued this year (just looked at how IBM promoted its Watson technology and PC makers like Dell, HP and Lenovo pushed their enterprise client devices). It seems like a missed opportunity for security vendors to cross over into such a high-profile event and promote the benefits of good infosec hygiene, to say nothing of the tech giants that were actually at the show that said virtually nothing about infosec (Hello, Intel).

I didn’t attend the show this year, and I’m thankful I didn’t have to make the laborious trip and daily grind that CES requires. But I would have gladly made the sacrifice just to see a few companies make serious attempts to put sound infosec technology in front of 150,000-plus people. But if we can’t get a stronger, more serious security presence at the biggest technology show in the world, then we’re doomed.