Despite the regular drumbeat of cyber incidents; all the talk about the shortage of security experts and the need for more human intelligence; and the continuing advances in artificial intelligence – which represent both a threat and an added layer of protection related to cybersecurity services – getting coverage for cybersecurity products and threat detection solutions is increasingly difficult among the sea of cybersecurity offerings. So, there’s a fierce internal debate for cybersecurity firms: how do you announce news at Black Hat?
Each year, the event is a cybersecurity PR and marketing battleground for firms looking to outshine their rivals, with major buyers and global prestige at play.
But for the White House’s new cybersecurity challenge, the cybersecurity PR strategy was straightforward: make a surprise announcement at Black Hat 2023 to maximize visibility.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced its “AI Cyber Challenge” at Black Hat 2023 on Wednesday, including $20 million in prize money for winners of a two-year development challenge to build AI for addressing software vulnerabilities.
“The challenge is critical in bringing together the cutting-edge in automatic software, security and AI, which will empower our cyber defenses by being able to quickly exploit and fix software vulnerabilities,” said Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology for the U.S., in describing the effort staged at Black Hat 2023.
The challenge – which is a partnership between the White House and OpenAI, Google, Microsoft and Anthropic – highlights several takeaways for security companies, security experts and folks in cybersecurity PR and marketing:
- Uncle Sam’s cyber influence and impact reigns supreme: As a rule of thumb, anytime the U.S. government launches a cybersecurity initiative or offers guidance, it tends to be the top news item in the cybersecurity world – except for a major breach, of course. Based on press coverage, the contest announcement is currently the most attention-grabbing Black Hat headline.
- AI is still the story of the year: Morgan Stanley sees generative AI as a $6 trillion economic opportunity, while Goldman Sachs estimates the category could add $7 trillion to global GDP within a decade. The White House views AI as a critical priority for national and economic security, as well as GDP growth, on everything from public health to upholding democratic values. While we don’t know where we currently are on the AI hype cycle, for now, AI is the story of the year.
- Surprise announcements work with great execution: Alongside its private sector partners, the White House and DARPA launched the AI challenge to great fanfare, and the news at Black Hat was unexpected. The AI Cyber Challenge website was heavily linked to with great interest, while news outlets from The Register to The Verge dedicated significant coverage to the details of the challenge. While one rarely gets credit for the things that didn’t go wrong, the smooth rollout of this surprise announcement offers a case study for any company launch or product campaign.
For startups and emerging cybersecurity brands, competing for oxygen at major events with companies like Google and Microsoft – let alone the U.S. government – is a daunting task.
Meanwhile, consolidation in the cybersecurity sector makes it more competitive than ever to achieve press attention if you’re not a trillion-dollar brand.
Indeed, as Nemertes Research notes in a recent TechTarget article: “Most early cybersecurity products focused on narrow, network-oriented use cases.”
That led to tool sprawl. The desire to eliminate the complexity of using and managing multiple cybersecurity tools, and the need for businesses to respond to increasingly sophisticated threats, has led to massive vendor consolidation in the cybersecurity space. For example, Juniper Networks bought WiteSand, Johnson Controls acquired Tempered Networks, SentinelOne snapped up Attivo Networks, Barracuda has grabbed Fyde and Skout Cybersecurity, and Fortinet purchased ThreatINSIGHT.
Nevertheless, creativity around launches and, where possible, alignment with U.S. national strategic priorities, is a winning formula for generating press attention. It’s never been more important for cybersecurity product and services providers to get creative to garner the attention of media and the business of potential cybersecurity customers.
Is your firm interested in cybersecurity communications and marketing strategies this year?
Bospar has helped build some of the most well-known brands in cybersecurity – including ExpressVPN, nCipher, netsparker, NODESOURCE, NordVPN, Open Systems and Unisys – break out from the crowd.
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