From RSA to Black Hat and DEF CON: Navigating the Top Cybersecurity Conferences of 2023

Katie Butler headshot
Katie Butler at Blackhat

As the cybersecurity threat landscape expands and evolves, with threat actors employing increasingly sophisticated attack tactics, attending major cybersecurity conferences is becoming essential.

In the past year, I’ve had the privilege to attend three of the top cybersecurity conferences: RSA in the spring, followed by Black Hat and DEF CON in the summer.

RSA Conference 2023, held in San Francisco in April, attracted over 40,000 attendees from the global cybersecurity community, including 650+ speakers, 500+ exhibitors and 500+ media members. The conference’s theme, “Stronger Together,” focused on the importance of coming together as a community to eliminate cyber threats. In August, Black Hat welcomed more than 22,750 attendees with security professionals from over 127 countries, all eager to delve into the latest industry research and trends. Black Hat was closely followed by DEF CON, one of the oldest and largest continuously running hacker conventions, with over 30,000 attendees. 

If you weren’t able to attend the industry’s top conferences this year, here’s a recap of the trending topics discussed at RSA, Black Hat and DEF CON  — and our rationale for why attending these conferences is important.

Key Trends From RSA, Black Hat and DEF CON: The Reporter’s Angle

RSA, Black Hat and DEF CON each focused on different aspects of the cybersecurity landscape. But several common threads ran through them all. 

Here are some of the key security topics that generated buzz among on-site journalists and reporters at these events:

Generative AI takes center stage

Back in April, I called AI the “unofficial theme” of RSA, and this trend continued with Black Hat and DEF CON. At RSA, cybersecurity vendors marketed new AI products, while at Black Hat we saw AI in action as vendors demonstrated their generative AI products and solutions. DEF CON sessions, on the other hand, showed how scammers and hackers can use generative AI.

But reporters were clearly experiencing generative AI fatigue. During many conversations, I noticed reporters’ eagerness to discuss topics unrelated to generative AI. However, reporter fatigue doesn’t mean AI is going away — as enterprise adoption of these tools increases, stories centered on understanding and addressing the security benefits and repercussions of generative AI will remain common in the media.

The intersection of cybersecurity and insurance

While ransomware remained a popular topic with reporters at RSA, cyber insurance dominated the conversation at Black Hat. 

The key takeaway was the increased convergence of cybersecurity measures and cyber insurance policies. This reflects a growing industry trend in which insurance products are designed to work hand in hand with cybersecurity measures to manage and mitigate risks more effectively.

The federal government’s role in the future of cybersecurity

This year’s Black Hat event saw the participation of six government and government-affiliated agencies, including the Air Force Civilian Service, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the NSA Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, Sandia National Laboratories, and the US Department of Justice.

A standout moment featured Kemba Walden, acting national cyber director of the Executive Office of the President, discussing the White House’s National Cybersecurity Workforce and Education Strategy, highlighting crucial government initiatives aimed at bolstering cybersecurity on a national level.

Another captivating discussion included Jen Easterly, the director of CISA, alongside Ukraine’s deputy chairman of the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection, Victor Zhora. They engaged in a panel moderated by WIRED’s Lily Hay Newman, focusing on cyber resilience and security hardening against destructive cyber campaigns. Given the current cyber landscape, this conversation was timely because it delved into strategies and measures to safeguard critical systems and data against evolving threats.

Why You Should Attend the Top Cybersecurity Conferences

Cybersecurity conferences like RSA, Black Hat, and DEF CON offer invaluable advantages for both cybersecurity and PR professionals, from deepening industry knowledge to networking and beyond.

Cybersecurity professionals have a reputation for knowledge-sharing. These types of conferences provide a unique opportunity for industry professionals to connect with their peers while gaining key insights into emerging threat actors tactics and the diverse approaches to stopping them. 

By attending RSA, Black Hat and DEF CON, I gained insight into the topics that are top of mind for more than two dozen of the cybersecurity industry’s most informed publications and reporters, including the Financial Times, Reuters and Axios. 

As a PR professional, these conferences offer an inside look at the type of news stories reporters are interested in and the players currently dominating the scene. I’ve also witnessed firsthand the indispensable role PR teams play in supporting cybersecurity clients at these conferences, throughout every phase of the event:

  • Pre-conference: We refine client messaging to ensure it aligns with brand values, secure interviews with key reporters, and advise on strategic on-site announcements to elevate brand awareness.
  • During the conference: We provide real-time support by staffing on-site interviews with our clients and reporters, monitoring conference news, reaching out to reporters covering breaking stories, and ultimately managing outreach to free up our clients’ time and allow for more networking opportunities.
  • Post-conference: We maximize the ongoing impact and ROI of the event through strategic follow-ups and converting narratives into compelling thought leadership.

The cybersecurity landscape is notoriously crowded and industry conferences demand focus and attention on multiple fronts, from booths and product showcases to meetings with prospective clients, journalists and more. For PR professionals, these conferences offer an inside holistic view of the entire landscape and an opportunity to help clients break through the noise.

Final Insights and Takeaways

Cybersecurity companies require PR teams that can move and adapt quickly, navigate emerging trends and provide strategic guidance at a moment’s notice. Attendance at  cybersecurity conferences like RSA, Black Hat and DEF CON creates opportunities to provide this kind of support. 

The cybersecurity industry is in constant flux, and your PR team needs to stay on top of key trends, emerging companies, notable reporters and the overall landscape to help your brand stand out in the media. Gaining insights from these conferences not only sets the stage for a successful PR program but also empowers both PR and cybersecurity professionals to help shape the future of cybersecurity. 

To get a head start on leading PR efforts for your cybersecurity clients at conferences in 2024, here’s a go-to list of the top cybersecurity conferences to consider.

Looking for more insights into navigating cybersecurity conferences? Get in touch with our team of cybersecurity marketing experts.


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