Today marks the opening of the RSA Conference where geeks and cyberwonks gather in San Francisco for five days of information security overload. The conference, started in 1991 as a conference where approximately 50 cryptographers gathered to talk shop, is expecting more than 11,000 attendees this year and includes 250 sessions across 18 tracks. Since 1995, the conference has focused on a unique theme to highlight a “significant historical contribution to or illustration of cryptography, mathematics, or information security.” This year’s theme is the Rosetta Stone, designed to remember “the Rosetta Stone’s legacy to modern Egyptology and its lasting message on the power of collaboration.”
Expect a good share of government officials – from the Department of Homeland Security to the FBI to the White House to the Department of Defense to Congress – to be wandering around the conference. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller are both slated to speak. According to a release from conference organizers, Napolitano will “speak to the impact of information security on today’s society and how cybersecurity will continue to be a key area of focus for the Department of Homeland Security in the coming years,” while Mueller will “detail cyber threats through the years – from criminal threats like computer intrusions and identity theft to the use of the Internet by extremists and hostile foreign powers.” Will be interesting to learn what insight each offers on the growing cybersecurity challenge and what is being done within the government to address that challenge.
Also slated to speak is Howard Schmidt, the recently appointed “cyberczar” or, if you prefer, his official title – “White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President.” Schmidt will give a keynote and, according to the conference schedule, will be busy participating in a number of other events, including a town hall sponsored by the Business Software Alliance. In many ways, RSA represents a coming out for Schmidt. He has appeared and spoken at some DC-oriented events but this is (I believe) the first time he has been in a national venue and the first time where experts and industry will get a public account of what to expect from the Obama Administration on cybersecurity going forward. It is big task but, as a veteran and well-respected expert on cybersecurity (including public-private partnerships), Schmidt should be up to the task.
Other big-name former government officials who have tackled cybersecurity are also plentiful. Schmidt’ predecessor (at least in an acting status), Melissa Hathaway, is slated to speak on a panel on “Delivering a Unified and Resilient National Cyber Security Framework” and former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and the first cyber-czar under President Clinton, Dick Clarke, are also on the agenda.
Moving from wonks to lawyers (if there is really a difference), back in D.C., the American Bar Association will be hosting its Fifth Annual Homeland Security Law Institute. Chaired by Joe D. Whitley, former General Counsel of DHS, the conference gathers together practitioners to examine legal issues surrounding various homeland security areas. Among the panels topics: homeland defense, international issues, chemical and personnel security, supply chain, CFIUS, immigration, detention of terror suspects, cybersecurity, privacy, homeland security grants, and H1N1.
Among the keynote speakers – Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, W. Craig Fugate, the Administrator of FEMA, and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Two very different conferences offering different perspectives on how to address homeland security problems. Stay tuned to any announcements or surprises that might come from either conference.