2024: The Art of Possible
To succeed at cybersecurity, we must go beyond ones and zeroes. Staying ahead of today’s threats and foreseeing tomorrow’s challenges requires trusting our intuition and collaborative experiences. Our collective strength lies in the bonds we build and the wisdom we share shaping a resilient and adaptable ecosystem. Embracing the power of community ignites our drive and imagination, making the impossible seem more possible. In a way, we are all artists, creating works that will bring us all closer together to shape a more secure world.
2023: Stronger Together
We are a community of many. No one goes it alone; we build on each other’s diverse knowledge to create the next breakthrough—exchanging ideas, sharing our success stories, and bravely examining our failures. With a world of evolving threats to stop and solve, only by working as a team and continually adding new perspectives will we be able to affect the kind of progress that can shape policy, establish new best practices, and ensure our defenses become more diverse, more resolute, and far more effective. When collaboration is our foundation, the future is bright. RSA Conference 2023. Stronger Together.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
— Helen Keller
As a community, we have transformed. We’ve moved from the backroom to the boardroom—from behind-the-scenes professionals focused on strengthening walls to business enablers entrusted to make game-changing decisions. The spotlight is on us. And as the world becomes more digitized, it looks to us first for protection and response. We are stronger and wiser, but we can’t stop here. The world of cybersecurity is ever-changing and there is still work to be done. Let’s continue to grow, evolve, and join forces to enable everyone to connect securely and confidently. Because together, we transform.
“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
- Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
As a community, we have different perspectives. Different roles. Different backgrounds. Each of us has something unique to bring to the table. But there is one quality we all share. Resilience. We are linked by a mission to take on cyberthreats that are, by nature, relentless. That are conceived by those who persistently attempt to steal our data, our wealth, and our peace of mind. We are also connected by world events that threaten the very foundation of our profession. We respond by searching ever deeper within ourselves to create solutions that can withstand and quickly recover from whatever adversity is thrown at us. And while there will never be a definitive chapter to our story, it is the journey itself that defines us. Because being resilient requires infinite strength. There can be no let ups. No breaks. No finish lines. Just an unending passion to evolve, adapt and do everything possible to protect the people and organizations that rely on us as their advocates. We will do more than survive. We will thrive.
2020: Human Element
With all the new technologies, strategies and artificial intelligence being employed by both security pros and threat actors, one thing remains constant: us. We are the Human Element within cybersecurity. That’s what joins us together. For some of us, it’s a higher calling that brought us to this profession. For others, it’s a gradual realization that the actions we take can affect every aspect of humanity. We’re the ones on the front lines, protecting not just data, but our most vulnerable people and every aspect of our lives—from election hacking to the weaponization of social media. We’re the ones making the hard decisions about privacy…ethics…usability…responsibility. And how to ensure doors remain open for everyone. The goal of RSA Conference is to help the industry mature while preparing individuals to grow into their roles as defenders of the world. When we recognize that cybersecurity is, fundamentally, about people protecting people, the world becomes a better, more secure place.
When it comes to cybersecurity, what defines better? New tools for building stronger walls? Sharper algorithms for predicting risk? AI and machine learning to help outsmart cybercriminals? That’s certainly part of it. Technology always has to move forward. But it’s not the only answer. Ensuring a brighter future requires all of us—everyone from the C-suite to those of us on the front lines—to be better today. To stay on top of the latest threats. To put in the extra hours. To make security a top priority. And most importantly, to never forget the fundamental reason why we’re here: to help ensure a more secure world so others can get on with the business of making it a better one. This collective desire to do more is the mission of RSA Conference. We come here to experience better solutions, brainstorm better ideas, and remind ourselves that a better, safer world is ahead when we have the drive, the strength and the vision to work together to create it.
2018: Now Matters
The Earth feels like it’s spinning faster these days. With nearly half the world’s population on the internet, information is spreading at warp speed. Our personal lives are becoming digital whether we like it or not. And cyberthreats are looming larger than ever. Solutions for these cyberthreats can’t wait for tomorrow. We need to find them today. That’s why RSA Conference is here. It’s always been our mission to advance the field of cybersecurity. But recent events have put us at center stage. Business, politics, and the entire world are hanging in the balance. And all eyes are on us. So we need to make every second count. RSA Conference 2018 is the moment to take action, and secure the world from cyberthreats. Because Now Matters.
2017: Power of Opportunity
When we remove the boundaries of what can and can’t be done, we open ourselves to new opportunities. There’s a Zen approach to learning put forth by Shunryu Suzuki that one should pursue even the most advanced study with the mindset of a beginner. “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.” When we embrace more possibilities, inspiration follows. At RSA Conference, ideas are given the opportunity to cascade and grow—like the ripple effect of tossing a single stone into the water. It’s where the best minds in the industry, from a multitude of backgrounds, come together. It’s where the stone is tossed and the emerging “what ifs” spark new ways of thinking and generate new courses to pursue. It’s where the power of opportunity takes on the challenges of the digital age.
2016: Connect to Protect
One of the major drivers of the evolution of technology has been our desire to connect with new people and new ideas. The Gutenberg Press connected the masses with the printed word. Radio delivered news and culture around the globe as it was occurring. Telephones made it possible for people miles apart to converse in real time. Now the internet links us in ways no one could have possibly imagined. While our instantly-connected world offers tremendous benefits, it also has a downside: the proliferation of malicious attackers who are constantly developing sophisticated methods to steal our data and disrupt our lives. Twenty-five years ago, RSA Conference was created so professionals could reach out to each other and collectively address growing cybersecurity threats. Today, RSA Conference promotes connections not only among the information security community, but also between IT and other parts of the enterprise, private and public sectors, and the past, present and future. Countless ideas begin here. Through knowledge sharing and collaboration, these ideas grow, forming bigger concepts that will be employed to better protect our digital world.
2015: Change: Challenge Today's Security Thinking
Enter information security. Unlike the rules of mathematics, where the foundation hasn’t changed over the course of hundreds of years, the rules of information security are constantly changing with the age of the internet and threats becoming more and more sophisticated. With so many IT professionals coming together under the same roof for RSA Conference 2015, we’ll get the change to challenge today’s security thinking about information security and its evolution over time. In addition, we’ll discover new ways to innovate, create opportunity for improvements, share insights how we, as a community and as individuals, respond to incidents, roles and responsibilities. Ultimately, through challenging the status quo of thoughts and procedures, we will come up with new ways to secure our digital future.
2014: Share. Learn. Secure.
Few, if any, transformational discoveries occur in a vacuum. They are curious amalgams—the result of dozens of observations, hundreds of perspectives, and thousands of ideas. But, it only takes one—one person, group, or company to make the connection and seize the opportunity to innovate. RSA Conference 2014 provides IT professionals and business leaders the opportunity to make connections, to capitalize on the ideas, insights, and relationships that may shape the future of information security.
2013: Security in Knowledge
The Gutenberg Printing Press. Data by itself is nothing but a collection of facts and figures, letters and numbers. However, when ignited by understanding and context, data can become so much more. In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession, completed his invention of the printing press, which sparked a revolution in the way people see and describe the world they live in. This collection of wooden and metal letters, regarded as one of the most influential inventions of the second millennium, led to the mass distribution of information and a wave of enlightenment that modernized and transformed culture. Today, we live in a digital age where the printed page is becoming obsolete. But we find ourselves amidst our own information revolution. Data has grown big and gets bigger with every digital transaction we make. It also is more accessible than ever, which leads to the questions, “how do we use, secure and share the information that surrounds us?” As we stand in the midst of the change, we look back to the time of Gutenberg to find inspiration for the future of security. Knowledge has always been power. Knowledge has always kept us one step ahead of security threats. We’ve found security in knowledge. And just as Gutenberg’s wooden and metal letters sparked the evolution of culture, at RSA Conference 2013, we bring our security insights and perspectives together to ignite the mass of information that surrounds us.
2012: The Great Cipher Mightier Than the Sword
In 17th century France, a religious war raged between the ruling Roman Catholic French and the French Protestants, known as the Huguenots. After intercepting an encrypted letter from the Huguenots to their allies, the Catholics turned to mathematician Antoine Rossignol for help deciphering the message. The information in that letter led to the Catholics’ defeat of the Huguenots and earned Rossignol, along with his son, Bonaventure, the positions of chief cryptographers for the French Court. Under Louis XIV, the Rossignols developed the Great Cipher and ran the Cabinet noir (Black Chamber). Upon their deaths, the Great Cipher’s key was lost and it remained indecipherable for two centuries.
2011: The Adventures of Alice & Bob
Ron Rivest used fictitious placeholder names to explain the RSA encryption method and the many steps involved in the complex system. Alice & Bob were born to make the subject matter easier to grasp—replacing Person A and Person B. Bruce Schneier, author of Applied Cryptography and another forefather of information security, introduced a host of other characters to make technical topics more understandable. This cast of friends and enemies—including Eve the Eavesdropper, Mallory the Malicious Attacker and Walter the Warden, among others–populate Alice & Bob's universe and evolved into common parlance in cryptography and computer security.
2010: The Rosetta Stone
Mysterious hieroglyphs line ancient Egyptian tomb walls, leading the Pharaohs to the afterlife. For thousands of years, their meaning remained shrouded in secrecy, the ability to decode the complex writing lost to time. In 1799, the chance discovery of a large, badly damaged stele—known as the Rosetta Stone along the Nile delta changed everything. For more than two decades, the greatest minds in the scientific and intellectual communities compared the 14 lines Hieroglyphic, 32 lines Demotic, and 54 lines ancient Greek on the stone, sharing insights and building on each other’s work. The big breakthrough came in 1822 with the realization that each hieroglyph could represent a sound or concept, depending on context. The Rosetta Stone’s message was no longer veiled by obscurity—the ancients’ marks could be deciphered and the doors opened to modern Egyptology.
2009: Edgar Allen Poe
Poe was fascinated by cryptography, which he often treated in his journalism and fiction. He concealed anagrams and hidden messages in his own poems. His famous story—The Gold Bug—centers on the solution of a cipher, which turns out to be a map to hidden private treasure. In 1839, Poe conducted his own cryptographic challenge. Writing in Alexander's Weekly Messenger, Poe challenged his readers to submit their cryptographs to him, asserting that he would solve them all. A year later Poe wrote an article for Graham's Magazine titled "A Few Words on Secret Writing". In it, he offered to give a free subscription to the magazine to anyone who would send him a cipher he could not crack. Poe ended the contest six months later, claiming to have solved all of the 100 ciphers sent to him. He concluded by publishing two ciphers ostensibly sent in by Mr. W. B. Tyler, praising their author as a "gentleman whose abilities we highly respect" and challenging readers to solve them. There, the ciphers remained until 1985 when Professor Louis Renza of Dartmouth College suggested that Tyler was actually a double for Poe himself. Renza's theory was later elaborated by Shawn Rosenheim in his book The Cryptographic Imagination: Secret Writing from Edgar Allan Poe to the Internet. In it, Rosenheim points to the likelihood that the ciphers were placed in the magazine by Poe himself as a final challenge to his readers.
2008: Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing (1912-1954) was a British cryptographer, mathematician, logician, philosopher and biologist. Experts and historians agree that Alan Turing had a deeper understanding of the vast potential of computer science than anyone in his era, and is often considered the father of modern computer science. During World War II, Turing was part of the team of scientists working at Britain's Bletchley Park Government and Cipher School and responsible for building the Bombe, a complex electromechanical machine designed to decipher secret codes and transmissions. The Bombe was the starting point for Turing to develop more advanced computer prototypes throughout his career. His most recognized invention, the Universal Machine (or Turing Machine), was a flashpoint in the evolution of computers because it read a series of "ones and zeroes" from a paper tape, then triggered the steps required to perform automated tasks. His work inspired the ACM A.M. Turing Award, which is widely considered to be the computing world's equivalent to the Nobel Prize. Turing also explored the relationship between machines and living organisms, opening the door to Artificial Intelligence.
2007: Leon Battista Alberti
Leon Battista Alberti was an illustrious mind of the Renaissance period whose scientific and cultural influence surpassed his brief life span. A painter, poet, philosopher, musician, architect and "Father of Western Cryptology", Alberti invented the first published polyalphabetic cipher in 1466. His cipher disk contained two alphabets, one on a fixed outer ring, and the other on a rotating disk, and is the cipher design to which most of today's systems of cryptography belong: polyalphabetic substitution. Alberti's polyalphabetic cipher was, at least in principle, the most significant advance in cryptography since Julius Caesar's time and marked a great stride forward in cryptology.
2006: Modern Codes in Ancient Sutras
In 499 CE, in Kusumpura, capital of the Gupta Empire in classical India, a young mathematician named Aryabhatta published an astronomical treatise written in 118 Sanskrit verses. A student of the Vedic mathematics tradition that had slowly emerged in India between 1500 and 900 BC, Aryabhatta, only 23, intended merely to give a summary of Vedic mathematics up to his time. But his slender volume, the Aaryabhat.iiya, was to become one of the most brilliant achievements in the history of mathematics, with far-ranging implications in the East and West. Aryabhatta correctly determined the axial rotation of the earth. He inferred that planetary orbits were elliptical, and provided a valid explanation of solar and lunar eclipses. His theory of the relativity of motion predated Einstein's by 1400 years. And his studies in algebra and trigonometry, which laid the foundations for calculus, influenced European mathematicians 1,000 years later, when his texts were translated into European languages from the 8th century Arabic translations of the Sanskrit originals.
2005: Codes of Prohibition: Rumrunners and Elizabeth Friedman
By the late 1920s, Prohibition-era America's thirst for illegal booze had turned small-time Chicago hoodlum Al Capone into a criminal czar. Fighting these precursors of the Mafia and Cosa Nostra involved the labors of many federal agencies including a team of federal cryptanalysts, led by Elizabeth Smith Friedman. Friedman applied sensitive analytic tests that developed traces of plaintext. Her skills became indispensable to the Coast Guard when syndicates smuggling in spirits from the Pacific and Atlantic began to rely on offshore fleets controlled by radio transmitters. Friedman and her team deciphered messages seized in a 1931 raid on Consolidated Exporters Incorporated in New Orleans. The plaintext versions of these messages led a grand jury to indict 35 rumrunners, including the ringleader, on federal conspiracy charges. Six bosses and smugglers were convicted and sentenced to prison terms. The culture of mobsters and speakeasies was dealt a serious blow.
2004: Chinese Remainder Theorem
During the 13th century, a patriotic poet, musician, archer, and student of calendrical computation and mathematics named Ch'in Chiu-Shao joined the military to defend his homeland. Like many of his countrymen, he endured years of hardship on the frontier, guarding China from Genghis Khan and invading Mongols. He often escaped the misery of warfare by amusing himself with numbers. In particular, he pondered the Remainder Theorem developed in the late third century by the scholar Sun Zi. Ch'in realized that the Remainder Theorem could be used not only to count large numbers, but to conceal them as well. Thanks to Ch'in's labors and others after him, the Chinese Remainder Theorem has become a cornerstone of modern public key cryptography.
2003: The Secrets of the Maya
Originating in the Yucatan around 2600 B.C., the Maya rose to prominence around A.D. 250 in what is now present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, El Salvador, and northern Belize. Of the many pre-Columbian civilizations in the western hemisphere, the Maya civilization alone developed a writing system that provided a complete expression of their language. Thus they are the only indigenous people of the Americas with a written history. Mayan hieroglyphs were a full writing system, meaning that it was, above all, phonetic. Scribes constantly had to choose among the large repertoire of signs (some 800 in all) when composing their texts. While only four of their folding bark books survived the fanatical purges of the Spanish priests—who regarded the symbolic writing as the work of the devil—their writing in stucco, stone and pottery remain. At present, only 60-70% of the Maya inscriptions can be read with a reasonable degree of accuracy. This has happened principally as the result of an ever-increasing refinement in our understanding of the ornate Maya script, as well as better accuracy in the reconstruction of the Mayan language of the inscriptions from its modern descendants.
2002: Mary, Queen of Scots
In 1586, Mary Queen of Scots was on trial for treason, accused of plotting to assassinate her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, to claim the English crown for herself. Catholic factions had schemed more than once to seat Mary on the throne of England and restore the realm to the Church. Mary carefully ensured that all her correspondence with the conspirators had been written in a secret cipher that transformed her words into meaningless symbols. Unfortunately for Mary, Elizabeth's spies succeeded in deducing the secret code by reading numerous coded messages, guessing their contents, and systematically testing the guesses by trying to decode other messages. Although Elizabeth's agents didn't break Mary's entire code, they gleaned enough to identify and arrest the plotters, and condemn Mary to death.
2001: Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to leave the solar system, and is currently the most remote object made by man, over seven billion miles from Earth. Heading towards the constellation Taurus, it will take Pioneer two million years to cross the gulf between the starts. The craft bears a greeting card from humanity with a return address: a map showing the position of our solar system relative to 14 prominent pulsars and the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. How could we possibly decipher a message from beings whose very modes of consciousness might be completely unlike our own? Ever since Frank Drake first aimed his 85-foot radio telescope at Tau Ceti on April 8, 1960, the science of cryptology has played an important role in the formulation of strategies for interpreting such a message.
2000: Ancient Greece/Fall of Troy
" . . . as soon as news reached him at Susa that Xerxes had decided upon the invasion of Greece, he felt that he must pass on the information to Sparta. As the danger of discovery was great, there was only one way in which he could contrive to get the message through—this was by scraping the wax off a pair of wooden folding tablets, writing on the wood underneath what Xerxes intended to do, and then covering the message over with wax again. In this way the tablets, being apparently blank, would cause no trouble with the guards along the road. When the message reached its destination, no one was able to guess the secret until, as I understand, Cleomenes' daughter Gorgo (who was the wife of Leonidas) discovered it and told the others . . . This was done, the message was revealed and read, and afterwards passed on to the other Greeks . . ."
1999: Norse/Viking Runestones
In the ninth century, Scandinavians developed two 16-rune "futharks", or alphabets, whose ease of use and wide acceptance caused a surge in literacy in the ancient Viking world. It is during this age of innovation that the Rok Stone (Rokstenen) of Ostergotland, Sweden, was created. Its inceptions are in verse form, in the potent language of sorcery, highly wrought and sometimes archaically obscure, dramatically portraying the magico-mythical characters of Viking sagas. More interesting to cryptographers is the fact that much of the writing is encrypted—and in several different ciphers. Among the records that survive, it is apparent that Vikings were much more likely to encrypt religious or memorial texts rather than military ones. Academics still argue over why.
1998: 16th Century Monk, Trithemius and His Book Polygraphia
In 1518, a Benedictine monk named Johannes Trithemius wrote Polygraphiae, the first published treatise on cryptography. Later, his text Steganophraphia described a cipher in which each letter is represented by words in successive columns of text, designed to hide inconspicuously inside a seemingly pious book of prayer. Polygraphiae and Steganophraphia attracted a considerable amount of attention not only for their meticulous analysis of ciphers but more notably for the unexpected thesis of Steganographia's third and final section, which claimed that messages communicated secretly were aided in their transmission by a host of summoned spirits. As might be expected, Trithemius's works were widely denounced as having magical content (a familiar theme in cryptographic history) and a century later fell victim to the zealous flames of the Inquisition when they were banned as heretical sorcery.
1997: Cher Ami, Carrier Pigeon
During World War I, the Army Signal Corps used 600 pigeons to pass messages over difficult terrain where wire communications were impossible. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in Verdun that ultimately ended the war, hundreds of messages were sent via these pigeons. One of the most famous was Cher Ami who served on the front lines in 1918, flying twelve missions. The most important and last mission of Cher Ami was on October 4, 1918, when Major Whittlesey and more than 200 of his remaining men were trapped by enemy soldiers. The American Artillery did not know their exact position and was actually engaged in friendly fire. Cher Ami, the only pigeon left, carried a note indicating where they were located and a request to stop the artillery barrage. The Germans opened fire on the pigeon but he managed to fly the 25 miles in 25 minutes. When Cher Ami reached his destination he had been blinded in one eye, and a bullet had almost severed the leg carrying his message. The medics saved his life but could not save his leg. Cher Ami was given a French medal of honor and even received a wooden leg from his American division.
1996: WWII Navaho Codetalkers
The Navaho language is so difficult to learn and its linguistics are so complex that it is virtually impossible for a non-native speaker to counterfeit its sounds. Furthermore, Navaho seems to have no linguistic connections to any other Asian or European language. Consequently, at any given time, there are only a few thousand people capable of speaking the language. For these reasons, the U.S. military made extensive use of hundreds of Native American "codetalkers" during World War II, relaying operational orders in the Pacific theatre with a level of security that was unattainable by current encryption algorithms. The signal corps' liberal mix-in of Navaho and military slang resulted in a communications network so secure that it was never compromised by the Axis powers.
1995: Egyptian Scarab Seals
Eternal Life was the fascination of the Egyptians, as evidenced by the fantastic pyramids and elaborate tombs they left as legacies of their great society. Because they saw the scarab, or beetle, only in its adult form, they worshipped it as immortal, a symbol of eternity. Their seals were scarab-shaped and impressions "signed" the clay and papyrus business documents of 4,000 years ago. Consequently, the scarab seal had a powerful symbolic, as well as legal, significance as to the permanence of a contract.