RSA Conference Opening Keynote

The opening keynote of any conference is a key moment that sets the tone for the rest of the event. RSA's Art Coviello kicked off this year's RSA Conference at the Moscone Center. This year's event has been mired in controversy following the revelations that RSA received payments from the NSA to provide backdoor access to one of RSA's products.

Well, it's not every opening keynote that features William Shatner but despite the seriousness of the topic, RSA had the original Captain Kirk singing his own version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. But that's how RSA Conference 2014 opened today in San Francisco.

After Shatner's short opening number RSA Executive Chairman Art Coviello continued the Star Trek link saying "this year's conference will go where no conference has gone before". With over 25000 attendees, 4000 exhibitors and more media than ever before Coviello expects this to be THE biggest security conference.

His opening reflection that we are back at where we were 20 years ago, when crypto was seen as a weapon. However, instead of RSA being against the NSA, they are now on the other side of the fence.

Coviello told the audience that RSA and the NSA have been working together for over a decade and that is was a matter of public record. He commented that the NSA exploited the trust of the security community when the intelligence gathering and threat protection activities of the NSA were blurred. "If the NSA's offensive and defensive activities can't be differentiated, then we shouldn't be working with the NSA," he said.

Coviello said that it's time for the offensive and defensive sides of the NSA to be separated and that security agencies around the world should do the same.

"We're in the midst of a monumental shift in how information is used" he commented. In Coviello's view, we need standards that dictate how information is to be gathered and used – what he calls "digital norms". While it's possible for the internet to deliver great positive change, citing the example of Charity:Water, he said that it can also be used for great harm.

Coviello suggested that four principals need to be established and adhered to. There are

  1. Renounce the use of cyber weapons, and the use of the Internet for waging war
  2. Cooperate in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of cyber criminals
  3. Ensure that economic activity on the Internet can proceed unfettered and that intellectual property rights are respected
  4. Respect and ensure the privacy of all individuals

Achieving these goals will need a substantial shift in how nation states operate. And he suggested that it could happen by bringing together the right people. Coviello told the keynote attendees that 12 national "cyber-tsars" were at the event and would be discussing these matters and trying to come up with concrete actions to provide guidance on how to achieve his four objectives.

Coviello noted that in his 20 years in the security industry there had never been a higher level of investment in information security. With a focus intelligence-based threat assessment and action, he suggested that big data would be a significant part of this in the new generation of systems with software defined networks and infrastructure. New systems need to exert policy and control in world where BYOD and shadow IT systems proliferate in ways that are accessible to all users and businesses, regardless of their level of IT expertise.

In order to deliver a digital world where individual rights and national interests are balanced, Coviello said it was critical for industry to develop and deliver the tools that would support the norms established by governments.

Citing John F Kennedy's famous speech, "Towards a strategy for Peace" Coviello said "Our problems are manmade; therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as be wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again".


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