An unlikely individual opened RSA Conference 2017, with actor John Lithgow asking the audience to ‘imagine a hacked planet’, where there was no security to protect freedom and property.
With the audience fired up from the actor’s rousing address, it was Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan’s, CTO at RSA Security up on stage first, with his keynote address centered on the thinking that security is not a technology problem, but a business problem.
Pointing to the ‘chaos’ of recent economic and political events, the CTO drew on the recent chaos of the 2016 US Presidential election, stating that technology had certainly changed the discourse in the wake of the election.
“It was mainstream front-page news and rocked the foundations of democracy. It demonstrated that our problem isn’t limited to initial cyber-attacks. More, it’s the long tail of chaos it creates,” said the CTO.
Dr. Ramzan went on to make a bold statement of how democracy is at risk, stating that the ‘idea of foreign governments’ launching cyber attacks to disrupt a democratic process as having very severe effects on the modern world.
Calling for all ambitious companies to embark on a joint venture between business and security, Dr. Ramzan stressed the importance of business-driven security leaders, giving the assembled crowd three pieces of advice for tackling the world’s current ‘chaos’.
The first bit of advice given to the packed conference in San Francisco was to treat risk as a science, calling on business leader to think ‘what if’. With so many vendors, the second piece of advice was for businesses to simplify what they control, with the CTO thirdly advising to plan for the chaos that you can’t control.
Stating that his personal goal is to ‘make the world safer through technology’, the CTO said: “In chaos, we find amazing opportunities to adapt, learn and grow.”
“To find them, we must turn to each other for clarity, advice and inspiration. That’s why this conference was created.”
Finishing off his address, the CTO said that the RSA conference gave him hope “to connect with and learn from amazing people who are tackling the most important challenges of our time.”
If John Lithgow was not enough for the thousands who had made the journey to the Moscone Centre, special guest Michael Dell certainly made it worth the journey.
Joining Dr. Ramzan on stage as a special guest, the Dell founder, chairman and CEO reiterated the message of security being a key component of business and business transformation.
Mr. Dell said that security is now more important to the board than ever before, calling it an area of ‘high concern’ for them – however, this concern is not a technology issue, but a business and risk concern.
“Security is now the number one issue that plagues businesses and boards, concerned about the complexity of their security posture and how to manage risk,” said the Dell boss.
However, in contrast to Dr. Zulfikar’s warnings about chaos, Mr. Dell left the audience with some optimism.
“It’s a truly amazing time in our industry. IT is becoming ‘BT’—business technology. There is a lot of optimism about 2017.
“There is a real thirst for this digital transformation and we’re seeing it really begin across a wide variety of industries. Investment is following,” Mr. Dell said.
“The digital transformation is real. But, from a technology sector, it has to be done securely.”
The Dell CEO received a warm welcome from the crowd, not surprising as he has been relatively quiet since his company acquired RSA as part of its billion-dollar deal to acquire EMC.
Although RSA will remain largely independent from Dell EMC, there have been some product integrations with the Dell portfolio, such as its authentication and threat detection portfolio.
For Michael Dell at the RSA Conference however, it was not about the money or big name acquisitions – it was about human progress.
“We really feel like we’re enabling this next wave of human progress and for me that’s an incredibly exciting place for me to be,” Dell said.