Wednesday, 11 January 2012

“These are not the conferences you are looking for”

At 7 Elements we are keen to share our experience and knowledge and one approach we take is to present on interesting topics at various security conferences. In the past year we have presented at a number of high profile conferences such as OWASP App Sec EU, SANS, B-Sides and ISSA.

However, recently through talking with a number of other conference providers, it has become apparent that there are conferences and then there are conferences.

The first are events that support the information security profession, are open and inclusive, and are designed to spread the important message around the need for an effective approach to security. Great examples of this are the OWASP conferences and the new kid on the block B-Sides, who are bringing the whole conference scene back to its grass roots and one we at 7 Elements will be supporting.

Whilst the latter are no more than a vehicle for commercial organisations to make money, or to provide a closed environment to sell ‘security products and services’ to those attending.

 While I do not have a specific issue with organisations looking to create a marketing opportunity, I do have an issue when the event is branded to look like a conference but is in fact a sales gimmick. I have in the past attended such conferences as a delegate. I have found that the topics can be no more than polished sales slides and focus on selling the idea that a specific product will be the silver bullet to all of your security ills. One of the biggest give away for this is any slide pack that contains data on ROI and TCO, or where all the speakers are subsidiaries of a large multi-national vendor (Who incidentally are likely to be sponsoring the event as well). 

As a conference speaker, my recent experience in arranging to speak at different events has been interesting when dealing with the more sales orientated events. One major UK ‘congress’ event for information security actually charges the speakers a very high premium for the privilege of having a captured audience with which to speak to. At this event the key note speaker is selected based on financial payment rather than on technical content and the amount was not a small figure.  

Whilst a second event that describes itself as a national information security conference, only selects speakers who do not represent competition to their own brand, rather than having something of interest to give to the conference.

At 7 Elements, we believe passionately about delivering a technically credible service and engaging with wider industry through the delivery of non-sales based content. As such you will not see our consultants presenting at any of these faux-conference events but instead we will continue to support real conferences that add real value to those attending.

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