Q&A: RSA Conference 2009

Sandra Toms LaPedis, Area Vice President and General Manager of RSA Conferences, is responsible for global promotion and successful execution, including strategy, brand extensions, content, marketing, logistics and partnerships for the Conference. In this Q&A she talks about what you can expect at RSA 2009 in San Francisco.

Many regard RSA Conference as the premier event for the security industry. How would you introduce the event to someone who hasn’t attended yet?
RSA Conference is where the world talks security. This vendor-agnostic event brings the brightest minds and the “who’s who” in information security together to discuss emerging threats, new technologies and best practices – and most importantly, teach and share how to apply those best practices today. The atmosphere is collegial, and opportunities profound: over 300 vendors exhibit and over 240 sessions will happen during the week.

Who are the keynote speakers this year and what topics are they discussing?
Keynote speakers include John Chambers (CEO, Cisco), Dave DeWalt (CEO, MacAfee), Art Coviello (Executive Vice President, EMC Corporation, and President, RSA, The Security Division of EMC), as well as senior thought leaders from Microsoft, IBM, CA, Qualys and TippingPoint, to name a few. Also, the Conference is recognized for bringing interesting, non-security leaders and pioneers to the center stage – this year, those speakers include Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics, and James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.

What tracks and workshops would you highlight?
The track structure changes to reflect the current environment in information security. New tracks for 2009 include a Physical Security track (sessions relate to the confluence of physical and logical access); and the new Governance Tracks (sessions reflect the increasing policy and compliance concerns within organizations). The perennial favorites are still there (such as the Hackers & Threats and Crypto Tracks); and the technical depth continues to broaden throughout all class sessions.

We also added new programming this year – namely Innovation Sandbox on the Monday of the Conference. Innovation Sandbox will explore emerging technologies and breakthroughs from leading companies and startups. Attendees will also be able to collaborate with industry leaders in “whiteboarding” sessions, learn about new products currently in development, and cast their online vote for the most promising information security products, ideas, and technologies currently on the horizon.

How much has the event grown in the past few years?
The Conference has grown as the importance of information security has grown throughout organizations. Infosec professionals are faced with an interesting set of regulations and challenges that make the annual event a must attend one. The stakes have never been higher – a breach harms not only an organization’s reputation, but financially as customers look to do business elsewhere or an organization becomes liable for the harm done. When weighing the cost of a breach vs. the cost of honing the skills of infosec professionals to prevent the breach – the choice is clear.

There are quite a few security conferences in the US. What do you see as your strengths? Has your strategic focus changed from previous years?
The Conference continues to reflect or echo the needs of the community. It never is the same event twice! We have an active and engaged community that is very involved with the development of the program, which results in better content, more sophistication in event programming, and a better experience overall.

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