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Highwire Hackers at RSA 2016: Insights from the Floor

Highwire recently surveyed RSA 2016 attendees to get the scoop on the biggest issues facing cyber security today. Check out our findings and infographic highlighting key trends below. 

Earlier this month, cybersecurity experts, journalists and Highwire’s dynamic roster of security clients gathered in San Francisco for the year’s largest cybersecurity conference, RSA 2016. The conference floor was buzzing with talk of the latest security products, breaches and partnerships, conversations around machine learning, connected cars, artificial intelligence, and much more – but the hottest topic of debate? The Apple vs. FBI encryption debate and whether security companies should – or shouldn’t – work with the government.

Highwire’s security team was on-site, surveying over 100 attendees. Here’s what we learned:

Early-Stage Startups: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Both the public and private security markets remain in flux as stocks continue to dive and private companies begin considering other options as they postpone IPOs. As Reuters recently reported, 2016 has been off to a slow start for tech IPOs and startups are facing a bit of a funding drought, forcing many to cut back on spending or start thinking about exit strategies.

Cybersecurity pros expect this trend to continue – 34 percent of respondents claimed today’s market is making it harder for companies to go public. However, 42 percent of RSA attendees expect the slow market to lead to increased M&A activity. With IPO out of the picture (for now), late-stage startups may be forced to recognize other options, and it may be more difficult for early-stage startups to get seed and Series A financing.

Emerging Threat Vector: Reckless Employees

The skills shortage in the cybersecurity industry was also a trending topic at RSA this year. The lack of qualified professionals has created an entirely different type of security vulnerability: understaffed and overtaxed security teams. As a result, some IT teams may be deprioritizing security training, leaving employees unaware of certain security protocols, thus putting the larger organization at risk.

According to the survey, 25 percent of respondents named careless employees as the biggest threat to their organizations’ security. While often not malicious, careless employees who don’t follow security policies – either because they haven’t been trained properly, or because they choose to circumvent them – can be an unexpected, but costly, threat to an organization’s overall security posture.

Security Pros Just Want Everybody to Get Along

The Apple vs. FBI encryption debate was the hottest topic at RSA this year (37 percent of respondents listed it as the most top-of-mind topic) and many conference sessions featured perspectives from both parties. While Apple and the FBI battle it out in court, a majority (67 percent) of respondents on the show floor reported wanting public and private companies to work collaboratively with the U.S. government.

Buzz Off, Next-Generation Security Product

If there’s one thing Silicon Valley has in abundance, it’s buzzwords. We discussed this quite a bit with the security reporters in attendance – not every product can be “disruptive” or a “game-changer.” Looks like it’s time for security communications teams to hit the thesaurus, as over half (57 percent) of respondents listed “next-generation” as their most-hated buzzword.

See our full results below, and we’ll see you next at Black Hat 2016!

HWPR_RSA_infographic_R4-01 (1)

Special thanks to Chicago Account Associate Brenna Hogan for her help as co-author. Brenna has experience working with a diverse roster of clients in mobile app security and managed security services. Prior to joining Highwire, Brenna graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies.