it-sa 2018 – Impressions and Trends

Last week, DCSO’s TSE team visited the annual it-sa fair & conference taking place at the Nuremberg Exhibition Centre from October 8 to 11 in order to stay up-to-date with recent trends and innovations in the cybersecurity space. Being a leading IT security conference in the DACH region, it-sa is a meeting place for the German, but also international, IT security industry and thus is able to compete with other major trade fairs in Europe. it-sa, originally part of Munich’s “Systems” show, continues to grow and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018. Although the number of exhibitors was significantly higher this year than at Infosecurity Europe in London (TSE went there this summer too), the number of participants was smaller and less international: Around 700 exhibitors showcased their products to about 13,000 information security professionals. During the course of the trade fair, more than 350 additional sessions were offered, including workshops, technical discussions, and keynotes. The UP18@it-sa start-up competition took place for the first time this year, which was eventually won by IT-Seal. For more details, please check out our previous blog post.

Our main goals for attending the conference were to identify relevant products for upcoming test clusters, discover new trends on the security landscape, socialize and meet new vendors, as well as gather new information about already evaluated products.

In this blog post, we will attempt to reflect on our impressions of the current developments and innovations in the cybersecurity space.

Impressions

In general, product presentations seemed in our opinion to be more down-to-earth and less marketing-heavy than at other events. Obviously, there were also some shiny cyber booths with excessive usage of trending buzzwords like “blockchain”, “post-quantum crypto security” or “artificial intelligence”, but most vendors, including major Anglo-American representatives of the scene, used them rather cautiously. During the trade fair, we noted that some prominent vendors were missing, but most relevant companies were represented by the respective partners they work with in the DACH region. This impression was also supported by the presence of a relatively large number of technical contacts, engineers, and product owners with in-depth product knowledge, who were ready to start a demonstration at any second. The main language used at the fair was German, which was also reflected by the high number of German-speaking presenters at a large number of information events. Furthermore, the trade fair’s focus on Germany (as well as Europe) was notably reflected in the IT security topics addressed by most vendors. The vast majority of exhibitors offered solutions for meeting data protection and compliance requirements, which have always been one area where German firms have excelled, as well as endpoint security, authentication (including biometrics and SSO) and email security.

Trends

As is always the case, some topics get more attention than others, while some market segments are more popular. Below is a short overview of the trending topics that we encountered this year:

  • We observed many flavors of data protection and compliance to be the focus of attention of both German vendors and customers during our it-sa visit. Since Europe’s main compliance regulation GDPR seems to be a hot topic at the moment, there was much less mention thereof than we expected. Apparently, the industry is now trying to focus on actual solutions instead of explanations about necessity.
  • Based on our observations, products for securing identities and enabling a secure authentication process also seem to be on the rise. This trend is probably connected to the public data and credential leaks that have happened recently, raising awareness for the security of identities. The shift to mobile and cloud-based architectures will also increase the relevance of this segment. Whatever the main drivers are, we at DCSO’s TSE Service will take a deeper look at such products, while focusing on modern multi-factor authentication, Single Sign-On solutions and federated identities this winter.
  • We have noted for a long time a trend towards product suites that are as comprehensive as possible across all market segments. This applies to the major players on the market but also to vendors who are more likely to target medium-sized companies. If this can not be achieved yet using the company’s own resources, the preferred approach is integration and a partnership with other providers/products. As even that can’t cover all needs, it seems that important key players are increasingly recognizing that collaboration is a key factor. The latest and most interesting initiatives are probably the Information Security Hub (mainly hosted by the Munich airport) and the fact that the BSI works closely together with its French counterpart ANSSI towards a standardized certification of security products. Vendor-driven integration platforms and so-called fabrics, such as OpenDXL are also gaining more traction.
  • A more long-standing trend on the endpoint security market is the fact that attackers focus on more hardware related areas like IoT (Internet of Things) and OT (Operational Technology). A potential start of a connected trend on the endpoint security market can be observed in attackers concentrating on hardware-related attack scenarios, i.e. the usual office environment. This view is reinforced by recent reports like the published announcement of the first “UEFI rootkit cyber attack” in the wild. It looks like attackers are now getting a foot in the door by compromising either firmware as the interface between software and hardware, or the hardware itself. The good thing is that defenders are on the attackers’ heels and the first solutions for defending against attacks based on unwanted modification of firmware of IT office devices, e.g., the detection of malware in UEFI have been developed. Other vendors have also delivered other defense approaches.

Takeaways

All in all, it-sa 2018 was a very comprehensive and well-rounded event. A noteworthy characteristic of this event is its combination of a traditional exhibition with an informative conference program. We were able to gather lots of information with regard to product updates, emerging companies and their solutions, as well as new technical know-how.

Here is a number of key takeaways from the event:

  • The security community seems to have become more aware of the fact that the diverse requirements in the IT security sector can only be managed jointly.
  • Since most decision-makers have already taken note of the GDPR regulations, the nightmare scenarios have stopped and there seems to be a focus on its implementation now. At the same time, there are many other compliance-relevant topics addressed too.
  • A long-term, hardware-related trend regarding IoT and OT security seems to evolve towards office environments.
  • Some of the discussions at it-sa were held solely for promotional purposes with very few to no technical insight. In this context, the it-sa-related educational stream was perceived as being of higher quality.

For more information: www.it-sa.de

Who we are
The “Technology Scouting & Evaluation” (TSE) service identifies and evaluates promising IT security solutions. With this service, DCSO supports companies in staying ahead of a dynamic and ever-changing market. The centralized and unbiased evaluation process is supplemented with the experience of all community members.