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Photos: RSA Conference 2007

This week's security-fest had it all, from Bill Gates to dancing medieval monks

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Topic: Security
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1 of 9 Graeme Wearden

This is the entrance to the Moscone Center in San Francisco, where the world's biggest security conference is taking place this week.

RSA Conference 2007 has attracted big names such as Bill Gates and Larry Ellison (although illness prevented Ellison appearing), with other top executives from across the industry also speaking.

The show is also hearing from those at the sharp end of the security landscape — the researchers battling virus writers, hackers and organised cybercriminals.

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2 of 9 Graeme Wearden

The show opened on Tuesday morning, with a lively song-and-dance routine involving dancers dressed as monks, Italian scenery (a nod to Renaissance cryptographer Leon Battista Alberti) and a new version of Queen's Under Pressure.

Lyrical flourishes included: "It's the pressure of knowing what some hack might clean out. Having no defence, feeling dread and doubt", and references to IT managers being "Under Pressure" from malware and rootkits.

Stirring stuff, especially at the end when the monks scarpered offstage like the children of Hamlyn.

Appropriately, we then got to hear from the company whose software is targeted by many of these threats — Microsoft.

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3 of 9 RSA Conference

Bill Gates and Craig Mundie discussed Microsoft's progress towards creating a Trustworthy Computing environment.

Key points included the need to go beyond just securing the perimeter of a network, and the relative weakness of passwords.

"Passwords are not only weak, they have a huge problem in that if you get more and more of them, the worse it is," pointed out Gates.

Microsoft also announced that its CardSpace feature (which helps users manage their digital identities) will support the OpenID 2.0 standard, a decentralised framework for digital identities.

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4 of 9 RSA Conference

This will be Gates' last official appearance at the RSA Conference, as he is soon reducing his involvement at Microsoft and devoting more time to his Foundation.

Tuesday's speech saw him officially hand over the security torch to Craig Mundie, something which apparently made him pretty happy.

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5 of 9 RSA Conference

Gates and Mundie were followed by RSA's Art Coviello, and then EMC chief executive Joe Tucci (Coviello's boss, since last year's takeover).

Coviello claimed that within three years there would be no standalone security firms left, apart from some innovative start-ups.

Coviello also "won" the biggest laugh of the morning from the audience, after he explained that being part of EMC meant he has a lot more money for acquisitions. "Don't you mean you have bigger discounts for customers?" corrected the moderator sweetly.

Tucci and Coviello later explained that their partnership meant lower support costs for customers, even if not lower purchase prices. Either way, EMC's still bringing enough revenue to keep acquiring companies. This week's purchase is Indian security firm Valyd.

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6 of 9 RSA Conference

Next up was Symantec's John Thompson, who urged businesses to take responsibility for maintaining customer confidence. An IT risk manager could be the answer.

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7 of 9 Graeme Wearden

Eugene Kaspersky of Kaspersky Labs swaps contact details after his talk, in which he warned that Trojans encrypting data and holding it to ransom could be the big threat for 2007.

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8 of 9 Graeme Wearden

The expo floor was heaving, with 15,000 people and 300 exhibitors (100 more than last year) attending. The mood at the show was pretty positive and upbeat, and the hospitality generous — piles of smoked salmon for breakfast, steak for lunch and the occasional wine reception to keep spirits flowing.

But is that good news for you? A buoyant security industry is kept afloat by the revenues contributed by businesses and home users. Does this give an incentive to really nail security problems?

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9 of 9 Graeme Wearden

Attendees were invited to write on a wall exhibit near the entrance to the show.

Other popular questions included: "My biggest security risk is..." and "Someday I hope to be...". Answers included "Data loss protection" and "Living my dreams".

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