Important Observations At RSA 2018 – Charles leaver

Written By Logan Gilbert And Presented By Charles Leaver


After investing a couple of days with the Ziften group at the 2018 RSA Conference, my technology viewpoint was: more of the same, the normal suspects and the normal buzzwords. Buzz words like – “AI”, “machine learning”, “predictive” were wonderfully overused. Lots of attention paid to avoidance, everybody’s favorite attack vector – e-mail, and everyone’s favorite vulnerability – ransomware.

The only surprise I encountered was seeing a smattering of NetFlow analysis companies – great deals of smaller businesses aiming to make their mark using a very rich, however tough to work with, data set. Extremely cool stuff! Find the small cubicles and you’ll find tons of development. Now, to be fair to the bigger suppliers I understand there are some truly cool technologies therein, but RSA barely lends itself to seeing through the buzzwords to actual worth.

The Buzz at RSA

I might have a prejudiced view since Ziften has actually been partnering with Microsoft for the last six plus months, but Microsoft seemed to play a far more prominent leadership role at RSA this year. First, on Monday, Microsoft revealed it’s all brand-new Intelligent Security Association uniting their security collaborations “to focus on defending clients in a world of increased risks”, and more notably – reinforcing that security through shared security intelligence across this ecosystem of partners. Ziften is naturally proud to be an establishing member in the Intelligent Security Association.

Additionally, on Tuesday, Microsoft announced a ground-breaking partnership with many in the cybersecurity industry named the “Cybersecurity Tech Accord.” This accord requires a “digital Geneva Convention” that sets standards of habits for the online world just as the Geneva Conventions set guidelines for the conduct of war in the real world.

RSA Attendees

A real interesting point to me though was the different types included of the expo audience itself. As I was also an exhibitor at RSA, I noted that of my visitors, I saw more “suits” and less tee shirts.

Ok, maybe not suits per se, but more security Managers, Directors, VPs, CISOs, and security leaders than I remember seeing in the past. I was encouraged to see what I think are business decision makers checking out security companies in the flesh, instead of doling that job to their security team. From this audience I typically heard the exact same themes:

– This is frustrating.
– I can’t tell the difference between one technology and another.

Those who were Absent from RSA

There were certainly less “technology trolls”. What, you might ask, are technology trolls? Well, as a vendor and security engineer, these are the guys (always guys) that show up 5 minutes prior to the close of the day and drag you into a technical due diligence workout for an hour, or a minimum of until the happy hour parties begin. Their goal – absolutely nothing beneficial to anyone – and here I’m presuming that the troll really works for a company, so nothing beneficial for the company that actually paid thousands of dollars for their participation. The only thing gained is the troll’s self affirmation that they are able to “beat down the vendor” with their technical prowess. I’m being severe, but I’ve experienced the trolls from both sides, both as a vendor, and as a buyer – and back at the office no one is basing purchasing choices based upon troll recommendations. I can just assume that companies send out tech trolls to RSA and comparable expos because they do not want them in their workplace.

Discussions about Holistic Security

Which makes me return to the type of people I did see a lot of at RSA: security savvy (not just tech savvy) security leaders, who comprehend the corporate argument and choices behind security innovations. Not just are they influencers however in most cases business owners of security for their particular organizations. Now, apart from the above mentioned concerns, these security leaders appeared less concentrated on an innovation or specific usage case, however rather an emphasis on a desire for “holistic” security. As we know, excellent security requires a collection of innovations, policy and practice. Security savvy consumers wished to know how our innovation fitted into their holistic solution, which is a rejuvenating change of dialog. As such, the kinds of concerns I would hear:

– How does your technology partner with other solutions I already utilize?
– More importantly: Does your company actually buy into that partnership?

That last concern is vital, basically asking if our collaborations are just fodder for a site, or, if we genuinely have an acknowledgment with our partner that the whole is greater than the parts.

The latter is what security specialists are looking for and require.


In general, RSA 2018 was terrific from my point of view. After you get past the lingo, much of the buzz centered on things that matter to clients, our market, and us as individuals – things like security partner environments that add value, more holistic security through genuine collaboration and significant integrations, and face to face discussions with business security leaders, not innovation trolls.

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