I will be attending the RSA conference in San Francisco this upcoming week, along with my Fortune colleagues Jeff John Roberts and Jonathan Vanian.
The security event, which started as a colloquy for cryptographers in 1991, has since mushroomed into a vendor bonanza. Seemingly timed to extend the advertising frenzy of this year’s Super Bowl by another week, the conference will provide marketers the opportunity to swipe badges, to eke out s.w.a.g., and to court the basest emotions of our lizard brains. The perennial unspoken theme: FUD—or fear, uncertainty, and doubt—a trifecta universally embraced by salespeople, especially ones in cybersecurity.
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If I had to guess which phrases will be on the tips of everyone’s tongues at this year’s confab, there’s little doubt in my mind: machine learning and artificial intelligence. A shortage of digital defense talent and a surge in computer-based attacks have created the perfect conditions for automated threat-blocking to thrive. (At least in theory; whether the technology lives up to people’s claims is another question.) Successfully brandished to great effect in the promos of upstarts, such as the showroom-stealing antivirus supplanter Cylance, those two alluring letters, A.I., now decorate the security catalogs of innovation-thirsty incumbents, like Symantec (SYMC) and IBM (IBM). Expect more companies to join the trend.
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Given all the pitches we’ll be forced to endure, I hope you will forgive the inclusion of my own. Below is the plug for a fireside chat I’ll be hosting with former Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan’s eighth district, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee from 2011 to 2015. We’ll be talking about hacking, international affairs, and the elusive diplomatic ideal of deterrence. Per the teaser:
Security’s leading role on the geopolitical spectrum is unprecedented. Interpretations of nation-state hacking, meddling and influence have given way to foreign policy movements and sanctions. Is it really a brave new world, with treasure troves of hacked data lying in wait to deploy systematically for reputational damage and blackmail…or is it all just more transparent?
Tantalizing, no? If you’re attending the conference, I invite you to drop by the session at 2:45 P.M. Pacific Time on Thursday. Come say hi. (No machines here—only human learning, I promise.)