RSAC 2024: Lighting Dark Places, Ted Lasso Lessons, and Alicia Keys Closer

From star-studded appearances to dozens of keynotes, panel discussions and workshops, the tech industry’s biggest security conference offered no shortage of content.

Shane Snider , Senior Writer, InformationWeek

May 17, 2024

4 Min Read
Alicia Keys, smiling, arm raised in the air, sings to a crowd.
Grammy award-winning artist Alicia Keys during the RSA Conference 2024 in San Francisco.Photo by Shane Snider

SAN FRANCISCO -- RSA CONFERENCE – With the backdrop of a troubled world with escalating cyberattacks, rapidly advancing technologies, and global economic uncertainty, it was tough to find a single key theme for this year’s RSA Conference in San Francisco last week. But one word seemed to resonate with the thousands gathered: “community.”

With events scattered throughout the sprawling Moscone Center over four full days, the event covered just about every modern cybersecurity topic imaginable -- from GenAI’s meteoric rise to escalating cyberattacks and geopolitical tensions and more.

But Hugh Thompson, executive chairman of the RSA Conference, added a little perspective to the overall tech landscape. He talked about his family’s ancestral background as lightkeepers in the Bahamas.


“The way that they thought about their jobs growing up … it was a calling. It was a mission,” he said. “Their view was they had to keep the lighthouse lit and if they didn’t … even if it went out for a few minutes during the night, some ship would run aground, and souls would be lost.”

He drew the comparison between being a lightkeeper and the cybersecurity industry. “My great uncles would tell me the way they thought about it was, ‘I have to shine the light in the dark places …’ Many of you feel the same way about what you do. You are dedicated to it. You understand the importance of thinking about what you do every day to prevent bad things from happening. And if need be, you respond.”

Related:Blinken: US Agencies Will Unify Cyber Approach With ‘Digital Solidarity’

Thompson said unlike the lonely lighthouse keeper standing watch, the cybersecurity community can count on support. “What I hope you will find this week more than anything else is an understanding that you are not alone. You are not like that isolated lighthouse keeper. But you do shine a light. You are a beacon in this space. This is your community. Each of you shines a light in a dark place. Without you, some ship would run aground.”

War Games, Curiosity, and Closing Notes from Alicia Keys

Before Thompson took the stage, film star Matthew Broderick told the audience about his experience filming the 1983 sci-fi thriller, “War Games,” which was about a high school hacker who nearly starts a global thermonuclear war.

Actor Matthew Broderick, standing before the classic line

“It turns out that the film foresaw vulnerabilities that hadn’t been addressed by our own government,” he said. And this conversation led to intelligence studies … When the story became a film that was watched by a president, and resulted in a new policy, it’s just one example of how stories can shape the future.”

Related:Four Horsemen of Cyber Reunite at the RSA Conference

Broderick left the audience with a little advice from his famous character from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”: “Life moves pretty fast,” he said. (If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.)

Later in the week, American actor, comedian, and writer Jason Sudeikis talked to the crowd about his experience breaking into different roles and how to break the ice in new situations. RSAC’s Thompson asked Sudeikis to talk about the now-viral scene in his hit series, “Ted Lasso,” where the character conquers a bully during a game of darts. During the scene, Lasso talks about being underestimated due to a lack of curiosity on the part of his opponent.

“That’s one of the traits that I find the most alluring and attractive in a human being -- curiosity,” Sudeikis said. Thompson in his earlier opening speech had extolled the audience to meet new people and to be curious about them.

Actor Jason Sudeikis, in black hat and gray hoodie, holds mic, sits casually in chair, and laughs along with conference host Hugh Thompson, wearing suit.

“This really is a giant community,” Thompson told Sudeikis. “And they kind of feed off of each other and learn from each other.”

Sudeikis talked about ways to break the ice when meeting new people. “Be curious to know … I mean this is ‘Playground 101,’ I’d ask them their name,” Sudeikis said, drawing laughter from the audience.

The final superstar to grace the main stage at the conference was multiple Grammy award-winning singer Alicia Keys, who came out with her full band and treated the conference attendees to a set of her biggest hits.

Related:Mayorkas, Easterly at RSAC Talk AI, Security, and Digital Defense

Conference attendees laugh and clap while a performer is on stage.

Grammy award-winning recording artist Alicia Keys, wearing denim jacket and jeans, sings to a crowd on stage. A screen with her image on it is in the background.

About the Author(s)

Shane Snider

Senior Writer, InformationWeek, InformationWeek

Shane Snider is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of industry experience. He started his career as a general assignment reporter and has covered government, business, education, technology and much more. He was a reporter for the Triangle Business Journal, Raleigh News and Observer and most recently a tech reporter for CRN. He was also a top wedding photographer for many years, traveling across the country and around the world. He lives in Raleigh with his wife and two children.

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