Celebrating Resilience at RSA Conference 2021

The annual RSA Conference is huge for the cybersecurity community—in reputation, in scale, and in physical presence. If this were a normal year, over 40,000 security professionals would have convened in California for four days of vital conversations, workshops, and sessions.

Instead, as many other large-scale events have, the RSA Conference 2021 went fully virtual for the first time. True to its reputation, the programming remained insightful and impactful. As always, industry leaders shared keynotes that asked and answered important questions around today’s top cybersecurity concerns. The conference hosted 250 sessions, and its Digital Expo hosted over 300 leading vendors, including Okta.

Looking back on RSAC 2021, we identified several standout takeaways of particular relevance to Okta. After all, the role of identity is critical in cybersecurity.

Leaders recognize cybersecurity as a matter of national concern

Organizations often say systemic change must be embraced from the top down, and now that’s happening. On May 12, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity; then a representative from the National Security Council attended RSAC 2021 to speak about the government’s security strategy going forward.

Anne Neuberger, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology, gave a candid keynote acknowledging the federal government had neglected to implement key security measures in recent years—including multi-factor authentication, continuous logging, and endpoint detection. She emphasized that public and private sectors must work together to ensure the security and integrity of the nation’s data.

Unsurprisingly, the discussion of disinformation campaigns—and how to prevent them—also had a place at RSAC 2021. But the supply chain attack on SolarWinds, widely regarded as the most sophisticated in history, occupied the minds of many attendees. Sudhakar Ramakrishna, President, and CEO of SolarWinds, in conversation with Laura Koetzle, Vice President and Group Director at Forrester, gave conference goers the insider’s perspective on what happened.

A robust, competitive industry includes diverse members

Another powerful keynote address came from Chuck Robbins, Chairman, and CEO of Cisco. He pointed out the growing skills shortage in cybersecurity, noting that 70% of industry professionals worry that it affects their organizations. Cybersecurity professionals number 2.8 million worldwide—but they’re up against a massive gap of 4 million unfilled positions.

To solve this problem, we need to increase diversity and inclusion in our industry. Currently, women constitute only 24% of employees, yet they’re the majority entering the workforce. This sector must empower their equal participation to stay viable long term.

Robbins also encouraged organizations to look in unconventional places for people with unique backgrounds who could learn the skills necessary to work in security. Hiring outside the box brings in new perspectives that enrich this field.

And of course, leaders need to develop their existing talent, offering opportunities for team members to train or reskill, so those vital cybersecurity openings can find occupants—and so the cybersecurity space can fully reflect the populations it serves.

We share these values at Okta. For us, identity isn’t limited to the digital profiles that differentiate unique users online; it’s about the spectrum of people whose innovations, contributions, and ideas allow us to do our best work in the real world.

Resiliency is critical for individuals, communities, and organizations

The conference anchored on a very real-world theme: resilience. The pandemic forced us all to stay strong and adapt.

At Okta, we saw adaptation in action when customers capitalized on our cybersecurity integrations, which included Cisco, while rapidly transitioning to distributed work over spring 2020. Robbins articulated in his keynote how millions of people managed to change how and where they do business and kept going during the tumult.

Among them were the security operators, admins, experts, and executives who navigated their organizations through the newly expanded attack surface that comes with digitized and distributed operations. In choosing the theme of resilience, RSA acknowledged the industry as a whole.

And that resonated here at Okta, where resilience is a constant theme. We built the company to be resilient and create resilient products—for us and for our customers. Security, reliability, and transparency, the fundamental principles of trust at Okta, guide us to achieve 99.99% uptime for our users and offer solutions that accommodate change. We highlighted one of these at our virtual booth. Advanced Server Access proves it’s both feasible and easy to extend modern cloud security across all systems and servers—especially with our help.

We share responsibility for building a smarter, safer society

The challenges of the past year show that the global cybersecurity community has a collective responsibility to help that goes beyond protecting critical infrastructure. It’s also our job to educate people and ensure they have the tools they need to be effective stewards of shared information—both online and offline.

Of course, that means we also have a duty to stay informed. If you’d like to see and learn more from RSAC 2021, check out the RSAC Marketplace—and talk to our team at Okta for insight into building a modern, Zero Trust security stack with identity at the center.