RSA Conference attendees ambivalent about NSA tactics

Thycotic Software announced the results of a survey of 341 RSA Conference USA 2014 attendees, which found that fewer than half (48%) of pollees feel the NSA overstepped its boundaries in its surveillance of US citizens.

Following widespread criticism of the agency in keynote speeches, this data indicates that many security professionals consider its actions necessary to US cyber defense.

At the same time, three quarters (75%) of respondents, regardless of their stance on the NSA, think those who boycotted RSA Conference this year have a right to their opinion, and 9% had even contemplated joining them. Only 17% say those who boycotted RSA are attention seekers.

The survey also uncovered widespread belief that abuse of privileged access occurs within attendees’ organizations. Only 19% of respondents are confident that such access, often referred to as the “keys to the kingdom,” is used properly. In what may signal a resignation to this reality, roughly one in five (19%) RSA attendees indicate that they would still hire Edward Snowden, given the opportunity.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Of the 52% of respondents who did not indicate that the NSA overstepped its bounds, 21% believe that the government needs to be aware of citizens’ communications data in order to better protect them from terrorist activity, and 31% say they are conflicted about the issue, and that while they have nothing to hide, they are concerned about a loss of privacy.
  • Alternatively, 48% of respondents unequivocally say the NSA did overstep its bounds in its surveillance of US citizens.
  • 61% of respondents acknowledge that they either know that employees within their company have abused privileged access (24%) or that it is likely that they have (37%). Another 20% are unsure if this has happened.

Unfortunately, the survey doesn’t say whether the pollees were US citizens or not.

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