It’s that time of year. The security industry is gearing up for the annual pilgrimage to San Francisco for the RSA Conference. For the fifth year your pals at Securosis are putting together a conference guide to give you some perspective on what to look for and how to make the most of your RSA experience. We will start with a few key themes for the week, and then go into deep dives on all our coverage areas. The full guide will be available for download next Wednesday, and we will post an extended Firestarter video next Friday discussing the Guide. Without further ado, here is our first key theme.


Last year the big news at the RSA Conference was Mandiant’s research report outing APT1 and providing a new level of depth on advanced attacks. It seemed like every vendor at the show had something to say about APT1, but the entire conference was flowing in Mandiant’s wake. They should have called the report “How to increase your value by a couple hundred million in 12 short months”, but that’s another story for another day.

In 2014 Edward Snowden put on his Kevin Mandia costume and identified the clear predecessor to the APT1 group. That’s right, the NSA is APT0. Evidently the NSA was monitoring and hacking things back when the APT1 hackers were in grade school. We expect most vendors will be selling spotlights and promises to cut through the fog of the NSA disclosures. But getting caught up in FUD misses the point: Snowden just proved what we have always known. It is much harder to build things than to break them.

Our position on APT0 isn’t much different than on APT1. You cannot win against a nation-state. Not in the long term, anyway. Rather than trying to figure out how much public trust in security tools has eroded, we recommend you focus on what matters: how to protect information in your shop. Are you sure an admin (like Snowden) can’t access everything and exfiltrate gigabytes of critical data undetected? If not you have some work to do.

Keep everything in context at the show. Never forget that the security marketing machine is driven by high-profile breaches as a catalyst for folks who don’t know what they are doing to install the latest widget selling the false hope of protection. And the RSA Conference is the biggest security marketing event of the year. So Snowden impersonators will be the booth babes of 2014.