Oct 27, 2009

RSA Conference Europe 2009

I attended RSA Conference Europe 2009 in London the other week, where I gave a presentation on something I blogged about before (combining ePassports and Information Card, a project sponsored by NLnet). My talk was scheduled for the very last slot on the very last day, which means I had plenty of time to go and listen to the other talks. Some of my impressions are below.

I checked out the booths of the conference's sponsors and noticed a relative large number of authentication factor vendors (G&D, Kobil, smspasscode.com) and of course the big guys (RSA Security, Microsoft, Qualys, CA).

As for the presentations, there were at least 4 different tracks, and all talks had catchy titles. Very difficult to choose from. There were a lot of "securing the cloud" talks. I've heard people claim that 'cloud==deperimeterization'. Others claim that 'cloud==virtualization', and yet others claim that 'cloud==SaaS', and even 'cloud==social networks'. Most of the talks dealt with managing the risks of enterprise cloud computing (sharing resources is risky, you'll need good SLA contracts for that). I especially liked the Collateral Hacking panel session which focused on the risk presented by totally unrelated parties you happen to share services with.

There were a few hacking-presentations. I really enjoyed Björn Brolin and Marcus Murray's Breaking the Windows driver signing model. Great live reversing demo. Bottom line: Running an anti-virus suite with badly engineered (yet Microsoft signed) kernel drivers can actually render your PC less secure from malware.

Talking about anti-virus software vendors. Both McAfee's Anthony Bettini's and Kaspersky labs' Stefan Tanase's presentation focused on threats from social networks (personalized spam, Twitter based C&C, targeted attacks based on synchronization between personal and enterprise information). Anthony had the best sound-bites IMHO: 'open-sourcing one's life', 'keep your enemies closer'. Stefan showed a glimpse of crawler based technology that Kaspersky's R&D team in Romania is working on.

More targeted social network threats came from Brian Honan who introduced the audience to some of the tools of the trade, notable pipl.com and Maltego. Interestingly, in Ireland, anyone can request everyone else's birth certificate (apparently for reasons of genealogical research), and the only thing needed to request a driver's license or passport in Ireland is a birth certificate.

Microsoft's keynote was delivered by Amy Barzdukas. She made some valid points about the perception of privacy and security by the average computer user. The FUD (initially directed at Google: Chrome's auto-completing address bar will send packets to Google, OMG, better stick with IE8) was a little too much for my taste. They're going to make it more difficult to download and install third party software through IE because of the fake virus scanner scams.

The keynote by special agent Mularski of the FBI and Andy Auld of SOCA about the Russian Business Network was so secret that I cannot blog about it. The keynote by Dave Hansen of CA on content-aware extensions of RBAC was pretty interesting and included another secret agent.

Andrew Nash of PayPal gave an insightful presentation on the consumer identity bootstrap problem. After explained the clever big bang/steady state analogy he showed just how big the problem is. What's the most important feature an Identity Provider should offer to its users? Right. Anonymity. The other PayPal presentation was by Hadi Nahari who put forward some requirements (or rather, desirements) for identity in mobile computing. It appears that PayPal is trying to get some of these ideas into the Global Platform specifications.

Ira Winkler went on a one-hour rant over the use of the term information warfare. Funny stuff, except for the one Estonian guy in the audience.


  1. Pls ignore. Just checking if OpenID comments is enabled. ;)

  2. Again, pls ignore. Just checking if OpenID with delegation comments work. ;)