RSA Chairman on Security in 2014: 'Best of Times, Worst of Times'

NEWS ANALYSIS: Because the Internet has evolved from being the connection to storage and services to the location of storage and services, it's an even bigger target.

Each year at this time, RSA Security Executive Chairman and longtime industry expert Art Coviello comes out with a "state of the union"-type overview and performance summary. It's always a cogent, thoughtful and realistic inside look at what's going on in the business from the vendor community point of view.

Because vendors rely directly on what customers want, it's also a good—albeit indirect—look at customer perspectives.

In his media advisory sent to eWEEK Dec. 2, Coviello compared the current security landscape to terms made famous by Charles Dickens: "As I reflect on the year that has passed and think forward to the year that is to come, Dickens' timeless words come to mind, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness ... ' "

"Can you imagine a more apt description of the times in which we are living and the dichotomy between all of the technology innovation we enjoy and the oppressive cyber-threat under which we live?" Coviello asked.

The Best of Times: Benefits of IT Are Wondrous

There's no question that mobile and cloud technologies continue to make our lives more efficient, more productive and generally better. "Mobile is rapidly catching up to PCs as the preferred means of interacting with the digital world—mobile Internet traffic is predicted to account for more than 30 percent of total Internet traffic by the end of the year, which represents a doubling of mobile traffic over the past 18 months. If you eliminate passive Internet traffic like streaming, mobile's rising dominance is hard to dispute," he said.

But as pervasive as mobile computing has become, "it is nothing in comparison to the cloud," he said. "Upwards of 90 percent of organizations and 90 percent of Internet users are now relying on the cloud for easy, inexpensive, and ubiquitous access to storage and services. The Internet has evolved from being the connection to storage and services to being the location of storage and services."

The Worst of Times: Intrusions Never Stop

Despite technology's advances, however, the risk of our increasingly digital existence was brutally apparent during yet another "Year of the Breach," Coviello said. Many retailers (such as Target, Home Depot, and Michael's), financial services and health care organizations experienced damaging breaches in 2014, despite having in place what were considered strong security programs, he said.

"The fact that our pool of adversaries extends beyond criminals and hacktivists was further driven home by the growing sophistication and sheer number of nation-state cyber-attacks," Coviello said. "For the first time, those dubious nation-state cyber activities began to create real-world diplomatic crises [such as the escalating tensions between the U.S. and China]."

In other public sector news in 2014, Coviello said, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's work with industry resulted in the launch of the Cybersecurity Framework, which was a positive step forward in providing a common foundation for intelligently approaching today's cyber-security challenges.

"But little other real progress was made by the world's governments. The [Edward] Snowden revelations of 2013 continued to polarize the privacy debate and stymie the critical information-sharing legislation we need to collectively secure our companies, industry and economy," Coviello said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...