Every year, the RSA Conference Keynotes are some of the most highly anticipated presentations all week, and this year did not disappoint. Over the course of the conference, keynotes from industry leaders like Microsoft and Google emphasized the importance of data privacy and protection, the threat landscape and the future of the industry. But at the same time, it felt as though no speaker was able to omit the rise of AI and its impact on cybersecurity from their presentations without seeming completely out of touch.
Here are a few highlights from the week:
On the first day of the conference, Chris Krebs of the Krebs Stamos Group sat down with Deputy Attorney General and former Homeland Security Advisor to President Obama, Lisa Monaco, to discuss the rapidly evolving threat landscape and how the Department of Justice (DOJ) is responding. It sounds like the primary shift around the DOJ’s security philosophy is moving away from yielding convictions and pivoting towards prevention and putting the victims of cybercrime at the center of its approach.
ChatGPT was also a hot topic this year for the public and private sectors, so Monaco also wanted to address the DOJ’s reaction to the emerging technology. In particular, they are very focused on how adversarial nation states may use and abuse generative AI. Nation states have long used technology to repress their people and intimate others, so it's only natural that they will want to add this disruptive technology to their arsenal of weaponry for a competitive advantage.
A fan-favorite every year, The Cryptographers’ Panel was back at RSA Conference 2023. Moderator Dr. Witfield Diffie led the discussion with a panel composed of some of the brightest minds in the field, including independent consultant Clifford Cocks, Anne Dames of IBM Infrastructure, Radia Perlman of Dell Technologies and Adi Shamir of The Weizmann Institute.
Naturally the first item on the docket was AI, Crypto and Quantum Computing. While AI has delivered well beyond our wildest expectations and crypto has kept most of its promises as an industry, not a single practical problem has ever been shown to be more solvable by quantum computing compared to traditional computing. And yet the hype around quantum’s impact on the future is immense. Powerful organizations like NSA and NIST are already looking for quantum-resistant algorithms, despite the fact that effective quantum computers are still 20-30 years away.
Data collection was another area of discussion as its cryptography use case builds steam. Everyone is aware of the massive amount of vulnerable data being collected that needs protection, but at the same time, sharing data creates exceptional potential for economic good. If institutions are able to use encryption to share private data securely, their work can be more effective and impactful (i.e. sharing large quantities of personal medical data to identify trends and improve diagnostics).
Finally, Shamir added his two cents on the main impact of AI on security, stating he initially only saw a use case on the defensive side - to detect suspicious behavior, system weaknesses, etc. But the sophistication of ChatGPT changed his mind and enabled him to see how bad actors could be leveraging the technology as we speak to wreak havoc.
Of course not all of the keynotes are as technically heavy as the Crypto Panel. This year, RSAC also hosted a panel dissecting the evolution of cybersecurity in the music industry as witnessed by Grammy-winning musician Chris Stapleton, along with Federal Agent Herb Stapleton, Attorney Katherine Forrest (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP) and Professor Hany Farid (University of California, Berkeley).
Technology has propelled the music industry by leaps and bounds, but it also has had negative ramifications (not just autotune). The tech backlash initially became prominent in the early ‘00s with peer-to-peer sharing and music piracy while now having progressed to using AI to generate synthetic content.
During the Napster era, both the music industry and law enforcement were slow to respond. They were overwhelmed and weren’t agile enough to keep up with the technology. Forrest commented that this time around, legislators need to speed up the traditional processes used with new technology and try to anticipate where we’ll be in a few years. We don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to the AI revolution.
Finally, renowned theoretical physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, walked us through what the world could look like in 50 years’ time. As new innovations continue to come to the fore, the possibilities are limitless. And unlike some other keynotes focused on the dangers of AI, this one painted a brighter picture.
Even today’s technology is pretty mind blowing. We can already use sophisticated robotics to bypass the spine and give paralyzed people the gift of movement. Telepathic games are entering the marketplace, connecting the brain to a device or even a full-blown avatar. And we’re already beginning to surpass those innovations.
Currently the government is funding research into brain pacemakers that essentially create an artificial hippocampus in which to form and store memories. Post-traumatic amnesia and Alzheimer’s could be a thing of the past. Next comes digital immortality, where not only memories but everything known about an individual can be chronicled and put into a 3D image that will live on forever.
The sheer volume of potential innovation is endless, particularly as we inch towards the quantum era and beyond.