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RSA cybersecurity conference delayed until June as Omicron rages

RSA Conference organizers announced Wednesday that the 2022 event has been pushed back from the week of Feb. 7 to the week of June 6.

“We are extremely disappointed to share that we’re not able to gather in-person this February, but we firmly believe that with the surge in COVID-19 cases around the world, this is the responsible step to take to ensure our community stays healthy and can focus on protecting our critical systems and businesses against ever-present cyber threats,” wrote RSA Conference Vice President Linda Gray Martin.

Martin said the RSA Conference’s working assumption is that they will be hosting a physical event at San Francisco’s Moscone Center as well as offering a digital pass for those who are unable to join in person. Officials have remained in close contact with the city of San Francisco and will adhere to federal and state regulations around the size of gatherings, social distancing, and health and sanitation protocols.

“The health and safety of our community remains our highest priority,” Martin said in a statement. “With the surge in cases of the Omicron variant in the US and around the world, we believe the best decision we can make is to delay the event until later in the year when we can bring the industry safely together in person.”

Just a week ago, RSA announced its closing keynote lineup for its conference, which included Chris Krebs, founding director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA); journalist Katie Couric; and Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change.
This is the second year in a row that the RSA Conference has moved from winter to spring. Organizers in May 2020 delayed RSA Conference 2021 from the week of Feb. 8 to the week of May 17 in hopes of having both a virtual and physical event. But in November 2020, RSA Conference organizers threw in the towel on having a physical event in May 2021 and shifted to an all-virtual format.

Earlier this year, more than 20,000 people registered to view nearly 450 RSA Conference 2021 virtual sessions including, keynotes, track sessions, interactive programs, tutorials, seminars, and many special digital-first programs that focused on best practices and innovation. RSA Conference 2021 had 435 hours of virtual content available, as well as 65,000 visits to the show’s Digital Expo.

In August 2021, Black Hat became the first large-scale cybersecurity conference to take place in person since the arrival of COVID-19 with 6,200 cybersecurity enthusiasts gathering in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Convention Center and another 14,600 joining virtually to talk ransomware and supply chain attacks and hear from Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and CISA Director Jen Easterly.

While attendees were happy to see friends and colleagues again in person, the show felt much smaller and quieter than the last in-person Black Hat in 2019, where 20,200 attendees packed the Business Hall. A delta variant-fueled surge of COVID-19 cases caused three high-level sponsors—Palo Alto Networks, Qualys and Trend Micro—to pull out of the in-person event entirely in the week leading up to the show.

In 2020, RSA Conference organizers controversially decided to move forward with a physical event from Feb. 24 to Feb. 28 even though other shows scheduled to take place that same week such as Mobile World Congress were cancelled. In the weeks leading up to RSA Conference 2020, 14 vendors pulled out of the show, including three Platinum and Gold Sponsors: IBM Security, AT&T Cybersecurity and Verizon.

The lighter attendance at RSA Conference 2020 was noticeable both on the Expo floor as well as on the streets around the Moscone Center, with conference officials reporting that more than 36,000 people attended the event. That was down more than 15 percent from a reported attendance of 42,500 during RSA Conference 2019, which took place during the first week of March.

Four Exabeam employees who attended RSA Conference 2020 tested positive for COVID-19 a week or two after the massive cybersecurity event, with Senior Security Engineer Chris Tillett requiring hospitalization and spending roughly two weeks in an induced coma. Tillett woke up from his coma on March 20 and was released from Danbury (Conn.) Hospital several days later.

“We all want to be able to plan with the level of certainty that we had before March of 2020, but life has changed, and we all have learned to transform,” Martin wrote in a blog post. “Know that we are committed to bringing the cybersecurity community together when we can better ensure the safety and wellbeing of our community.” CRN

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