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Blog: Much ado at RSA 2005

Our man on the street takes an unconventional look at the industry's biggest convention last week, including 'awards' for trade show trinkets and interesting stats on how often the show's wireless network was breached. See what you might have missed.

Not at RSA 2005? Take a look at our ongoing blog on the buzz and happenings at one of the premier security con...


February 17, 2005 7:30pm

RSA Conference hackers
It seems that when attendees here have a few minutes to spare they like to grab a cup of joe, crack open their laptops and attack the network. The wireless network on the show floor was attacked by four people 81 times on Wednesday and by 17 people 268 times on Thursday, according to Richard Rushing, CSO for Air Defense, a company that provides a system that monitors the airwaves for malicious hackers, cyberterrorists and dastardly attendees.

Someone even set up a bogus WiFi access point so unsuspecting show goers would connect to it rather than the RSA network. We tried to track down the cybervillain by the strength of the signal but alas, he or she had taken a break from malicious activities. Perhaps next time.

February 17, 2005 7:00pm

RSA Swag Awards
There's no end to the amount of completely useless junk that you can pick up at a trade show and then there's promotional gifts.

So we have sifted through the junk for you and are announcing the RSA 2005 Swag Awards.

First prize goes to Microsoft, for offering a 128 MB USB 2.0 flash drive to those who sit thorough its security presentation. We reckon that it's yet another way for a virus to get onto your Windows machine. Second prize goes Cybertrust, who is offering a little box of mints to combat that trade show bad breath -- although, we're not sure you should accept sweets from strangers. Third prize to Network Engines's CD opener, a nifty little trinket that strips the plastic from a CD cover. You'll never know that you'll need it until you have it.

Like most shows these days, vendors such as VeriSign, HP and CA enter attendees that sit through their presentations into a competition for an Apple iPod. My advice, if it involves scanning your badge. Don't do it. You're likely to be plagued by sales people for the next 12 months.

Other swag items of note include VeriSign's USB pocket hub, a retractable Ethernet cable from IBM and a T-shirt packed in the shape of a gun from RSA. The RSA employees eyed me with suspicion when I told them I was a journalist doing an article. They pegged me as a sad looser and refused to give me a T-shirt -- even for five minutes so that I could photograph it. So now I shall head back to the suburbs with my collection of bottle tops, Nurd shirts and base ball caps, wearing my trousers a little too high on the waist.

February 17, 2005 1:30 pm

RSA spam
Show staff say that that this is the biggest RSA Conference yet. An unaudited figure puts the attendance at about 13,000 with 275 exhibitors. This compares to about 10,000 people who attended the show last year. One of the major themes of the conference has been the proliferation of spam and junk mail. I know because I have precisely 548 spam messages in my inbox offering me briefings on products which will solve, among other things, my spam and junk mail problems.

February 16, 2005 9:30

Geeks and chic
This year the conference has made a very definite leap from geek to chic. The bearded propeller heads and programmers are much less evident and have been replaced by the well dressed corporate soldiers. This has changed the personality of the show. It's more aggressive, more marketing oriented but less useful from a purely informational point of view. There are still some, such as Dan Geer,

Whit Diffie, Bruce Schneier, and the security industry's best loved white hat hacker Mudge wearing their ponytails but suits abound.

The downside is that the technical sessions are less evident but the upside is that the parties are better.

On Tuesday night, Microsoft, VC firm Graylock Partners, Preventsys, and the CSIA [to name but a few] had parties. John Thompson, Chairman and CEO of Symantec swanned into the CSIA conference like a rock star with an entourage in toe.

On Wednesday night Symantec and PR superimpose, Schwartz Communications and Porter Novelli will have competing parties at the W hotel. Gosh it's all go.

February 16, 2005 8:00 pm

NSA commercial break
What do Chris Rock, Sylvester Stallone and an actor with a very bad Irish accent have in common? They are all featured in a series of NSA commercials that warn about the dangers of information insecurity.

Each commercial ends with the slogan "Information is a target. Secure it" A noble cause no doubt.

The commercials, obviously designed to warn people in the military that "Loose lips sink ships" are playing at the NSA stand here at the show. One hopes, however, that the NSA is a little better informed than the folks that wrote the commercial. "Give a cyberterrorist a gig of memory and a high speed connection and he can wipe out the whole West Coast…..," asserts comedian Chris Rock. "So practice good computer security." In another commercial Sylvester Stallone tell us that "being on the front lines of freedom is never easy. Nothing worth fighting for ever is. On behalf of all who love freedom we salute you."

One bizarre commercial features a man purporting to be Irish who is trying to sell weapons to a group of men with East European accents. They toy with rocket propelled grenades and look at guns but decide to buy a laptop. The IRA it seems is going up against CompUSA. "It can be devastating my friend," says the Irish guy. "It's the future of our business,"

The men come back to avail of the IRA return policy. "This is a piece of junk," he asserts. (We won't speculate the make and operating system). "The Americans have hardened their networks. Even more secure than firewalls. Everything has been tested."

I am not sure that the commercials will do much to help the peace talks in Ireland but I am sure that the Americans have not hardened their networks.

And here's a thought. Bad software sinks ships.

February 15, 2005 5:00 pm

Bill "Rullz"
Bill Gates has a sense of humor. Recently, the media had a wild time with a memo that Bill Gates left behind on a table at world economic summit in Davos, Switzerland. Psychological handwriting analysis, a bogus science reserved for fortunetellers, crooks and courthouses, supposedly revealed Gates to be "not a natural leader." So

during his keynote address Gates's PowerPoint included some similar doodles which said things like "Remind Melinda to record 24," and new password "BillGRullz2005." [Note: Photo compliments of Spike Spikescape,]

Also during his keynote Gates said that Microsoft is now spending more than $2 billion on security research. So where are the resultZ Bill? We're still suffering from Microsoft's security problems.

February 15, 2005 3:00 pm

Spyware cleaning is a crime
Attendees at this year's RSA Conference were a met with a sight that is becoming as common as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The picket line. In the past year, workers here have been protesting out side the city's supermarkets and hotels. Today a small crowd picketed the Moscone Center chanting "Spyware cleaning is a crime -- it never works and wastes my time."

Certainly spyware and phishing are the issues "du jour". During his keynote RSA's CEO Art Coviello noted that they had been protecting the perimeter when the bad guys had simply come in the front door.

A small army of security guards marched out to tell the protestors that they had to leave. "We're allowed to protest," they retorted. "This is San Francisco."

The publicity stunt which was orchestrated by Blue Coat Software, a company that claims to prevent spyware rather than clean it, was not appreciated by RSA show management, which threatened to not invite Blue Coat to exhibit next year if it did not call off the "rent-a-crowd."

Eventually, the protesters, run by a local company called Spectrum Entertainment, put down their picket signs and went home.

RSA 2005
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Apparently, at issue, was the fact that Blue Coat was getting more publicity then the software security giants, such as Symantec and Microsoft.

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