As the biggest IT security show in the industry celebrated its 25th year, RSA 2016 attracted a record number of more than 40,000 attendees.  And while this is very impressive, a majority of the companies exhibiting at RSA offer the exact same thing. In essence, they are all offering some type of protection against cybersecurity threats and many of these solutions are very similar in nature.

Overall, I found the content of the sessions I attended to be relatively weak in substance, but there were no shortage of new product announcements from vendors and there were some common themes throughout the show that are worth noting.  Here are a few of my observations from this year’s show:

Focus on Endpoint Protection

The focus of the show has shifted away from anti-virus and firewalls. Firewalls have reached their limit and hackers know how to break them. Anti-virus is like a cat and mouse game with vendors continually updating software to keep up with the latest viruses being created. Now, the focus at RSA and what everyone in the IT security industry is talking about, is “endpoint protection.” What this really means is device protection, including virtual devices. Threat management has gone from physical to any kind of device and the big area of concern is no longer the threat to files, but threats at the network layer instead. There are holistic algorithms that look at network traffic anomalies and kick detection software into gear. And, there was a lot of focus at RSA around data visualization so companies could see where attacks were happening on their networks.

Growing Confidence in Cloud Security

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) had a big presence at the show. According to this Dark Reading article, the CSA reports that “enterprises have overwhelmingly begun adopting the whole gamut of available cloud service delivery models including software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, security-as-a-service, identity-as-a service and data as service. However, managing security and compliance of these disparate cloud services continues to be a challenge for enterprises that is exacerbated by the inconsistent quality of the security controls offered by cloud vendors.”

Despite these challenges, CSA found that nearly 65 percent of some 200 IT and security professionals surveyed expressed confidence in cloud security vendors offering as good or better security than on-premises security controls.

Shortage of Skilled IT Security Workers Continues

In his RSA keynote speech, Christopher Young, Intel Security Group’s senior vice president and general manager, talked about the shortage of skilled workers. He pointed out that 10 years ago, security firms faced roughly 25 new threats each day. Today that number is more than 500,000. With this exponential growth in daily cybersecurity threats, there is a need for more skilled IT professionals to prevent and protect against them. According to ESG research, 46% of organizations claim to have a “problematic shortage” of cybersecurity skills. And of all cybersecurity skills, 33% of organizations say that their biggest deficiency is in cloud security skills. I heard this a lot throughout the show and it is something the industry has been talking about for quite some time. Clearly there is an opportunity here to focus on education and training by security vendors and the tech industry at large especially as cloud adoption in the enterprise continues.

Governance/ Compliance an Afterthought

I was surprised to see very little focus on compliance and governance with the exception of a few companies that were offering privileged access management solutions at the show. The policy/control side of cybersecurity was over shadowed by threat protection solutions. One reason for this could be that if IT budgets are limited, more companies will invest in anti-virus software first. A few years from now we could see more packaged solutions that combine anti-virus software with access management and access control.

I found that only a small percentage of the companies at RSA were talking about managing network threat protection — in the cloud or in-house – from one IT infrastructure. One way companies can reduce the risk profile for what they are deploying in the cloud and at the same time simplify the management of it all is via cloud automation.

Cloud automation and management technologies can provide enterprises with a way to deliver the value of cloud without sacrificing visibility, and compliance with security, cost and operational best practices. And, instead of hiring dozens of people to continually monitor and respond to their cloud infrastructure, these technologies can sense and respond in real time to known security issues and save enterprises precious time and resources.

Given the current shortage of skilled workers, this could ease the burden on companies looking to move more applications into the cloud. I think we’ll see more of this approach when it comes to cloud security in the near future.

For more on this topic, check out this Cloud Sprawl webinar with former Chief Information Security Officer of the CIA Bob Bigman, “Securing the Cloud – How Cloud Adoption Impacts the Enterprise.”

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