RSA Boycotters To Hold Their Own Conference Across The Street

The conference organizers are calling their RSA counter-event the ‘Trustworthy Technology Conference

After a Reuters report last month claimed the NSA paid security company RSA $10 million for a backdoor into their encryption technology, it was inevitable: speakers slated to speak at the company’s looming security conference in San Francisco began to drop out.

Finnish security expert and frequent RSA Conference speaker Mikko Hypponen wrote an open letter to the company in December expressing anger both as a security specialist and as a foreigner (who might be spied on without qualms by the NSA) that the company would purposely build a weakness into its security technology. He was not reassured by a statement from the security key fob maker denying the allegations as the RSA didn’t specifically deny “accepting a random number generator from the National Security Agency, and setting it as the default option in one of [its] products.” At least 11 others joined Hypponen in his boycott, including speakers from the ACLU, Mozilla and Google Google. The dozen boycotters will have an alternate place to speak now, though: a one-day security conference taking place across the street from the RSA Conference, called “TrustyCon,” short for “Trustworthy Technology Conference.” Not like the non-trustworthy one across the way…

Its organizers — security firm iSEC Partners, civil liberties group EFF and security conference organizer DEF CON — are holding it February 27, the second to last day of the RSA’s four-day conference, at the Metreon, a movie theater a three-minute walk from the Moscone Center where the RSA Conference will be held. “The event will prioritize and refocus trust in technology and technology companies, during a time of cynicism and contempt towards consumer security and privacy,” says a press release, which explains the reasons why the organizers think their counter-event necessary:

Reuters has reported that the RSA Corporation entered into a $10M contract with the NSA to include a backdoored algorithm in their widely used commercial cryptography library. The disclosure of this deal has affected the trust individuals and companies place in the government and technology companies and has struck a chord among businesses and consumers. It raises concern regarding the ways the industry may profit from relationships with the government and whether international clients can trust their security providers.TrustyCon serves as a call-to-action to companies to design their technology and businesses to be secure and trustworthy.

Speakers stolen from the RSA Conference include Hypponen, ACLU’s Chris Soghoian, Google engineer Chris Palmer, and lawyer Marcia Hofmann. The RSA Conference however still has over 500 speakers listed on its website, including political satirist Stephen Colbert (who is under pressure from activists to cancel) and security expert Bruce Schneier who has worked with journalists on the Snowden leaks.
“With all the public drop-outs, if you’re a speaker and stay in, you’re implicitly endorsing the conference,” says TrustyCon organizer Alex Stamos, of iSEC Partners.
Last week, Bruce Schneier said he still planned to speak at the RSA conference. “At this point, I am speaking there,” Schneier said by email. “I am speaking about the NSA, and I think it’s an important talk for that audience.”

“The boycott of the RSA is necessary because they betrayed their customers,” says Stamos. “Companies won’t act ethically toward their customers until there’s public pressure.”

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