After all the dust from the miniconfs settled down, the real conference began with a real treat - Bruce Schneier talking on Reconceptualizing Security [video (~150 MB)]. The keynote was about dealing with security as an intangible feeling as well as the reality of security.
Lemons: But before I head off into what that talk was about, let me introduce a new concept - Market for Lemons. The idea is that when the quality of a product (like a used car) cannot be assessed easily, the bad car (i.e a lemon) would sell for a profit, while the good car wouldn't have any customers because it is expensive. The scenario is exactly tilted towards the dishonest seller, in the absence of proper information and/or blacklists for lemon peddlers.
The security software market right now is such a one (I'd say that the job market is too). Products which are pure snakeoil are completely indistinguishable from real products from a brochure or presentation. As was clearly illustrated today. The company which invests more efforts in creating the illusion of security would potentially win over someone who has been actually spending time & effort to secure their product. The price war cannot be fought between good & bad without enough in-depth information about stuff under-the-hood.
There is probably a sweet spot between real security and the illusion of security, which would be profitable. It wouldn't be bullet-proof security by any stretch of imagination, but the sense of security wouldn't necessarily be misplaced. Which is what the profit-oriented capitalist economy would gravitate to, provided there was enough awareness & information about what is actually in the box.
Q&A: I actually got to ask Bruce Schneier a question - about the meta-stable state of this balance, where every new development/marketing tactic would again upset the market off this point. He admitted that it was an interesting question, but suggested that it would probably dampen into insignificance (think about soaps & detergent brands).
Anyway, there I was, communicating to Bruce Schneier without encyrption.--
There's small choice in rotten apples.
-- William Shakespeare, "The Taming of the Shrew"