GSX+ 2020: A Look Back at the Week

By Security Management Senior Editor Megan Gates

The concept was a bit daunting at first. How to take a major security conference held in a bustling convention center full of approximately 20,000 people and put it into a virtual format that was enlightening, engaging, and entertaining—all in just a few months’ time.

But the ASIS community rose to the challenge to create GSX+, full of keynote speeches from security leaders, education sessions from subject matter experts, and networking opportunities, with a few celebrity guest appearances thrown in for good measure. And thousands of security professionals from more than 80 countries tuned in.

“The COVID-19 interruption to our event was significant obstacle to contend with. And I know I can speak for everyone, when I say that GSX+ provided security professionals with all the benefits of our regularly scheduled event,” said John Petruzzi, Jr., CPP, executive vice president of the Northeast Region of G4S Secure Solutions NA, and ASIS International president-elect.

Throughout the week of GSX+, the Security Management team was hard at work bringing attendees analysis and updates via the GSX+ Daily. Here are some of the highlights we covered—many of which feature On Demand presentations available to All-Access Pass holders for viewing until 31 December 2020.

GSX+ kicked off with a strong opening keynote by Juan Manuel Santos, former president of Colombia, who helped broker an unprecedented peace deal—a move that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

In his remarks, which covered the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic impacts, climate change, and more, Santos discussed the need to never lose hope.

“Never succumb to fear, because fear is the mother of all negative and destructive systems,” Santos said. “And never forget in times of difficulty and uncertainty, like the times we are living, we must find guidance in our values and our principles. They will show us the way. That’s what we did in Colombia to end the last war in the Western Hemisphere with the strongest guerilla.”

ASIS International President Godfried Hendriks, CPP, shared how he was preparing for GSX+ and his admiration for the security community, which has come together as never before during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have never been more proud to be an ASIS member. Watching how our members came together to share information and insights with one another on a regular basis throughout 2020 is a testament to the power of our network,” Hendriks said. “From the beginning of this pandemic, our network immediately embraced technology that would better connect our members locally, nationally, regionally, and globally. It has been quite inspiring to see firsthand how our network has come together more than ever before.”

On Tuesday, leaders from Solvay Group—a multinational chemical company operating across 60 countries—discussed the long-term effects 2020 may have on the business and how security is playing a role in ensuring the organization’s future preparedness and risk management strategy.

French criminologist and national security expert Alain Bauer also stressed on Tuesday the need to reinvest in security apparatuses to prepare for future threats, including the next pandemic.

Later in the week, retired four-star U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal shared the leadership lessons he learned when facing al Qaeda in Iraq while commanding the Joint Special Operations Command.

“When we think about leaders creating an organization, what they’re doing is creating an environment or an ecosystem in which the people in the organization—the junior leaders and even the most junior people—can do that which only they can actually do, which is accomplish the mission,” McChrystal said. “It’s a different role for the leader; it’s a little less ego-based… but the reality is it’s the most effective way to build an organization that’s fast and adaptable. It creates leaders that help create more leaders, and leaders that help to create success.”

And on Thursday, GSX+ sessions focused on cybersecurity and how innovation is changing the security threat landscape. In her keynote address, Keren Elazari, CISSP, former hacker and security researcher, shared how hackers can act as the immune system for the Internet—encouraging security professionals to address vulnerabilities in their systems.

In a Game Changer session, hacker and Snyk Application Security Advocate Alyssa Miller shared how bad actors can leverage increasingly accessible deep learning neural networks to manipulate media—potentially impacting organizations’ reputations and futures.

GSX 2021 is scheduled to take place 27-29 September 2021 in Orlando, Florida, USA. Provided it’s safe for us to meet again, I look forward to seeing you there!