2014 RSA Conference Review & Recap

Awareness & Education

The 2014 RSA Conference was held from February 24th to the 28th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. This year it featured over 415 sessions, peer-to-peer sessions, keynotes, tutorials and cyber security seminars with over 600 speakers. Highlights included the work of five security professionals with expertise in mathematics, public policy and security practices. The sessions also included thought leaders from the venture, technology, and security industries. However, it was not without controversy.
RSA & NSA in Cahoots?
RSA, a leading information security encryption company serving customers interested in cloaking their internet activity, received $10 million from the NSA to create an agency-authored algorithm to generate random numbers for an RSA encryption product. This algorithm created a backdoor that could be used by the NSA to spy on users who trusted in the product security of RSA to protect their privacy. RSA denied any involvement.
The NSA's extensive surveillance practices employed by the United States high-tech industry along with disclosures by Edward Snowden about surveillance involving the unprecedented collection, processing and storage of vast amounts of personal information has resulted in a direct impact on the conference agenda this year.
Boycotts at the Conference
Prior to the RSA conference, a total of eight high ranking tech researchers announced they would not attend the industry conference because the event is sponsored by RSA. Many other industry leaders elected not to keep their conference commitments and scheduled speaking engagements because of RSA's algorithm project for the NSA.
When security expert Bruce Schiener was queried about why he didn't boycott the conference, he said that given the nature of business you have to dine with the Devil to survive and stay ahead of the curve. If you're in the thick of things, it's easy to make changes [1].
A U.S. group of established security cryptography and computer researchers sent a letter of condemnation to the President condemning NSA's surveillance methods. It also addressed his lack of response to stop these efforts in response to a request by a White House task force.
Additionally, they questioned the unclear relationship of society-wide surveillance in the prevention of terrorism. They expressed their views about threats to privacy and the tech sector resulting from surveillance without informed consent in a democratic society [2].

[2] http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140124/10260025979/open-letter-security-researchers-explains-how-nsa-has-weakened-our-communications-infrastructure.shtml

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Jacqueline von Ogden

Since 1999, Jacqueline has written for corporate communications, MarCom agencies, higher education, and worked within the pharmacy, steel and retail industries. Since joining the tech industry, she has found her "home".