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A Week at RSA 2017: Insights from Highwire’s CyberSquad

Nation-State Activity, AI and Market Consolidation All Top-of-Mind for Security

February stands out for African-American History Month, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, but we cannot forget about the annual RSA Conference that takes place in San Francisco.

Every year, cybersecurity experts, aficionados, journalists, and Highwire’s very own #CyberSquad congregate in San Francisco for one of the premiere cybersecurity events of the year. This year’s show, the largest in the books, did not disappoint.

The conference was abuzz with talks on new offerings, partnerships and industry sentiment. The keynotes — ranging from Microsoft’s President to renowned astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson — were also especially enlightening. Additionally, Highwire was on the show floor interviewing attendees to get the pulse on show and industry trends. Thanks to all who participated, especially those who are typically doing the interviewing — I’m talking to my reporter friends out there. Special shoutout to Bradley Barth of SC Magazine, Fahmida Rashid of InfoWorld, Paul Roberts of The Security Ledger and Katherine Teitler of MIS Training Institute for taking time out of your busy schedules to help with our man on the street videos.

At a high level, the buzz from the conference floor and attendees alike focused on nation-state cybersecurity concerns, the hype around AI, the issue of false positives, visibility and the blurred perimeter. Also of note was the sentiment around market consolidation.

We also heard from seven of our own clients in a live podcast series conducted from our annual Highwire RSA happy hour. Special thank you to Sean Sposito and our friends at CSM Passcode for partnering with us on this great event. See here to learn more about the “Rise of the Chief Digital Transformation Officer and Six Other Key Takeaways” from industry experts.

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Here’s more from our in-house security pro, Erik Martinez, on what Highwire’s CyberSquad learned at the 2017 RSA Conference:

Nation-State Cybersecurity

Many at the conference discussed the ostensibly growing involvement of nation-states in cybersecurity, both as attackers and targets. The recent nefarious activity and attacks in Europe and the U.S. thought to be instigated by Russian hacker being a catalyst for this train of thought. As a result, industry leaders are prepared to expect more espionage; information and influence operations; and the destruction or disabling of data and systems. Interestingly, the common belief is that these activities will increasingly happen in the shadows after the recent wave of public discussions on the matter. This can be expected to happen through hired non-state actors like organized criminal groups.

AI: The Bell of the Ball

Like in most technology-focused industries, cybersecurity is in love with AI and machine learning. The possibilities it offers the cybersecurity space are mouthwatering and nearly everyone is touting some version of it in their solutions. But perception around AI is still mixed. Many RSA-goers equated the buzz around AI to that which big data stirred up when it first came onto the scene — a tad premature.

This is not saying that AI technology is not helpful — it is — but it will require human judgment for the foreseeable future. AI technology can execute tasks faster and with fewer errors than humans but training is still necessary and intuition lacking.

Market Consolidation

There is a coming disruption in the market in the form of market consolidation and whoever remains will like have no other option but to play nice. In terms of disjointed solutions, Palo Alto Networks CEO Mark McLaughlin predicts  that “the measure of [the industry’s] success will be, instead of people saying, ‘I have twenty, thirty, forty vendors, and I have to figure out how to handle that,’ they’ll say, ‘I have four hundred vendors and I’m good with it.'” He argued that this happy state would come about as vendors developed “better ways of consuming their value proposition.” In other words, all the products will work effectively and with increased cooperation as the market consolidates.

This should not be cause for alarm, as the trend could provide exits via mergers and acquisitions. Not to mention that good outcomes are likely to result from general industry cooperation. Why work against each other, when working together can be much more beneficial.

If you were in attendance, share your story in the comments — we’d love to hear about your experience!

Also, we’re hiring! If you are a security or enterprise tech PR pro interested in joining our rapidly growing team, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Nida Ilahi at nida@highwirepr.com.

The post was written by Christine Elswick who leads Highwire’s burgeoning security practice and Erik Martinez, our in-house security expert.