Observations of Joe Weiss’ ACS Conference

Although I was invited to attend one of Joe’s social gatherings several years ago, I have never attended any of his conferences, until this past week.  Despite the fact that critics of Mr. Weiss have stated that he is self-serving, contrary to popular belief, he is not.  Joe encourages people to meet, network and discuss concepts, ideas, situations and known events that have transpired over the past decade (or so).  Joe played moderator during the Q&A portion of each session, but allowed – and even encouraged – people to be controversial in their questions or comments to the presenters, or even to Joe himself.  Joe was ever the gentleman, always dressed professionally in a suit and tie, and again, always encouraging people to network.  If there were participants (and there were at a few at times) that didn’t seem to be conversing much with the rest of the group, Joe would act as an initiator and introduce people to one another.

The conference size wasn’t large compared to others such as SANS, and counted slightly over 100 participants.  The conference was held within two rooms conjoined together, with a separate room for vendor displays/demos, and for social gatherings after the daily conference.  The chairs were comfortable, and there was plenty of room for taking notes or typing presentations on your laptop.  The food was prepared in large buffet-style arrangements for breakfast, lunch, and the social hour.  As this conference was held at a Hilton, both the food and service, were outstanding.  Outside of the conference rooms, there were plenty of seating chairs, upright tables (no chairs, but would allow several people to congregate and discuss matters over drinks, etc.), and plenty of beverages (soda and diet sodas, bottled water, coffee and decaf coffee, and a wide assortment of teas).  The rooms were pleasant, and the beds very comfortable.  Although I don’t typically sleep much when traveling, the rooms were inviting enough for even me to catch a few winks.

As to the presentations, several of them were repeats, some were not.  What was surprising, was Siemens presence at the conference.

I spoke to quite a number of people from Siemens, ranging from product engineers, to a marketing guy, to one of their cybersecurity researchers.  Although many in recent months have been quick to judge Siemens for their lack of support because of recent vulnerability disclosures by several independent researchers, those present (from Siemens) were respectful of the community, and repeatedly stated that they were there to help.  Jake had made an observation several months ago about large organizations, such as Siemens, being slow on responses to recent vulnerability disclosures, and that overall, once they become acclimated to these types of disclosures, their responses will be substantially quicker than before.  I strongly believe and agree with Jake on this statement.  Siemens appeared to be genuinely concerned, and wanted to know more about how they could help.

But…there were other vendors there, such as Cisco, ABB, Emerson, etc.

Sadly, Cisco had a table (with a rep), but no demos, other than a few flyers, demonstrating how Cisco could protect infrastructure, etc.; needless to say, I was a tad bit disappointed in Cisco’s presence.  ABB and Emerson were speakers, Cisco was not.  Other manufacturing vendors included Waterfall, Secure Crossing (makers of Zenwall), Rockwell, NitroSecurity, McAfee, and several others.

All in all, I’d say that it was a fairly good conference.

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