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Anticipating RSA 2008

There are few big moments expected at next week's security conference in San Francisco, but that could mean more surprises.

Next week, the RSA 2008 security conference gets under way in San Francisco. But for members of the media, it has already started, with a barrage of phone calls from vendors (more and more each year) eager to get their products mentioned. Look for full coverage starting Monday on CNET

Unlike last year, when Bill Gates said good-bye, there are few "big" moments anticipated in the week ahead, which means there could more surprises. Last year, it was Larry Ellison having to cancel his keynote speech due to illness.

Themes and topics at RSA 2008 will be less cutting-edge than Black Hat D.C. earlier this year, a reflection of the general audience that attends what may be the largest security conference in the world. Within niches, the talks can get very technical. However, don't expect new exploits to be announced; it's just not that kind of security show.

On Thursday, I'll be speaking in a session with Chris Boyd, director of malware research at Facetime Security Labs. Our talk "How to Adapt to the Echo Generation's Social Media Hacking Game" (at 9:10 a.m., in Green Room 103) will focus on Boyd's research into finding and shutting down teenage hackers who are primarily using social networks. Teenage computer hacking will also be the subject of a multipart feature starting on Tuesday on

In general, RSA 2008 is mostly product-based, with vendors releasing products and new reports in time to coincide with the conference.

As for keynote speeches, Tuesday's the day. After Executive Vice President of EMC and President of RSA Arthur Coviello's keynote, John Thompson of Symantec is expected to provide one of the better presentations. He'll be followed by Craig Mundie of Microsoft, attempting to fill Bill Gates' shoes, solo. Returning is the annual cryptographer's panel, with Whitfield Diffie, chief security officer, Sun Microsystems; Martin Hellman, professor emeritus of electrical engineering, Stanford University; Ronald Rivest, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, MIT; and Adi Shamir, professor, computer science department, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. A last-minute addition of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff should be interesting as well.

However, the rest of the technical keynote addresses seem less interesting. Perhaps as proof, the RSA conference has invited non-technical speakers: writer Malcolm Gladwell will speak Thursday, and former Vice President Al Gore will close the show Friday afternoon.