A decade on, TASK is more important to its members than ever.


It has been ten years since the Toronto Area Security Klatch (TASK) first started. We formed it because we wanted to create a community of security practitioners in the Toronto area. A year later, we created SecTor, a small, high-quality security conference that quickly grew. Today, it is the most respected gathering of security professionals from across the country, and even further afield.

Why did we create SecTor? Simply, because we were irritated that Canada didn’t have a forum for showcasing new information about cyber threats and protective measures. The Black Hat conference had been founded in the US almost a decade before. North of the border, someone had to step up and represent.

Over the last ten years, a lot has changed. Identity theft has become more brazen. Credit card numbers are being stolen by the tens of millions. State-sponsored intrusions have become commonplace, and highly visible. Oh, and of course, we’re now interacting with the world via smartphones that store an unprecedented amount of personal information, and also know where we are. In short, the stakes are rising.

There is a lot that hasn’t changed, though. While the number of members at TASK has increased (we are now at 3500) and the number of attendees has risen (you can expect up to 150 people at a typical event), the ethos of the user group has stayed the same.

TASK continues to be a supportive community for people with a passion for security. It still has the same values that it always had. It encourages the fluid sharing of skills and expertise among its members, no matter what their background or level of experience.

TASK focuses on people at the sharp end of security, giving them actionable advice on how to counter a constantly-evolving threat spectrum. And it doesn’t sell products. It sells unbiased advice in its members’ best interests, rather than touting wares for a particular vendor.

In this sense, SecTor stayed the same, too. It has grown in size, and is now targeting a wider group of security-focused individuals than ever. Its values have never faltered, though. Its mission statement, to provide actionable intelligence in an unbiased way, remains the same almost a decade after it was founded.

Unfortunately, there is something else that hasn’t changed. The security community is still facing the same problems today that it did a decade ago.

Certainly, some of the parameters have shifted. Ten years ago, we weren’t quite as worried about people hacking the Internet of things and remotely taking control of your self-driving car, but nevertheless, the underlying issues look remarkably familiar.

Today’s TASK and SecTor attendees are still grappling with infrastructure security issues, vulnerabilities in applications, and easy to guess passwords. These challenges rank alongside identity management and user education as perennial hurdles for IT professionals. The only thing that has altered are the platforms and products that the problems relate to.

These problems exist because the IT industry focuses on features first, and security second, and in a fast moving, cash-constrained IT industry where you’re only as good as your next quarter of sales, it’s easy to see why. Companies that have money to spend on building out new mobile apps will focus on building new features to get a step ahead of the competition, rather than designing in security from the ground up.

To fix that problem, you’d have to change the core of the IT sector’s economy, and that’s a tall order. Instead, TASK and SecTor will focus on helping security professionals to do what they have always done: to shore up corporate security with a broad set of tools and techniques, judiciously applied by people with an understanding of a rapidly-shifting and increasingly harsh threat landscape.

All of us at TASK and SecTor – the organizers, the speakers, and the people with the foresight to attend – are comrades in arms, in the front line of the cyber security battle.

No wonder that both SecTor and TASK are so important. After all, how do you create camaraderie for the battle field, without places to meet, greet, and exchange ideas?

Come and help us celebrate TASK’s 10th anniversary at the next TASK meeting, on March 25 from 6-9pm. at Toronto’s Telus Building.