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Why the security industry never actually makes us secure

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How locked up and secure are you? How locked up and secure are you?

Blame a seemingly never-ending arms race between hackers and defenders and the fact that attackers are--for now--much more motivated to break in than companies are to keep them out.

Every year, security vendors gather at the RSA conference here to reaffirm their commitment to fencing out hackers and keeping data safe. And every year, corporate and government Web sites continue to fall victim to basic attacks. Heck, ubersecurity firm RSA itself was compromised not that long ago, as was digital certificate heavyweight VeriSign, even if it didn't admit it for two years.

In other words, very little changes from year to year beyond the buzzwords du jour bruited about by security vendors. "It's Groundhog Day," says Josh Corman, director of security intelligence at Akamai.

Art Coviello, executive chairman of RSA, at least had the presence of mind to be humble, acknowledging in his keynote that current "security models" are inadequate. Yet he couldn't help but lapse into rah-rah boosterism by the end of his speech. "Never have so many companies been under attack, including RSA," he said. "Together we can learn from these experiences and emerge from this hell, smarter and stronger than we were before."

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