#RSAC: Opening Keynote: RSA CTO & Michael Dell Declare Technical Chaos an Opportunity

The opening keynote at RSA Conference 2017 San Francisco was presented by Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan, CTO at RSA Security. He was later joined on stage by Michael Dell.

Ramzan presented on the need for business-driven security and the challenges and opportunities that chaos present.

As an example of chaos, Ramzan referred to the technological impact on the 2016 US presidential election. “Did it change the course of the US presidential election? Who knows, but it changed the discourse of what followed. It was mainstream front-page news and rocked the foundations of democracy. It demonstrated that our problem isn’t limited to initial cyber-attacks. More, it’s the long tail of chaos it creates.”

“Ambitious enterprise is truly a joint venture between business and security—they need to be on the same side of the room,” he said. “It’s important to innovate, advance, and draw lines that connect, not lines that separate.”

Organizations need business-driven security leaders, he said, because innovation invites exploitation. His three pieces of advice for taming the chaos “that is woven into the fabric of life in business, government and nature” were:

  1. Treat risk as a science, not a dark art. “Think things through all the way to the end and ask yourself ‘what if?’”
  2. Simplify what you control. “I spoke to a vendor who has 84 vendors. How do you manage so many vendors and justify the ROI from so many? Consolidate your vendors. Work out what works and ditch everyone else.”
  3. Plan for the chaos you can’t control.  “Incident response must have availability, budget and collaboration. Incident response isn’t a wish list. There will be unexpected costs, so get the budget authority. Without it, incident response will fail.”

“In chaos, we find amazing opportunities to adapt, learn and grow,” explained Ramzan. “To find them, we must turn to each other for clarity, advice and inspiration. That’s why this conference was created. So ask yourself the hard questions: Do you believe in making the world safer? What are we going to do? What ripple will we create? Do we believe in collaboration across public and private sectors? Do we believe in the power of diversity? We can’t continue to alienate over half the population because of gender or race.”  

Ramzan’s personal goal is to “make the world safer through technology. Coming to RSA gives me hope—to connect with and learn from amazing people who are tackling some of the most important challenges of our time.”

Michael Dell added that “Security is now the number one issue that plagues businesses and boards, concerned about the complexity of their security posture and how to manage risk.”

“It’s a truly amazing time in our industry. IT is becoming ‘BT’—business technology. There is a lot of optimism about 2017. For the first time, the global economy was not one of the top five concerns. The thirst for digital transformation and investment is following, and it presents the opportunity to tremendously change all sectors of society, but it has to be done securely,” he concluded.

RSA Conference expects to welcome 40,000 people to its event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

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