Stronger together: Highlights from RSA Conference 2023
RSA Conference 2023 brought thousands of cybersecurity professionals to the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California from April 24 through 27.
The keynote lineup was eclectic, with more than 30 presentations across two stages featuring speakers ranging from renowned theoretical physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku to Grammy-winning musician Chris Stapleton. Topics aligned with this year’s conference theme, “Stronger Together,” and focused on actions that can be taken by everyone, from the C-suite to those of us on the front lines of security, to strengthen collaboration, establish new best practices, and make our defenses more diverse and effective.
With over 400 sessions and 500 exhibitors discussing the latest trends and technologies, it’s impossible to recap every highlight. Now that the dust has settled and we’ve had time to reflect, here’s a glimpse of what caught our attention.
We announced three new capabilities for our Amazon GuardDuty threat detection service to help customers secure container, database, and serverless workloads. These include GuardDuty Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) Runtime Monitoring, GuardDuty RDS Protection for data stored in Amazon Aurora, and GuardDuty Lambda Protection for serverless applications. The new capabilities are designed to provide actionable, contextual, and timely security findings with resource-specific details.
It was hard to find a single keynote, session, or conversation that didn’t touch on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI).
In “AI: Law, Policy and Common Sense Suggestions on How to Stay Out of Trouble,” privacy and gaming attorney Behnam Dayanim highlighted ambiguity around the definition of AI. Referencing a quote from University of Washington School of Law’s Ryan Calo, Dayanim pointed out that AI may be best described as “…a set of techniques aimed at approximating some aspect of cognition,” and should therefore be thought of differently than a discrete “thing” or industry sector.
Dayanim noted examples of skepticism around the benefits of AI. A recent Monmouth University poll, for example, found that 73% of Americans believe AI will make jobs less available and harm the economy, and a surprising 55% believe AI may one day threaten humanity’s existence.
Equally skeptical, he noted, is a joint statement made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and three other federal agencies during the conference reminding the public that enforcement authority applies to AI. The statement takes a pessimistic view, saying that AI is “…often advertised as providing insights and breakthroughs, increasing efficiencies and cost-savings, and modernizing existing practices,” but has the potential to produce negative outcomes.
Dayanim covered existing and upcoming legal frameworks around the world that are aimed at addressing AI-related risks related to intellectual property (IP), misinformation, and bias, and how organizations can design AI governance mechanisms to promote fairness, competence, transparency, and accountability.
Many other discussions focused on the immense potential of AI to automate and improve security practices. RSA Security CEO Rohit Ghai explored the intersection of progress in AI with human identity in his keynote. “Access management and identity management are now table stakes features”, he said. In the AI era, we need an identity security solution that will secure the entire identity lifecycle—not just access. To be successful, he believes, the next generation of identity technology needs to be powered by AI, open and integrated at the data layer, and pursue a security-first approach. “Without good AI,” he said, “zero trust has zero chance.”
Mark Ryland, director at the Office of the CISO at AWS, spoke with Infosecurity about improving threat detection with generative AI.
“We’re very focused on meaningful data and minimizing false positives. And the only way to do that effectively is with machine learning (ML), so that’s been a core part of our security services,” he noted.
We recently announced several new innovations—including Amazon Bedrock, the Amazon Titan foundation model, the general availability of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Trn1n instances powered by AWS Trainium, Amazon EC2 Inf2 instances powered by AWS Inferentia2, and the general availability of Amazon CodeWhisperer—that will make it practical for customers to use generative AI in their businesses.
|“Machine learning and artificial intelligence will add a critical layer of automation to cloud security. AI/ML will help augment developers’ workstreams, helping them create more reliable code and drive continuous security improvement. — CJ Moses, CISO and VP of security engineering at AWS|
The human element
Dozens of sessions focused on the human element of security, with topics ranging from the psychology of DevSecOps to the NIST Phish Scale. In “How to Create a Breach-Deterrent Culture of Cybersecurity, from Board Down,” Andrzej Cetnarski, founder, chairman, and CEO of Cyber Nation Central and Marcus Sachs, deputy director for research at Auburn University, made a data-driven case for CEOs, boards, and business leaders to set a tone of security in their organizations, so they can address “cyber insecure behaviors that lead to social engineering” and keep up with the pace of cybercrime.
Lisa Plaggemier, executive director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance, and Jenny Brinkley, director of Amazon Security, stressed the importance of compelling security awareness training in “Engagement Through Entertainment: How To Make Security Behaviors Stick.” Education is critical to building a strong security posture, but as Plaggemier and Brinkley pointed out, we’re “living through an epidemic of boringness” in cybersecurity training.
According to a recent report, just 28% of employees say security awareness training is engaging, and only 36% say they pay full attention during such training.
Citing a United Airlines preflight safety video and Amazon’s Protect and Connect public service announcement (PSA) as examples, they emphasized the need to make emotional connections with users through humor and unexpected elements in order to create memorable training that drives behavioral change.
Plaggemeier and Brinkley detailed five actionable steps for security teams to improve their awareness training:
- Brainstorm with staff throughout the company (not just the security people)
- Find ideas and inspiration from everywhere else (TV episodes, movies… anywhere but existing security training)
- Be relatable, and include insights that are relevant to your company and teams
- Start small; you don’t need a large budget to add interest to your training
- Don’t let naysayers deter you — change often prompts resistance
|“You’ve got to make people care. And so you’ve got to find out what their personal motivators are, and how to develop the type of content that can make them care to click through the training and…remember things as they’re walking through an office.” — Jenny Brinkley, director of Amazon Security|
Cloud security was another popular topic. In “Architecting Security for Regulated Workloads in Hybrid Cloud,” Mark Buckwell, cloud security architect at IBM, discussed the architectural thinking practices—including zero trust—required to integrate security and compliance into regulated workloads in a hybrid cloud environment.
Maor highlighted common tactics focused on identity theft, including MFA push fatigue, phishing, business email compromise, and adversary-in-the middle attacks. After detailing techniques that are used to establish persistence in SaaS environments and deliver ransomware, Maor emphasized the importance of forensic investigation and threat hunting to gaining the knowledge needed to reduce the impact of SaaS security incidents.
Sarah Currey, security practice manager, and Anna McAbee, senior solutions architect at AWS, provided complementary guidance in “Top 10 Ways to Evolve Cloud Native Incident Response Maturity.” Currey and McAbee highlighted best practices for addressing incident response (IR) challenges in the cloud — no matter who your provider is:
- Define roles and responsibilities in your IR plan
- Train staff on AWS (or your provider)
- Develop cloud incident response playbooks
- Develop account structure and tagging strategy
- Run simulations (red team, purple team, tabletop)
- Prepare access
- Select and set up logs
- Enable managed detection services in all available AWS Regions
- Determine containment strategy for resource types
- Develop cloud forensics capabilities
Speaking to BizTech, Clarke Rodgers, director of enterprise strategy at AWS, noted that tools and services such as Amazon GuardDuty and AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) are available to help advance security in the cloud. When organizations take advantage of these services and use partners to augment security programs, they can gain the confidence they need to take more risks, and accelerate digital transformation and product development.
Security takes a village
There are more highlights than we can mention on a variety of other topics, including post-quantum cryptography, data privacy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve barely scratched the surface of RSA Conference 2023. If there is one key takeaway, it is that no single organization or individual can address cybersecurity challenges alone. By working together and sharing best practices as an industry, we can develop more effective security solutions and stay ahead of emerging threats.
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