Is S4x19 For You?

Optimistic … Forward Looking … Creative … Driving Change

Set free a conservative, slow moving, change resistant community to discover new ideas and come up with innovative ways to use these new ideas to deploy secure, resilient and better ICS.

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin and his line, “People like us do things like this“. It’s how we think about and plan every aspect of S4.

S4x19 is for you if:

  • you believe significant improvement in the security, robustness and value of ICS and IoT can happen in years, not decades … and you want to drive that change.

  • If you are looking for bleeding edge information and new ideas in ICS security and related fields.
  • If you want to be with the best, the top talent in the world.
  • If you are tired of being viewed as overly optimistic or crazy. Or tired of being told things will never change… Or tired of the conservative, stuck in the mud thinking that can permeate the ICS world.
  • If you want to hear things 1 to 3 years before they are heard in other events, webinars, articles.
  • If you are looking to get motivated and leave an event full of new concepts to try out.


What Is S4x19?

  • It’s 3-days on 3-stages (64 sessions) of fresh, high quality ICS security content with the best speakers
  • It’s the largest gathering of ICS security talent in the world (447 at S4x18 and growing fast)
  • It’s designed in every aspect to lead to creativity and conversations
  • It has the world’s most competitive and advanced ICS Capture The Flag competition
  • It has unique and numerous social events so you have time to establish and renew connections
  • It’s Miami South Beach in January

How S4 Has Changed Over 11 Years

The “people like us” that attend S4 has changed and grown since we started the event 11 years ago at S4x07. For the first five years, “people like us” were a very small community that was deep into the technical details of attacking and defending ICS. We created S4 because one of our researchers found and disclosed an ICCP stack vulnerability, and Matt couldn’t find an event where he could present it to an audience that knew what ICS was and could understand a highly technical talk.

This first group of highly technical attendees started at about 40 in the early years and has grown to ~200 in recent years. We never want to lose this group or these sessions and continue to dedicate Stage 2: Technical Deep Dives to the most advanced technical ICS security content you will see anywhere in the world. In fact we tell speakers to go deep, don’t worry about losing part of the audience. No one will complain that a Stage 2 session got too technical.

At S4x16 we moved down to the Jackie Gleason theater, and now had room for additional stages. Many of the original S4 attendees, including myself, had grown tired of solely technical content and were looking for fresh and advanced sessions and discussions on how to move OT and ICS security forward from a strategic perspective. And what to look for and drive towards in the future. The S4 Main Stage is the venue for these important discussions that go beyond bits and bytes.

Even through S4x18, the one-word description we gave S4 was “advanced”. Partially due to the S4 legacy, but even more so due to the strong desire to avoid the tired SCADASEC 101 dogma of IT is different than OT, A-I-C vs C-I-A, … and  the same ICSsec truisms repeated over and over.

A combination of Ralph’s challenge to expand the community, a reconsideration of S4’s purpose, and analysis of who the “people like us” that attend and support S4 are led to a realization that advanced is no longer the best description of S4. Yes there is still a lot of advanced content, but the real common threads for S4 are new ideas, creativity, optimism and pushing OT and ICS security forward much faster and better than most believe is possible.

So at S4x19 we are actually encouraging those “people like us” that are new to ICS security to come. As always the S4 approach is unique with a one-day accelerated on-ramp training so the newcomers can understand and participate in S4. Maybe not the gory technical content on Stage 2, but the Main Stage performances and discussions with fellow attendees.


Closing this article by coming full circle, what do and don’t I mean by “people like us attend S4”.

  • All are welcome at S4. “People like us” isn’t meant to be exclusionary. Please come if you are at all interested, and you’ll find a very welcoming community.
  • “People like us do things like this” means we give a tremendous amount of thought to what an optimistic, creative, forward looking, change the future ICSsec participant wants to learn and experience. And we try to create an event and community that caters to these people in every way.
  • There are other quality ICS security events that cater to a different, more conservative and cautious groups of “people like us”. And sometimes I’ve even recommended these events in lieu of attending S4. For example, if you want to learn about the ICS culture, standard practices and mindset are, then S4 is not the best event for you.

So I hope this helps you understand if S4x19 is for you, and if it is that we see you in Miami South Beach next January 14 – 17. Registration will open on September 3rd.

See last year’s Is S4 for You article.