InfoSec 2008: Key takeaways from Europe's biggest security event

Thomas RaschkeInfosecurity Europe is the continent's premier dedicated information security event. InfoSec, held the 22nd-24th of April at London's Grand Hall, Olympia, saw some 300 security vendors exhibiting and more than 12,500 security folks visiting. Next year will be at the bigger Earls Court. Last year had fewer attendees, but the benefit of a clear key topic: data security.

So, what was the buzz about this time around? Well, for starters there was no single topic that stood out, but instead InfoSec 2008 was a complex smorgasbord of all past and present security and risk management themes. Certainly, deperimeterization, endpoint protection, data-driven security, and compliance strategies were very visible, but at the same time many network security solutions and antivirus stuff were pushed heavily. Some of the traditional security heavyweights were, you guessed it, widely visible and audible and included the likes of McAfee, Sophos, Kaspersky, Juniper Networks, etc.

Many of the attendees and vendor representatives I talked to seemed to echo the notion that the dynamics of the market are changing. As security managers are overwhelmed by complexity and the daily grind of updating, patching, and fixing holes - many tend to retreat to something of a "wait and see" mode. Yet people begin to acknowledge that technology driven, perimeter-based security is largely a thing of the past and either gets operationalized or outsourced. Most people in the industry begin to see the early contours of a new security and risk paradigm. Visionary folks see this promised land of information security and risk management being in the green valley of business-driven risk management, where data, identity, policy, and compliance are crucial cities (elements).

Which of these cities (elements) will be biggest and most important almost entirely depends on where you are coming from as a vendor and what your primary differentiator is in the marketplace (nothing new here...). Sure, we will see more unified solutions and suites that contain most established security features. Sure, we will have small start-ups addressing the latest threats and more tricky challenges - and then we will see the vendor Darwinism that we are accustomed to.

But for security professionals a key challenge lies in understanding that there is a paradigm shift happening outside of the technology/vendor realm which will require out-of-the-box thinking for many of us. There are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself, though: First off, take a crash course in business speak (as opposed to the tech talk we are all accustomed to), secondly, get your corporate ducks in a row by forming alliances and partnerships with other departments (e.g. legal, HR, key business lines) that you haven't worked with on a regular basis before; third: articulate the business benefits of addressing new security challenges (and be easy on the scare tactics here), and finally introduce technology not as the be-all-end-all but rather as the linking layer between people and processes which are what matter most in any organization. If you then learn how to demonstrate that a new data security product or a fresh start on identity management is going to help your company add to the bottom line - then you are on the right track to the nirvana of security and risk management.

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