This morning, the 2013 RSA Conference truly got kicked off. Conference attendees gathered by the thousands into the main keynote hall at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. First up was a rousing set of Queen hits by a Queen tribute band. Unlike past years where a popular song is performed using primarily security-related lyrics, this year the music stayed mostly true to form. “We Will Rock You”, “We Are The Champions”, and “This Thing Called Love” were performed, and only a few lines at the very end of the last number were changed to security-related lyrics. The lead singer of the tribute band (The Queen Extravaganza) was quite good!
Art Coviello, Executive Chairman of RSA followed the band and took from the lyrics of the songs performed to make his points. He said that we, the people in the audience at the conference, are the champions… when champion is defined as an advocate, or a defender. However when champion is defined as the winner, he suggested that given the current state of threats that we can’t be defined as winners… yet. Coviello pointed to “big data” as a potential way for the security industry to get ahead of threats and win the battle against cyber crime.
Other keynote speeches were provided by Scott Charney from Microsoft, who described his optimism for the future of security, and Francis deSouza from Symantec, who described becoming more proactive against threats by combining corporate data with large-scale intelligence.
Then it was time for what is usually the highlight of the keynotes, at least for me: the Cryptographer’s panel. In this year’s panel, Ari Juels from RSA moderated a panel including Ron Rivest, Whitfield Diffie, Adi Shamir, and Dan Boneh. One of the topics that was discussed a lot was security and cryptography education. To that end, massive open online courses (MOOC) were mentioned, and Ron Rivest even recommended Dan Boneh’s online cryptography course. The panel mentioned some visionary topics, such as online voting (bad), mechanisms for making data exfiltration harder (good), and cryptography in a post-quantum-computing world. The sheer amount of brainpower on the stage at one time during that panel is always a joy to behold.
Tomorrow I will be attending two more keynotes that look very exciting; Vint Cerf will be talking about strong authentication and pseudonymity on the internet, and Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) will be discussing democracy and the internet.