RSA Conference Expands with Eye on Economy

The RSA Conference in San Francisco will feature new Physical Security and Hot Topics tracks, as well as several new sessions and a program called Innovation Sandbox. In a nod to the economic climate, the conference offered laid-off security pros scholarships to attend the event in 2009, and there will be a special workshop for job seekers and employers.

While the U.S. economy may have contracted, the RSA Conference has gone the opposite way.

The annual security conference has actually expanded to a total of 17 class tracks and 240 sessions. Still, the number of exhibitors is down to about 325 in 2009, Sandra Toms LaPedis, area vice president and general manager of the conference, told eWEEK.

"We realize that it is a difficult economic climate out there, and a lot of companies have limited travels to trade shows and training budgets just generally," LaPedis said. "At this time our attendance numbers are tracking slightly down, but we also feel that it's important to do the right things for the industry."

With that in mind, conference organizers provided scholarships this year for security professionals who were laid off to help pay for them to attend, and ISC?? (International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium) is holding a workshop from noon to 1:30 p.m. April 23 to provide information about job opportunities and allow employers to search resumes. The workshop will be held in the Purple Room 305, said Sarah E. Bohne, director of Communications & Member Services for ISC??.

Malware as three-dimensional art? You'll see it at the RSA Conference. Click here for a preview.

On the programming side of things, attendees can expect a little bit more than in years past. Two new tracks have been added: Physical Security and a Hot Topics category to cover relevant late-breaking news in the period leading up to the conference. The Physical Security track was created at the request of attendees, who in many cases are seeing the physical and information security realms converge. The physical security sessions will focus on topics such as video surveillance, SCADA and distributed/process control systems.

Conference organizers also added the Innovation Sandbox, a reincarnation of the conference's traditional Innovation Station. The program, which is being held April 20, showcases startups and gives attendees a peek at some future developments that may shape information security.

"There's an area where you can actually view the 10 companies that were selected to participate in [the] sandbox, and then those companies also have a faceoff ... and give a 5-minute pitch about their company to a group of panelists that includes VCs [venture capitalists and] that also includes information security professionals," LaPedis said.

The conference has also added encore sessions to give attendees a chance to hear presentations they may have missed earlier in the week. LaPedis said she is looking forward in particular to the Hackers and Threats tracks.

"I always learn something that will make me paranoid the rest of the week," she said.

The conference will be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from April 20 to 24.