FOSE Government IT Conference logoI attended the 2011 FOSE Conference and Exposition, which was held July 19 – 21 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC. This is a summary of my overall experience.

What Is FOSE?

FOSE is a government Information Technology event hosted in DC every year that features IT products and services, and provides education on the latest IT trends. FOSE brings together federal, state, and local governments with industry partners to share experiences and evaluate new solutions.

FOSE offers a free exposition, as well as a paid conference portion. At the free expo there were over 250 vendors demonstrating their latest products and services. In addition to the vendor exposition, the conference portion also included educational tracks and conference-only keynotes. The four conference educational tracks were:

  • Cybersecurity, Network Defense, and Information Assurance: Strategies and technologies for protecting government information systems and the data that moves across them.
  • Information Management and Collaboration: Ways that new tools and approaches are improving enterprise-wide and federated decision making.
  • Next-Generation Infrastructure Strategies: Infrastructure strategies from desktop virtualization to cloud computing and everything in between.
  • Enabling the Mobile Government Workforce: Harnessing mobile web apps, social media and emerging wireless technologies for more effective government.

I attended the cybersecurity track. The two conference keynotes were:

  • Operation Trident Breach- Lessons Learned from FBI Global Cyber Crime Arrests: Representatives from the FBI, Metropolitan Police in the UK, Cyber Crime officials from the Netherlands and the Ukrainian Security Service explained their multi-year Zeus malware investigation which led to the arrest of over 100 criminals in the United States, United Kingdom, Moldova and the Ukraine on a variety of cyber related, money laundering, fraudulent passports and identify theft crimes. Additionally, they presented Open Source intelligence techniques used in investigating the network of financial crime based on the Zeus trojan.
  • The Federal IT Agenda in 2012: This presentation provided perspectives and insights to fellow CIOs, CISOs, and IT/Network managers in government about the direction of cyber security, data center consolidation and the move to cloud computing within agencies and what lessons there are to be learned.

My Thoughts on FOSE 2011

Zuly Gonzalez at FOSE 2011 Government IT ConferenceThe Good

From the conference tracks, to the keynote presentations, to the vendor exhibits, there was a lot going on at FOSE – more than one person could do at any given time.

I was impressed by the quality of some of the free sessions at FOSE. They offered four free keynote presentations, free workshops, free education sessions, and free vendor exhibits. I didn’t attend all of the free sessions since I registered for the paid conference talks, but of the ones I attended, most were fairly good. For instance, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, was one of the free keynote speakers this year. Steve talked about fostering creativity and innovation in any environment (including big enterprises), and shared his view on the revolution under way in mobile computing. It’s not everyday that you get to hear someone of that caliber speak in person. Other keynote speakers included General James E. Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dr. David McQueeney, Vice President of Software at IBM Research.

Of the paid conference sessions, some were really good, and some were just OK. I really enjoyed the Operation Trident Breach presentation where law enforcement officials discussed their multi-year Zeus malware investigation that led them to organized crime around the world. They discussed how Zeus was propagated, and how they used Facebook to identify some of the criminals.

Another interesting presentation was Mitigating the Next Stuxnet. In this presentation they discussed the history of the Stuxnet worm, how Stuxnet could have been mitigated, and steps the government can take to prevent cyber attacks of this magnitude.

I’ll summarize these presentations in future blog posts.

The Bad

The thing that stood out the most for me was how unorganized the event was. I wasn’t given any information when I registered other than where to go to pick up the agenda. When I did ask the onsite personnel a question, they weren’t able to help me. They were nice, and tried to be helpful, but for some reason even the onsite personnel were left in the dark. It turned out that registration was in one place, the agenda was handed out at a different place, and the conference swag was handed out at a third place. Now why these three things couldn’t have been handled in one place, I don’t know, but I do know it was a stupid way to set things up, especially when the attendees aren’t even told that this is the process.

One other minor, though understandable, annoyance was that every time I went into one of the conference talks, there was someone there policing the entrance and checking for badges. I understand the need to do this, but it was a bit annoying. It’s akin to having to show your receipt when leaving Wal-Mart.

Conclusion

Despite these issues I would consider attending the free expo portion next year. For one, since I have experience with the event now, I’ll be better prepared for next year. Second, it’s always interesting to see what new products and solutions are available, especially in the cybersecurity arena. Plus the expo is free, so there’s not a whole lot to lose, although parking in DC can get expensive (you could pay as much as $75 in parking for the 3 days). Lastly, in addition to the vendor booths at the expo, FOSE also offers free educational workshops and free keynote talks.

Will I attend the paid conference portion next year? I don’t know. It’ll depend on the topics and speakers.

FOSE Resources

I plan on summarizing a couple of the FOSE talks in future blog posts, but for the time being, take a look at these links.

Some of the FOSE talks were recorded, including Steve Wozniak’s keynote. You can view them here. In addition, some of the PowerPoint slides have been made available. You can find the slides here.

Did you attend FOSE? Have you attended in previous years? What did you think of it? What was your favorite part? Will you consider attending FOSE next year?