While these events offer a depth of technological insight unmatched in IT security, though, they don't necessarily focus on the "people" issues faced every day by the average security professional. That's why I'll be in Chicago next week for the third annual (ISC)2 Security Congress, the yearly meeting of the world's biggest cybersecurity professionals' organization.
(ISC)2's Congress -- held concurrently with ASIS, the granddaddy of physical security conferences -- doesn't have an overriding technological "theme" because it isn't focused on technology. Its focus is discussing the day-to-day, nonsexy issues that all security professionals grapple with, such as staffing, hiring, management, and administration. Where other events might have more of a "show" of leading-edge technology or new threats, (ISC)2 is more like a water-cooler conversation among colleagues faced with similar security problems and issues.
Meetings of security professional organizations, such as (ISC)2, ISSA, and ISACA, represent the "everyman" infosec pro, who may not always be up on the most current products or attacks because he or she is fighting the everyday fires of the enterprise. These are people who work in the trenches of security and are limited by time, budgets, and short staffing. They spend a frustrating amount of time in meetings, arguing with top executives or end users who don't understand the dangers their systems face every day. Their job is not to be on the leading edge, but to get their data secure as best they can with what they've got.
This year, many of (ISC)2's sessions will focus on how to do more with less, how to train staffers and end users to improve enterprise defenses, and how to make tough decisions about security in a rapidly changing environment where the needs of the business and the growing range of threats often outweigh the security department's resources.
If the security industry is to progress, it will occasionally have to step away from technological problems and wrestle with some of these types of people problems. How to fund, find, and keep good security people. How to teach end users not to click on suspicious attachments. How to build security policies that are realistic for the business, yet also enforceable by monitoring and security controls.
These issues won't be solved at the conference next week, but it's good to see security professionals working on them together. Cybercriminals are famous for sharing (and stealing) each other's ideas and techniques, and that sharing has helped them to get an edge on enterprise defenders. Anytime security professionals get together to share their knowledge -- whether in small groups or at a major conference -- it improves the enterprise's chances of successfully fighting back.