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#RSAC 2020 – Damn the Torpedoes…

“How far away from San Francisco is Sacramento?” my wife casually asked as I finished packing my suitcase for the 2020 RSA Security Conference. “I think about an hour and a half – maybe two hours away…. Why do you ask?”  I thought nothing of her innocuous question as I stuffed Purell hand wipes and a medical mask in my suitcase for good measure. “Oh, they just announced that a person tested positive for the coronavirus in Sacramento.” On the heels of overnight coronavirus outbreaks in Italy and Korea, I had to take pause and acknowledge my wife’s anxiety about my impending RSA travel.

Thus continued the run-up to RSA 2020, a security conference that will no doubt be like no other in my professional memory. From the moment the organizers of the Barcelona Mobile World Congress abruptly canceled their event on February 12th, all eyes were on big vendors and RSA organizers to see if RSA2020 would succumb to a similar fate.

Watching news stories on the spread of the virus coupled with Twitter feeds on who backed out (first IBM, then AT&T, then Verizon) made preparation for this year’s conference a mixed bag of emotions. The conference is a herculean effort for all that participate.  For example, this week I’ve got 32 meetings or presentations including:

  • An RSA panel discussion on Thursday
  •  Speakers Dinner on Tuesday
  • Denim Group company event on Wednesday
  • Company Preso on Monday
  • Five client lunches or breakfasts
  • Six press briefings
  • Booth time

Plus a long flight to SF and back from Texas… RSA every year is a huge physical and mental effort regardless if you are a speaker, attendee, vendor, or whatever. In 2017, for example, my Fitbit told me I logged 32 miles that week. I suspect I will outdo that number this year running around the footprint of the Moscone Center.

A final point here… We’ve invested a tremendous amount of energy to secure those 30+ meetings and generally prepare our team for an impactful week. Multiply this effort across every other company going to RSA this year and you get a sense of the mixed feelings may have about scrapping attendance. We go to RSA because it makes business sense to go and we hope it will accelerate the growth of our businesses.

We find ourselves in unchartered territory with the health risk of the coronavirus associated with RSA. The plans that RSA Conference organizers have put in place to protect attendees,while noble, probably don’t fully allay the fears of many given the unknowns of the coronavirus. Simply put, we don’t know what to expect this week. We don’t know if attendees will quietly and without announcement decide not to attend (I hope not). We don’t know if other big vendors will simply not show up tomorrow, nor do we know whether the small vendors pull the plug without announcement. We don’t know.

But what we do know is that many will make the trek again this year, including myself and many other colleagues in the industry.  We will do our best to make the most of it. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead…


About John Dickson

John Dickson web resolution

John Dickson is an internationally recognized security leader, entrepreneur and Principal at Denim Group, Ltd. He has nearly 20 years’ hands-on experience in intrusion detection, network security and application security in the commercial, public and military sectors. As a Denim Group Principal, he helps executives and Chief Security Officers (CSO’s) of Fortune 500 companies, including major financial institutions, launch and expand their critical application security initiatives.
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