The Virginian goes to the RSA Conference

Owen Wister's 1902 novel The Virginian was one of the first books that might be called a "western." It essentially defined the western genre and established many of what are now its clichés. One of my favorite parts of this book is when the Virginian ends an uprising by disgruntled cowboys by beating their leader in a tall tales contest. I'm often reminded of this showdown when I hear claims made by the marketing departments of security vendors, and it's entertaining to think of how a similar epic battle might take place today.

Imagine we're at next year's RSA Conference, drinking the free beer that some generous vendor has provided. A CISO from a big company is here. He's never been to the show before doesn't realize that he'll be swarmed by vendors if he attends an event like this one. To get his attention, the sales and marketing people from lots of security vendors make more and more outlandish claims about their technology.

There's someone there from a vendor that makes products that are designed to counter the insider threat. After a beer or two, the people at the party have forgotten that there's absolutely no basis for the claims that most attacks come from insiders, so they listen to him. He quotes some statistics from analyst reports that nobody has heard of and ends up with the estimate that over 150 percent of attacks come from insiders.

People are impressed, but take a quick break to get another beer. Surely someone can do better than that.

Next is someone from a tokenization vendor who claims that tokenization is actually more secure than encryption. Encryption is hard to understand when you've had a good night's sleep and a couple cups of coffee, and the free beer has made sure that nobody at the party is able to even come close to understanding it now. The lone cryptographer who's at the party is impressed by the daring that it took to make that claim, even to a room full of people drinking free beer, so he doesn't challenge it.

Unable to think of a way to one-up this, the other vendors gradually walk away, leaving the tokenization vendor alone with the CISO.

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