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My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are RSA Conference memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land. But most of all, I remember the RSA Warrior, a man we called Max. To understand who he was we have to go back to the other time, when the information security industry was powered by the dark web and Moscone sprouted great booths of hope and ingenuity — gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten two thousand vendors went to war to see who could blaze off the most clichés.  Their hubris engulfed us all.

Without ingenuity they were nothing. The venture capitalists had built a house of flimsy threat intelligence. The AWS instances sputtered and stopped.

Their leaders talked and talked about hacking and attribution, but nothing could stem the avalanche.  Their world crumbled.  Ransomware exploded, a whirlwind of attacks, a firestorm of fake news. CISOs began feeding on CISOs.

On the Internet, it was a 100-gigabit nightmare. Only those mobile enough to find a NGFW protected wifi hotspot, brutal enough to send out an RST packet to all the other nodes could get on Facebook. The Russian gangs took over the Internet, ready to wage DDoS for a tank of PHI.  In this maelstrom of decay, ordinary people were hacked and smashed.  Men like Max. The warrior Max.  In the roar of a Dell R630 he lost everything and became a shell of a man. A burnt out, desolate man, haunted by the breaches of his past. A man who walked out into the wasteland of Moscone.

It was here in this blinding, hysterical orgy of cliches that he learned to live again.

For cultural reference: The Road Warrior Intro

RSA hits hump day, and hope is fading.

The Coming Disruption in Security, Mark McLaughlin

With a title like that, who needs hope?  However, Mark has hope.  Ii is not about the product, but the platform, Mark said.  It is not the point device, but the collection of all of them, working in harmony. This is why orchestration has become the buzziest of buzz words this year.

Mark, you just took a huge dump every VAR and extolled the benefits of MSSP, like Anitian’s Sherlock Managed Security…I love you, man.

This disruption that Mark speaks of is not years off. It is here, right now. The era of buying the next shiny object is ending now.  It does not work. So many of the recent breaches have hammered this point home. The perimeter is irrelevant.

Nevertheless, will the Gilfoyles sitting in their cubicles hear this message? Probably not right away. VARs will continue to seduce them with free lunches. They will continue to waste money on gear that they never use. This is why CISOs must stop this cycle of blowing money on gear while cheaping out on people and expertise.

Delivering Effective Security Outcomes, David Ulevitch

It is funny how well these two keynotes dovetailed each other.  If Mark was saying the system is broken, David was saying “and here is how to fix it.” Consumption-based models, like those used at AWS or Azure, are the future of security effectiveness.  The ability to scale up and down rapidly has profound benefits for security.  It is the reason some new technologies are even possible, such as En|Veil’s homomorphic encryption solution (yes I am going to plug them at every chance.)

David also hit on another issue that the Gilfoyles out there seem to ignore, effectiveness. While they obsess and twiddle with equipment, they fail to ever build a truly effective security program. It does not matter what security products you use if they are not doing what they are supposed to do, then whatever you spent on them was a waste.

Of course, David Brought up artificial intelligence. And of course, he had to joke about it rising up and killing us all because that is all us GenXers can understand about AI.  However, David pivoted to fearing artificial stupidity: poorly constructed automation and orchestration which gives the illusion of security without the actual effectiveness.

David, you just gave a pitch for Anitian’s Sherlock Managed Detection and Response, I love you too.

What was reassuring for me with these two keynotes, is they were validating our own research and strategic direction at Anitian. So, maybe we can crawl out of the wasteland.

Leadership Faceplant

After these two excellent keynotes, I went to a seminar on security leadership.  This being a topic of interest to me, I had high hopes.  I was expecting a conversation about vision, Millennials, and inspiring greatness. Instead, we got one of the worst presentations ever. The speaker was lifeless, the content rudimentary, and the ideas outdated.

I seriously contemplated walking up on stage, pushing him off the stage and seizing control of the presentation.

Leadership is not about having gap assessments and risk metrics. Those are the mechanics of leadership.  Real leaders spend their time concerned with the people around them, and how they can develop and inspire them. The risk metrics are a by-product of good work. They are not leadership.

Just Walk Away

I am gravely disappointed. I walked away to an observation spot above the expo floor and let the orgy of hysteria wash over me.

Maybe it is too late, I thought.  Perhaps there is no coming back from this lunacy.  Maybe we will never provide a secure Internet.

I was becoming a desolate, burnt-out shell of a CEO.  When you hear the same things thousands of times over, with no real intent to improve, how can you trust any of these vendors or speakers?  How can we believe that anything will ever get better when our whole industry is consumed to absolute psychotic idiocy over IoT botnets and Russian hacks, yet cannot patch a damn server. After so many iterations, it just all sounds like noise.

We have come too far and a reset is needed. I hate to be the bringer of this depressing news, but we cannot keep going like this.  We need destruction, so rebirth can happen. 90% of those vendors at Moscone and 95% of the speakers need to be burnt down. Start over.

No more talk.  We go in. Prepare yourself for the coming maelstrom. Only those mobile enough, with skills that are in demand, will survive. And those of you clinging to your racks of servers and appliances, you might want to contemplate your future.

In time, perhaps you will grow to be the chief of the great RSA tribe. The capability it’s hidden inside you. Just smuggle it out past the Humongous, (Michael Dell.)