Modern field guide to security and privacy

Opinion: How to have a FUD-free RSA Conference

The key to a productive RSA Conference, the massive cybersecurity gathering that kicks off next week in San Francisco, is avoiding firms that push fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Photo courtesy of RSA Conference
An attendee at the 2016 RSA Conference in San Francisco.

If you've ever been to the RSA Conference, the world's biggest cybersecurity gathering that begins in San Francisco next week, you're all too familiar with the chaos that is the showroom floor.

Maybe you're even an RSA veteran and you're well versed in getting around the roughly 45,000 attendees. You can avoid the armies of sales people who want to "scan your badge" to put you on their email lists (you don't want the spam!). Maybe you're able to tune out the thump-thump techno blasting from the aisles. And you're adept at snagging vendors' tchotchkes without sitting through the dreaded sales pitch.

But are you able to pick out the quality products amid the hundreds of vendors that transform the Moscone Center expo halls into a virtual FUD-istan during RSA week?

While it's challenging, it is possible to avoid the companies that trade in fear, uncertainty, and doubt and discover some of the more innovative cybersecurity products out there. Here's how.

First, steer clear of booths draped in yellow, orange, red, and black. It's the first indication to proceed with caution. There's a reason why warning and danger signs use these colors – they are meant to scare you.

Turn around if you see stereotypical hacker images: guys in ski masks, people wearing gloves while typing, or anyone in dark hoodies. Anything that looks ominous is a pure sign of FUD.

Avoid anything in camouflage or sales people wearing fake military uniforms. It's just wrong. Yes, the militarization of information security has accelerated in recent years and there's a lot of talk recently of cyberwar and cyberweapons. But it's RSA, not a military trade show.

And while it might seem cool to quote "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, it's really just a sign that the marketing department can't come up with something more original to say. Skip those booths.

Always remember that one cybersecurity product cannot do it all. There's no silver bullet. If anyone says their product is a do-it-all solution, keep walking.

Be wary of people who speak in buzzword and string together jargon without really understanding what those terms mean. Move on if you see multiple terms such as "data-driven," "next-gen," "cyber protection," "anomaly detection," or "heuristic analytics" jumbled together. In short, avoid the lingo, gimmicks, tricks, and anyone who says their product is a panacea.

Instead, look for the booths that stand out because the sales people aren't trying to scare you and aren't playing up the FUD aspects of digital security. Seek out the vendors who can talk intelligently about their offerings. And spend time with the companies who understand your needs.

It can be difficult to discover the products that are right for your business at RSA. It's daunting to look past the FUD, but it's not impossible.

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