Encryption is probably one of the first tech topics people think of when they think about RSA Conference. And with good reason: the name RSA itself is an acronym created from the last names of the three cryptographers (Rivest, Shamir, Adleman) responsible for developing one of the first public-key cryptosystems back in 1977.

Keeping to its crypto roots, RSAC devotes an entire track to the latest research and study in the field of cryptography. The Cryptography track is complemented by the Applied Crypto & Blockchain track—one that’s designed to help architects, admins and security operations teams deploy and manage their current solutions. What would make the biggest impact for this audience? Which talks will add the most value for practitioners? These were the questions Saurabh Shintre and I asked as we read through the vast number of fantastic submissions to make the picks for the final track.

We learned some interesting lessons along the way.

  1. Blockchain & Quantum Hype Are Quieting Down Last year, the submissions were heavily weighted towards some pretty heady future think about the “art of the possible” with Blockchain and Quantum crypto. The submissions this year leaned much more towards the “art of the real.” But that doesn’t mean real can’t be fun. One of our favorite submissions included the use of cartoons to explain post-quantum crypto. On the very practical side for Blockchain, we saw offerings that addressed blockchain-based voting and others that looked at the bigger question of distributed trust.
  2. Privacy Matters – Another big change since last year is the increase in focus on privacy vs. surveillance. Crypto can be at odds with corporate and government desires to monitor everything. On the other hand, it’s hard to protect what you can’t see. There’s no one simple, right answer to how much is too much. We know this issue has a myriad of impacts on practitioners, so we selected talks that looked at the problem from a few different angles, including sessions that will look at the importance of decryption in security operations, the global push to ban end-to-end encryption as well as how to preserve privacy in our data-driven world.
  3. The Devil’s in the Applied Crypto Details – If you’re an implementer, you know one thing to be true: deployments almost never go as planned. Like a contractor working on an old house who finds black mold and rot in the walls, nasty implementation surprises abound in the applied crypto and blockchain deployments. We picked talks to help address deployment concerns and provide lessons from those who’ve “been there, done that,” especially when it comes to scaling complex key management programs.
  4. There’s Always More to Learn – That’s why we go to conferences in the first place, right? Security professionals use encryption every day, but not everyone knows the nitty-gritty details of how the underlying tech works, especially when it comes to newer implementations and misuse cases. To help round out the lessons and insights, we picked talks to cover fraud in EV certificates, entropy and new industry standards.

What trends are you seeing? Are you as excited to hear these talks as we are? What other topics would you like to see covered at upcoming conferences? We look forward to seeing you at RSAC US in February!