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RSA Conference 2016: Security by cyber...or lightsaber

We came, we saw, we conquered.

Another year is in the books, and RSA Conference 2016 brought some lasting memories for its tens of thousands attendees. We were on hand to spread the message of managed security services to the masses. Here are some of our favorite takeaways, including video (above) and a photo gallery (below), from the big event:

Skills shortages

There was abundant talk at the show bemoaning the dramatic, ongoing security skills shortage facing organizations, particularly within the public sector - and it was the subject of a major keynote. Estimates have placed the global dearth at around two million people. According to the 2016 Security Pressures Report from Trustwave, respondents rank the skills shortage as the third-biggest security operational pressure facing businesses, behind only advanced threats and adoption of emerging technologies.

Riddle Challenge

The inaugural Trustwave Riddle Challenge drew a forceful response. The brainchild of Brian Hussey, global director of incident response and readiness at Trustwave, the challenge asked participants to decode an "Exfil File" and dig up (fake) personal details about Hussey. In the real world, if a business sustains a breach, their forensic investigators may be called on to perform a similar task to assess what may have been stolen. The grand prize winner was Matt Honea, who took home a levitating Bluetooth speaker for being the first person to solve the entire riddle. Runners-up Don Ma and Feiyin Zhang, who completed the challenge but failed to beat Matt to the punch, claimed gift cards. Congratulations to all the winners!

SpiderLabs research

The Trustwave SpiderLabs team has been hard at work over the past year discovering and analyzing a wide range of threats, from exploit kits to point-of-sale malware to spam. Threat Research Manager Karl Sigler summarized a few of the more notable areas of research, while offering an instructional snapshot of today's active cybercriminal landscape.

Database defense

Database security was a hot topic at the Trustwave booth, with VP of Product Management Josh Shaul presenting about a real-life database exploit and Global Security Architects Raul Gutierrez and Dan Gravelle offering attendees a demo of Trustwave DbProtect, an enterprise-grade solution that identifies vulnerabilities and performs database activity monitoring. Attackers are after information - and what better place to target than data repositories? Yet organizations are still often overlooking this critical piece of infrastructure.

Managed Security Testing

Global Architects Victor Bonic and Systems Engineer David Johnson hosted demos of the Trustwave Managed Security Testing service, which businesses can use to schedule managed vulnerability scanning and penetration tests across their databases, networks and applications.

Security pressures

Yours truly presented on security pressures. I drew on data from our just-released 2016 Security Pressures Report to help attendees grasp the major sources of pressure facing IT security professions, who often lack the in-house skills and resources to achieve adequate (and pressure-free) security. I concluded by offering practical tips for alleviating the stress, including partnering with a managed security services provider (MSSP).

Android hack

In an attempt to underscore the fundamental weakness of the Android platform, Endpoint Protection Product Manager Jon Marler captivated the audience by performing a trivial attack on an Android device. The talk wasn't without its technical hiccups (when does a live hack ever go smoothly?) but the point was made. Mobile needs security. To that end, Jon also leveraged our recent Secure Mobility Platform launch to call attention to mobile protection best practices.

Technical presos

Away from the booth, SpiderLabs Researchers Assi Barak and Brandon Myers specified for a standing-room only crowd the insecurity of open-source code by referencing high-profile research that our SpiderLabs team conducted. Later, SpiderLabs Managing Consultant Nathan LaFollette reviewed the HTTP/2 specification, a major revision of the web's basic protocol, and described how it will affect the way security pros hunt for vulnerabilities.

Sword fight

Last but not least, the giveaways. During the show, we dispensed free cookies, coffee, beer and - most important of all to the dehydrated crowds - water. But not even life's most basic ingredient could compare to the lure of the lightsaber. We distributed hundreds of the neon-glowing toys and were wiped clean by the last day (although the throngs rushing our booth for last-minute swag were none too pleased). We knew the conference was winding down when attendees began searching on the Transportation Security Administration's website to learn if lightsabers were permitted on flights. (And the TSA actually has a humorous response on the topic).

All in all, we were immensely grateful to have the chance to interact with so many talented IT and security professionals. Each and every one of you are fighting the good fight, day in and day out - and we appreciate you spending some time with us during your busy schedule at the show. Here's to even more young Jedis joining the industry - and we can't wait to meet you in the years to come. May the force be with you!

Just maybe not a lightsaber. Sorry again if you didn't get one. But if you'd like to see - but not touch - a lightsaber, check out below to view photos from the show.

Dan Kaplan is manager of online content at Trustwave and a former IT security reporter and editor.