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SF’s RSA conference is Maryland’s big chance to flex cybersecurity muscle

The cybersecurity mega-conference is a chance to play up the state's strengths. Maryland's Commerce Department is leading the charge.

RSA 2006 was held in Japan.

(Photo by Flickr user Takuya Oikawa, used under a Creative Commons license)

The cybersecurity industry is descending on San Francisco this week for RSA, the big conference that gets 40,000 folks together from around the world to talk security.
It’s as good a stage as any to do a little showing off.
See, Maryland believes it has the pieces to be a — if not the — center of the U.S. cybersecurity industry. You’ve got the institutional anchors (hi, NSA), and some big, venture-backed companies (Tenable, anyone?). Perhaps more widespread recognition is the only missing ingredient.
Many Baltimore-area cyber companies head out west for the event, so you’ll see social media feeds packed with updates. Sorry, but articles like this will never be able to fit everyone who’s going. (Let us know who we missed in the comments.)


The attending companies even have state-government backing. The Department of Commerce is leading Maryland’s delegation to the event, and will be featuring a breakfast with retired Gen. Keith Alexander, who led the NSA before becoming an entrepreneur and founding Annapolis-based IronNet Security.
When officials talk up Maryland’s cyber sector, they say it’s that mix of government and business that sets the state apart. To retired Col. Ken McCreedy, who is the commerce department’s director of cyber development, Maryland is the brain.


“A lot of the intellectual capital that has been created against this problem set was developed here in Maryland,” McCreedy said. The government’s efforts at Fort Meade and the state’s universities teaching about cyber threats provide the backbone. When it comes to companies forming, “There’s a nursery effect around a place like Fort Meade,” McCreedy said, where small companies can start with government contracting and grow from there.
Those larger companies can act as hosts at RSA. RedOwl, the Federal Hill-based company focusing on insider threats, and Columbia-based Tenable each have their own opening reception on Monday night. Since you have to stand out, RedOwl has a wine tasting and Tenable’s is ’80s-themed.


Contrast Security, which has a growing engineering team in Natty Boh Tower, is a finalist in the RSA Innovation Sandbox competition, which names the conference’s most innovative startup.
And plenty of leaders from Maryland are participating by giving talks. One is Matthew Smith of G2, an Annapolis Junction-based outfit that’s one of a number of Anne Arundel County companies attending. Smith will be moderating a panel focused on the cybersecurity framework, which is a main topic of interest for him at the conference.
“The content is high-grade,” he said. “You’re getting it direct from the source.”

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