The 2013 RSA conference could have been a particularly depressing affair. With attackers making headlines every day for devastating data breaches and malware levels higher than ever, the security community was faced with some its most formidable challenges ever.
Instead, vendors used the show as an opportunity to rally their troops and build optimism that defenders can once again claim the upper hand in the cyber security arms race.
The conference kicked off under a bad sign as a number of high profile vendors admitted to having employee PCs compromised. A 'watering hole' malware attack claimed systems owned by Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, with an untold number of smaller developers potentially compromised as well.
Just before the show, Symantec brought further bad news when it announced the discovery of a Stuxnet variant which could be as much as eight years old, suggesting that security firms have only found the tip of the industrial malware iceberg.
Talk of the advanced persistent threat (APT) dominated much of the conversation at the 2013 conference. With state-sponsored attacks threatening not only government organisations, but critical infrastructure as well, vendors remained unsure as to how administrators can lock down not only traditional IT infrastructure, but embedded devices as well.
Executives with host-firm RSA pitched big data as a potential solution, Chief executive Art Coviello predicted that in the coming year unstructured data analysis would take over the security space and become the 'crown jewell' in the enterprise security sector.
Other experts believe that firms will need to change their approach and shift their priorities. Encryption icon Adi Shamir predicted that his field would be de-emphasized in the coming years as firms lose faith in the concept of perimeter-only defences.
For McAfee, the solution to the APT conundrum was to improve lines of communication with executives and better distribute security duties. Microsoft, meanwhile, is suggesting that firms get back to basics and make sure that their core practices are sound before looking to address more complex issues.
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