IBM pulls out of RSA over coronavirus fears
The conference is still scheduled to begin Feb. 24 in San Francisco.
Just days after MWC organizers canceled its Barcelona trade show, another major tech conference is in flux over coronavirus fears.
IBM on Friday said that it is pulling out of RSA, one of the cybersecurity industry's largest events that's set to take place in San Francisco from Feb. 24 to 28.
"The health of IBMers continues to be our primary concern as we monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)," an IBM spokesperson said in an email to Protocol. "As a result, we are canceling our participation in this year's RSA conference."
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IBM is one of the biggest sponsors at RSA, which hosts more than 40,000 attendees and 700 exhibitors. RSA organizers said that the conference planned to proceed as scheduled at the George R. Moscone Convention Center. In a public statement issued late Friday, they added, "We understand and respect [IBM's] decision."
Seven other exhibitors — six of them from China — have dropped out, according to the statement, and less than 1% of attendees have cancelled their registration. Conference organizers at Moscone have added health and safety measures, such as offering disinfectant wipes at all check-in counters.
"RSA is happening, they'll be in the building on Monday," said Moscone Center communications manager Naina Ayya.
News broke earlier in the day that Facebook had canceled its March 9 through 12 Global Marketing Conference, which would have been held at Moscone. Ayya said there were no other cancellations on the horizon for the downtown San Francisco conference center through the end of March.
Several other technology events have also been disrupted by coronavirus fears. Cisco Live, set to take place in Melbourne in March, was recently called off, according to the BBC. Exhibitors have also pulled out of major events at motor shows, fashion industry events, and a Swatch summit, according to the report.
More than 80% of RSA's registered attendees and exhibitors are from the U.S., according to RSA organizers. Additionally, travel restrictions on most foreign nationals who traveled to China within the 14 days prior to arrival in the U.S. are in effect, reducing the coronavirus risk.
Other major sponsors, including FireEye, Akamai and AT&T, said they still plan on participating in the conference.
"Akamai is aware of IBM's decision, and we are monitoring the situation," a spokesperson said. Other top sponsors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
IBM was set to host several events during the conference, including panels on ransomware attacks targeting municipalities and securing connected products. The company is also canceling its Tuesday evening VIP party at Hakkasan, a nearby restaurant.
Updated with additional comments from RSA and AT&T at 6:30pm PST.