RSA goes to the dogs!

My annual trip to RSA conference in San Francisco is always a great way to test the temperature of the cyber security industry and last week’s event was no exception. Yet unsurprisingly it was a different kind of virus: COVID-19, that was the biggest talking point of the show. IBM and Verizon had made a pre-emptive strike in cancelling their attendance and the most popular give-aways were hand washes and gels while fist-bumps rather than handshakes were the recommended mode of greeting – something that didn’t sit well with my British psyche! 

Yet despite the fear of a global pandemic, the overall health of the cyber security was obvious for all to see. The 36,000 visitors to the show were confronted with a bewildering array of 658 exhibitors touting every conceivable manner of cyber security solution or service. The theme for the show: ‘The Human Element’ reflected well the array of insider threat, AI, blockchain, and threat intelligence solutions that abounded at the show. The fear of contracting the Coronavirus meant attendance was down on last year by 25 percent yet the annual frenzy of give-aways, hospitality events and keynote sessions kept the overall mood optimistic.

Was there a stand-out new technology in evidence amongst the innovation centres, sandboxes and row upon row of exhibition stands stretching beyond the Moscone centre into the surrounding hotels? The biggest trend for me was the proliferation of privacy and compliance solutions riding on the tails of the recent CCPA regulations. Many of these new companies had assimilated eye-wateringly high sums of investments, bearing testament to the scale of the problem businesses confront in trying to get control of sensitive data in their custody.

As I was wandering the halls on the final day of the show my attention was grabbed by a huge crowd of people surrounding one stand. Assuming that this was the stand-out technology of the show, I pushed my way to the front of the crowd to discover the focus of so much attention. Astonishingly the source of the interest wasn’t a killer new technology at all, but instead a dozen or so puppies being offered up for adoption and handed to the delegates to cuddle and photograph. The stands on either side were completely empty as their envious stand crews watched on in amazement. I must confess to a moment of weakness on my own part in giving in to the urge to hold a puppy, so massive kudos to the ThreatQuotient marketing team for this canine masterstroke.

I was told by others later that there was also a miniature pig in residence at the stand, which I hadn’t spotted. Reflecting on this later, it occurred to me that not so long ago, reference to a pair of ‘fine puppies’ on an exhibition stand would have had a very different connotation. I’m relieved and pleased that we’ve moved on from those days of booth babes and instead we’ve got a real ‘babe’ and some canine beauties in their place!  Maybe InfoSecurity Europe in June in Olympia, London will feature its very own McDonald’s Farm! 

A dog’s life at RSA

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