Black Hat 2018 – Trip Report

Another Black Hat conference has come and gone. Here are a few observations from my two days, spent mostly in the Business Hall chatting with folks from more than 50 of the sponsor companies.

Foot Traffic. I don’t have any hard stats to share, but it definitely seemed more crowded than in the past. If I had to guess, I’d say volume on the show floor was up a solid 30-40% over 2017. All but one sponsor I spoke with was pleased with the amount (and quality) of attention they were getting.

Logistics and Layout. I’m going to chalk it up to growing pains (see above), but compared to other shows I regularly attend (e.g., RSAC and Gartner Security Summit), the level of polish/convenience was below par. A cumbersome, multi-queue check-in process punctuated by too few stations for badge pick-up, no obvious map/directory of participating sponsors, and too few hydration stations (at least on day 1) top my list of gripes in this area. Also, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit sorry for the sponsors with booths located in the hallway between the larger and smaller show floors. Several I spoke with were not happy about being stuck in “no-man’s land.”

Themes and Technologies. Several sponsors sported comic-based themes (or activities). Presumably the rationale here is simply one of  attracting attention. But one colleague mentioned the very plausible added goal of appealing to millennials – be they potential customers or employees. As for it being the “Year of X,” I didn’t see any specific security technology/solution that clearly stood out above all others. That said, there were a few that caught my attention due to their above average frequency of being prominently featured on sponsor’s booths. These included security orchestration, automation, and response (aka, SOAR), application security (e.g., testing and container security tools), and “cyber resilience” (whatever that actually means).

Closing Thoughts and Impressions. Puzzled though I am by the proliferation of sponsors offering goofy-looking socks to pull attendees into their booths, one thing is clear to me now more than ever: Black Hat is rapidly becoming a “must-attend-every-year” event for both the security vendor and practitioner communities.

About the Author. Mark Bouchard, CISSP is COO and Co-Founder of CyberEdge Group, a former industry analyst (with META Group) and proud veteran of the U.S. Navy.

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