It’s here.

No, not the new iPad. Not those test results. And most definitely not that other thing you were thinking about.

We’re talking about RSA. And for the majority of you who don’t run to the Moscone Center every February or March, you may not care. But love it or hate it, the RSA Conference is the main event for our industry, and a whole lot of things get tied up with it that have nothing to do with sessions and panels.

Our friends Josh Corman and Andrew Hay have written up their survival guides, and after this preamble I’m going to link you to our 2012 Securosis Guide to RSA with an insane amount of information in it, much of which has more to do with what you will see in our industry over the next 12 months than with the conference itself.

The RSA Conference is the World Series of Security Insider Baseball. The truth is most of you don’t need to care about any of that stuff. Sure, a lot of people will be on Twitter talking about parties and the hallway track, but that’s all a bunch of crap. They’re fun, and I enjoy seeing my friends, but none of it really matters if you are trying to keep the bad guys out.

So here’s my advice for RSA 2012 – whether you attend or not:

  • If you don’t go to RSA there are still important things you can pick up. A lot of the better presentations end up online and many vendors release major updates of products you might have… or at least announce their strategies. Even the marketing fluff can be useful, by giving you an idea of what’s coming over the next year (or two – shipping dates always slip).
  • The hallway track is for social butterflies and business development – not security professionals. Not all sessions are of the same quality, but there is plenty of good content, and you are better served checking out product demos or finding some of the better presentations.
  • Skip most of the panels. If it starts with bios that last more than a few lines, walk out. If any panelist tries to show their own slides rather than the preset decks RSA requires, walk faster.
  • Not all vendor presentations suck, but many of them do. Given a choice, try to find end users talking about something they’ve done in the real world.
  • If a presentation description starts with “we will examine the risks of…” skip it. You don’t need more FUD.
  • Most presentations on policies and governance also suck. But as a techie I’m biased.
  • Ignore the party scene. Yes, the parties can be fun and I enjoy hanging out with my friends, but that’s because I have a lot of people I consider real friends who are scattered across the world and work for different companies. If you aren’t tied into that social group, or roaming with a pack of friends, you are drinking alone in a room full of strangers. It wouldn’t bother me one bit if most of the parties stopped and I could have a few quiet dinners with people I enjoy chatting with.
  • Use the expo floor. You will never have an opportunity to see so many product demos. Never sit in one of the mini-auditoriums with a hired actor giving a pitch – seek out the engineers hovering by the demo stations. You can learn a hell of a lot very quickly there. Get rid of the sales guy by asking a very technical question, and he or she will usually find the person you can dig in with. Never let anyone scan your badge unless you want the sales call – which you may.
  • You are there to work. I’m there to work. Even at the social events I tend to moderate so I can function well the next day. I won’t say I’m perfect, but I can’t afford to sleep in past 6:30 or 7am or take a break during the day. Go to sessions. Talk to vendors. Have meetings. You’re there for that, nothing else. The rest is what Defcon is for 🙂

It’s really easy to be turned off by a combination of all the insider garbage you see on blogs like ours and the insanity of car giveaways on the show floor. But peel the superficial layers off and you have a show floor full of engineers, sessions full of security pros working every day to keep the bad guys out, and maybe even a self-described expert spouting random advice and buying you a free breakfast… or three.


On to the Summary:

Where to see us at the RSA Conference

We keep busy schedules at RSA each year. But the good news is that we do a number of speaking sessions and make other appearances throughout the week. Here is where you can find us:

Speaking Sessions

  • DAS-108: Big Data and Security: Rich (Tuesday, Feb 28, 12:30pm)
  • EXP-304: Grilling Cloudicorns: Rich (Thursday, March 1, 12:45pm)

Flash Talks Powered by PechaKucha

  • Mike will be presenting “A Day in the Life of a CISO, as told by Shakespeare” (Thursday, March 1, 5:30pm)

Other Events

  • e10+: Rich, Mike, and Adrian are the hosts and facilitators of the RSA Conference’s e10+ program, targeting CISO types. That’s Monday (Feb 27) from 8:30am until noon.
  • America’s Growth Capital Conference: Mike will be moderating a panel at the AGC Conference on cloud management and security with folks from Afore Solutions, CipherCloud, Dome9, HyTrust, and Verizon. The session is Monday afternoon, Feb 27 at 2:15pm.

And the 2012 Disaster Recovery Breakfast.

Don’t forget to download the entire Securosis Guide to the RSA Conference 2012.

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Other Securosis Posts

Research Reports and Presentations