RSA Conference 2019 Guide: Insider Tips From an RSAC 2018 Survivor

The RSA Conference doesn’t openly advertise itself as the largest cybersecurity event, but it is certainly among the most overwhelming. That’s a matter of opinion, but it’s the opinion of many who survived last year’s conference.

More than 42,000 information security professionals flocked to the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco last April to attend the 700-plus sessions and network with the 650 exhibitors at the event. With the location under active construction last year, attendees spent four days traipsing between four separate buildings to view hundreds of sessions. Everywhere you went, you heard the refrain, “It’s just not possible to see it all.” There are big information security shows that draw tens of thousands, and then there’s RSAC. The latter turns one of the largest cities in North America into a sea of chief information security officers (CISOs) and tech luminaries.

RSA Conference 2019: Bigger and ‘Better’ Than Ever

The theme for RSA Conference 2019 is “Better,” and it’s certainly shaping up to be everything it was projected to be. The 27th annual conference, scheduled for March 4–8, is expected to draw a record-breaking 50,000 security professionals. This year, attendees have the advantage of enjoying the show in a less geographically distributed venue as construction on the more than 300,000-square-foot Moscone Center is now complete. While there’s going to be a bit less walking than last year, there’s even more content in store.

I survived RSAC 2018, but my agenda didn’t include as many sessions as I’d initially planned in the days before the show opened because the sheer scale of the event was overwhelming. The worst-laid plan for a show of RSAC’s size is to land on the ground on the opening day and try to head directly for the opening keynote. Navigating the massive Moscone Center isn’t that simple.

If this is your first trip to San Francisco, you should read the official RSAC tips for attendees and start planning your itinerary now based on session tracks and content. The days at RSAC can feel very long — especially if you’re not staying within a few blocks of the conference.

5 Can’t-Miss Sessions for Creating a Better Workforce and World at RSAC 2019

There’s an emerging theme of collaboration between information security experts and the public sector, which is an important conversation to have in an era where customer trust is at historic lows. “Better” is a reference to collaboration, but it’s also a reference to challenging convention, which is a long-standing theme of the RSA Conference.

This year’s lineup of can’t-miss keynote speeches promises several incredible sessions that will challenge CISOs and information security leaders to get more involved in securing the future, creating a healthier workplace environment, thinking outside the box and developing a more diverse workforce. Check out these sessions below:

  1. The average organization uses 80 security solutions from 40 different vendors, but they’re dealing with a trickle of insight due to a range of issues, such as technical limitations between solutions and swivel-chairing. Join IBM Security Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) Sridhar Muppidi and Koos Lodewijkx for their session, “Cybersecurity Silo-Busters 1, Cyberthreat Actors 0 (Game in Progress),” scheduled for Tuesday, March 5 from 11:00–11:50 a.m.
  2. “How much of our lives should be governed by technology, and under what terms?” asks Bruce Schneier, fellow and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School, in a keynote titled “The Role of Security Technologists in Public Policy” on Wednesday, March 6 from 9:20–10:10 a.m.
  3. The cybersecurity industry is at a point of tension, and today’s CISOs are challenged to align people, data and technology effectively to “amplify human capacity.” Microsoft Corporate Vice President Ann Johnson’s keynote, “The Power of People: Amplifying Our Human Capacity through Technology and Community,” is scheduled for Wednesday, March 6 from 10:30–10:55 a.m.
  4. What if the right lessons from cybersecurity were actually gleaned from the world of sports and the military? Join IBM Security General Manager Mary O’Brien and IBM Security Vice President Caleb Barlow for their keynote session, “Stop Worrying About the Right Things,” on Thursday, March 7 from 10:30–10:55 a.m. to learn how an unconventional approach could change your organization’s cybersecurity protection.
  5. Don’t book your return flight home too early, because one of the final keynote sessions of the show certainly appears to be worth sticking around for. Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo will share how Girl Scouts taught her to love numbers and science and encouraged her to earn a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford, as well as other lessons from her career as a NASA rocket scientist, White House education commissioner and her current role. “(Girl) Scouting for Talent: The Solution in the Next Generation” is scheduled for Friday, March 8 from 9:50–10:40 a.m.

Surviving RSAC 2019: What to Expect

There were 42,000 attendees at last year’s event, according to the conference’s own estimates, and a live construction zone spread the conference over many city blocks. It’s not uncommon to walk well over 14,000 steps in a single day at a large technology trade show, but the amount of walking I did last year at RSAC was well beyond the usual. When combined with the reality of downtown San Francisco and the sheer amount of content and vendors on the ground, it was a particularly exhausting four days.

Whether it’s your first time or fourth, it’s worth planning ahead with the conference app to make sure you’re maximizing your time. Book accommodations near the hotel, and take full advantage of the streaming sessions listed on the RSAC itinerary. The RSA Conference offers an uncommonly high amount of slide decks after the event through the conference agenda website, which can be downloaded free of charge to registered individuals. It’s near-certain that you’ll miss something you really want to see.

If this is your first time attending RSAC, you’re in luck: There’s a webinar session just for you on Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT lead by RSAC Director of Content and Curation Britta Glade and Director and Chief of Operations Linda Gray Martin. Registration is required to view and participate in “Virtual Session: RSA Conference 2019, Know Before You Go.”

There’s plenty of really fantastic things to appreciate about RSAC, especially if you’ve spent your career attending trade shows. You won’t have to eat typical tech show boxed lunches, and there’s plenty of coffee shops that accept mobile application orders everywhere you look. In fact, the catering last year was so good, CISOs were still talking about the “insane” breakfast sandwiches and taco bar at a different event four months after the fact. There’s also plenty of cozy work and coworking spaces sprinkled throughout the Moscone Center to quietly livestream sessions from your laptop when the high-energy buzz of one of the world’s biggest tech shows demands that you take a break.

If you’re preparing to fly into SFO, make some time to visit IBM Security throughout the event at North Expo Booth #5759. RSAC 2019 is right around the corner, and SecurityIntelligence will be providing live coverage from the ground — stay tuned!