Saturday, March 3, 2012

Incredibly Keynotes from Final Day at RSAC

The first keynote yesterday was with Hugh Thompson, Chief Security Strategist, People Security, and a couple of guests, Dan Gardner, author; and Frank Luntz, President and CEO of Luntz Reseach and Pollster/Political Consultant.  Hugh's focus was all about how we make decisions.  As he put it, "we confess to the web," so it knows more about us than even our best friends do.  So how and why do we make the decisions we do on what to post, what to buy, what not to buy?  He talked about the targeting marketing when you do Google searches and whether that has an impact on our decisions.

His first guest was Dan Gardner who writes about the different biases and unconscious thoughts that go into our decision making processes.

The next guest was Frank Luntz.  First of all, this guy is frickin' hilarious!!  No doubt you have to be to work any where near politicians. He had some incredibly insightful ways of capturing the same concepts we talk about everyday but in different terms.  Below are some of the key soundbites that I felt were worth passing on:

When asked about how can we do a better job of communicating to our customers what IT security is really about, Frank suggested, "we sell security but should really be providing Peace of Mind...the literature doesn't show that.  Security means there is a threat and [that is what the literature addresses].  Peace of mind means that we have solved those threat so they can breathe easier now."..."We save people their jobs or if you screw up, you cost them their jobs.  They don't have to be afraid because they have someone 'protecting' them now."

Hugh Thompson said that ultimately, what the marketing is trying to say is, "we sell stuff to stop you from getting hacked badly and/or getting fired," but how can that be said more effectively?
Frank suggested, "I get the challenge" - describe the nightmare without going too far.
"We've done it before and here is how we have done it"
He talked about the importance of protection - how do you know when you turn on the computer, your company is protected.
Hugh asked Frank what horrific name should we keep for the next super virus for an extreme emergency.  Frank said that is not the right approach.  We should rather take the opposite approach.  "The loudest sound that I can make is when I bring my voice down and speak quietly... the loudest sound is silence.  With everyone shouting, the quieter approach is the competant approach.  You shout if you have nothing to say.  You are quiet if your work speaks for itself."

Finally, he talked about how he wished there was a way to communicate to kids in the 10th, 11th, 12th grade to teach them about the professions and ideas out there and the things that they could do to be successful.  If you have been reading my previous blogs, you know this is a recurring theme.  It really has me thinking about what possible solutions could there be to this.  I believe there are some real potential opportunities here not just at the high school and college level but with those in the work force who are looking for the right opportunity to break into this field but just do not know how to do it.  The closing video for Sal Khan's presentation about the Khan Academy was a gentleman who I believe was in his 30s and because of the Khan Academy, was going back to college to become an Engineer.  He used to be a saxophone player.  It goes to show that anyone can learn something if they are motivated, passionate, and have the right opportunities to do so.

Now on to the second keynote.  As you can see from the picture below, it was the Former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Tony Blair.  He is sitting here below with Art Coviello EVP of EMC.  They have not yet posted his presentation - I really do hope they do as it is well worth the watch.
I was rather impressed with how genuine he came across throughout the presentation.  He actually seemed nervous to start out, an emotion I completely related to as speaking in front a room full of incredibly intelligent and talented security professional is definitely intimidating - obviously to no matter who you are.  I was also quite moved by how emotionally passionate he is about the Middle East peace process.  He has been to the Israel/Palestine area 75 times since leaving office, 8 of which have been in the past couple months.  

He opened by admitting he is technically challenged to say the least.  Quite a thing to admit to this audience, especially right out of the gate, but I really admired that he did not get up there and read some speech a techie staffer put together about technology that he knew nothing about just to pander to the crowd.  Instead, he spoke of those things that he was well versed in, passionate about, and which DO have a major impact on all of our lives, and definitely on the technology world.  I was disappointed to see a lot of tweets after criticizing the fact that he was not technical and did not speak about technical stuff.  I think they missed an opportunity to really hear from a brilliant politician who even after leaving office, is committed to the stability of this world's economy and security.

He discussed the economic crisis and how we need to bring people together - government and industry - and refashion the way we work and live.  Government will need to play a role in this but industry will ultimately need to lead the change.  I got a text from one of my friends at this point saying he is preaching my issue...and he was. He, like so many other speakers this past week, talked about the criticality of industry and the government coming together and working to solve the issues of the economy and security because neither can do it on their own.  

I was hoping to watch this again as I know I did not quite capture the quote correctly but he was talking about the role of social media has played in the revolutions in the Middle East and how it in and of itself is a revolution.  It is a tremendous instrument of protest but not one that government has learned how to properly leverage, to their detriment.  He said he believes that democracy will eventually reach the entire world - quipping that no democracy has ever decided not to be democratic.  He said that democracy is not just the freedom to vote but the freedom of expression.

After his individual presentation, Art Coviello asked him a bunch of questions. The one I felt really worth capturing was when he asked Tony Blair what would be the one piece of advice he would have for the members of the audience, understanding that we are professional responsible for securing the information and technical infrastructures from cyber criminals, terrorists and cyber espionage, and fraud.  His advice was simply - "Be Successful!"  It was succinct and simple yet, I felt, rather powerful advice.

This was truly an amazing conference. I had the opportunity to listen to some unbelievably talented professionals who are committed to ensuring that we do everything possible every day to secure our networks.  I met some great security professionals that I hope I have the opportunity to work with and collaborate with going forward in our shared endeavor to protect critical infrastructure.  I left inspired that I am making a difference and with new ideas of ways I can do even more.  Thank you for all those who inspired me and for being a part of a community that I consider myself incredibly blessed to be a part of.  I wish everyone safe travels home.  My prayers are with all those families who were in any way impacted by those storms yesterday.

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