May 29, 2024 Key Takeaways from the 2024 RSA Conference

by Martin Magida

Berkery Noyes made our annual trip to the RSA Conference earlier this month. The conference continues to represent the enterprise information security industry and brings together the industry’s leading companies and cutting-edge innovators. This year’s RSA conference enjoyed pre-Covid levels of attendance with approximately 45,000 attendees learning about the latest technology and practices to combat ever-present attacks.  Below are a few takeaways we gleaned from the conference:

  • Identity-based attacks account for 80% of breaches
    • Phishing, poorly managed privileges, stolen credentials, social engineering (relies on human error to give access to systems or networks) are the soft underbelly that bad actors exploit
    • Continuous training and monitoring of personnel and better housekeeping on closing out former employees are recognized as essential to mitigating identity risk

  • Platformization
    • A recent emphasis on ‘platformization’ highlights the necessity for cohesive, cloud-native security solutions to ensure seamless integration and scalability
    • New companies that are born on the cloud (e.g., Wiz) are seeking to replicate the platform approach of on-premise vendors by rapidly consolidating complementary cloud solutions

  • Critical infrastructure
    • Most countries are enacting regulations on critical infrastructure (which encompasses 16 sectors such as communications, power, transportation, and water), especially with regard to privacy and AI
    • Practitioners say the regulators need to guard against being heavy handed and be mindful of the practical limitations of implementing safeguards

  • Customers want more value for the $ they are spending
    • Much of the cybersecurity toolset used by companies was purchased as a rushed reaction to a breach or board mandate. As a result, CISOs and CIOs are faced with (i) ‘tool sprawl’ that is increasingly difficult to manage and (ii) solutions that did not live up to their promise.  While security budgets seem to be holding steady, decision makers are revisiting their spend. Large consolidators like Palo Alto Networks have responded to this scrutiny by offering additional tools at no cost to their customers.

  • AI is making bad actors faster
    • There is particular concern around the use of AI to create new and novel malware to bypass existing security stacks and tooling. Attackers can use AI tools to create new pieces of zero-day malware daily. This calls for tools that can detect it at the point and time of attack, and where the attack actually takes place.
    • Ransomware can now be built in 15 minutes using AI
    • Out of some 2400 AI applications that have been developed, 500 are considered ‘high risk’

  • Mobile devices and mobile apps are (finally) gaining attention. We say finally because while we have always felt that the size of the mobile attack surface and the placement of BYOD devices ‘in the wild’ presented a significant risk, virtually all vendors we spoke with over the past few years ranked mobile app security well below other threats. When employees are using a single device for their personal/consumer apps as well as for work, it is not surprising that companies are beginning to ask how they can protect their devices from third-party app risks.

  • Another evolution we heard about is an increased appreciation on the part of investors for secure hardware. While investors are still smitten with the asset-light, recurring revenue model that software presents, there is growing recognition that eventually the software works on hardware. Migration from on-premise to the cloud, management of cryptographic keys, and protection against firmware attacks all require enhanced hardware solutions. Because hardware can provide tamper-resistant protection that is difficult to achieve with software alone, industries that are heavily regulated, such as finance, healthcare and government, require hardware security measures to protect sensitive information.

In general, there was a positive tone to the conference, with a surprising number of first time exhibitors, signifying that, notwithstanding a tougher financing environment, innovation continues to define the sector.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss these findings in further depth.  Berkery Noyes specializes in creating options for our clients as they consider the best way to maximize value. If your capital needs currently or will exceed $10 million, or you are beginning to consider strategic options, let me know if you have an interest in exploring the paths to growth that may be available to you.