SAN FRANCISCO — Cybersecurity threats are now a household worry, putting the thousands of professionals who flock to the annual RSA cybersecurity conference here in an unusually influential position.
“The threat level is now Code Red,” said Avivah Litan, a security analyst with Gartner, a consulting company. Familiar threats, such as hacking by groups backed by governments, are not new, but they've become more severe in the last year. Plus there are new ones, such as the use of botnets to take down Internet service for an entire region.
The events of the last year “have opened the public’s, and the government’s, eyes that the problem is bigger than they thought it was,” said Gus Coldebella, an attorney with Fish & Richardson in Washington D.C. and former acting General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.
The rhetoric around threat vectors and hacking is always strong at RSA, if only because most of the estimated 40,000 attendees are bent on convincing potential corporate customers that without their products and services designed to prevent or discover hacks, they are vulnerable to attack.
But many attending say concern at this year’s conference is unprecedented, between Russian involvement in events leading up to the presidential election, a botnet attack that took many websites on the East Coast offline for a day in October and an ever-growing rap sheet of ransomware attacks.
"It's gone to the next level," said Gartner's Litan.
Three topics especially dominate this year's conference.